My second favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner is cooking it – my first favorite being the people gathered to eat. For many years in our Army designated homes in three countries outside the USA and five states outside our home state of Mississippi where our extended families still lived, our hosting of the family feast has been impractical, if not impossible. Usually, we held our own wherever we were and invited guests who were also far from their homes of origin.
Occasionally, we made the trek to Mississippi and partook of both a Butler and McGee Thanksgiving meal. My mother-in-law, whose lifelong passion was feeding her four boys and ultimately their offspring, was queen of her kitchen. Beyond stirring a pot or setting the table, she allowed no help.
My mother, who was not fond of kitchen duties, gladly turned over any meal I wanted to do. She might or might not have the seasonings I thought I needed. She might or might not have the size pan I wanted to use. She remained sure I could cope and took herself out to visit with the guests in another room. If the eaters noticed my perceived preparation deficiencies, they were not mentioned.
Memorable Thanksgivings occurred in both houses, including the one when Beth brought her prospective husband Don, an only child, into the craziness of four sisters. It is a testament to his courage that he did not flee.
My own Thanksgiving philosophy lies somewhere between these two who set the example, much like my dressing combines elements of both of theirs. And times have changed. For several reasons, including our move to South Mississippi, my house has been convenient in recent years for the sisters to gather for the celebration. We missed one sister this year because of an unexpected family illness, but two sisters and the unflappable brother-in-law joined Al and me for the feast. Since it’s my house and I get to call the shots, we included a picture book in our offering of thanks – Breaking the Bread by Pat Zeitlow Miller.
I claimed “My turn! My turn!” as I pulled out my favorite pans and seasonings. And I contend that with all the years I’ve missed the privilege of cooking the family Thanksgiving meal at my house, it can be “my turn” for a very long time. I add to that contention my hope that everyone will be well enough in coming years for all four sisters and other family members to be present.
(For the record, the dog returned to the floor after the photo op.)