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It’s not about taste: Grandma’s Cooking

You KNOW I loved my grandma. Obviously. And when I think of the holidays, I think of cooking with her. However, I feel it’s necessary to insert in a little disclaimer here. Other than lefse and homemade bread, Grandma wasn’t exactly a terrific cook.

This morning I was feeling sorry for myself because I am beginning to realize that to be able to sustain a healthy body, I will need to be ever vigilant about my weight. Last time I tried Weight Watchers I lost a heap of pounds (45) and then in about two years gained back a little more than half (25). After about another four years, I decided that I couldn’t get that weight off without help and rejoined WW. I’ve lost 7.4 pounds in three weeks. Great, you say? Sure, except it’s now hitting me that I am going to have to pay attention to food for the rest of my life. I’m 43. It’s not going to get any easier.

Enter Thanksgiving.

What do you remember when you think of Thanksgiving as a kid? I think of helping Grandma stuff the turkey. That huge bird sitting in her white sink, skin with feather holes like goosebumps. She cleaned the turkey, thank goodness cause that’s just gross, but I usually helped her make the stuffing, which always went inside the bird. (Yes, I know this is not recommended as it can lead to contaminated food and a dry bird, but let’s all just admit that the stuffing tastes SO much better cooked inside a turkey.) I can still smell the poultry seasoning, heavy with sage, and feel the cool slimy eggs and warm sauteed onions, as I hand mixed the stuffing. I jammed it all into the cavities, front and back, way overstuffing — just the way that the Food Network says NOT to do it but just the way Grandma showed me how. Nobody ever got food poisoning and the stuffing was always terrific. The turkey was pretty awful, though, really. Slather it with gravy and it’d be a bit better, but our palates weren’t somehow fooled into thinking it was a moist bird. Much like every flesh Grandma ever cooked, the Thanksgiving turkey had to be roasted to death.

Ah, but taste wasn’t the point, was it? For me, it was the cooking together — just like making lefse — and the smell of the feast. OK, and the pie. We didn’t like apple and pumpkin pie as kids, so Grandma and Mom usually made us a lemon meringue and a chocolate pie. I had forgotten that until just now. These days I prefer pumpkin to every other pie, and my family thinks my particular pumpkin pie is the best in the universe. They don’t even care that I make a slimmed down version. I add extra spices and that does the trick!

Back to Thanksgiving. So this year we are going to my grandma’s niece’s husband’s sister’s house in Connecticut. We do this every year. These folks welcome us as if we were family, and we have a ball every year. It’s not Grandma’s house, though. Of course, I realize that life is done and gone. We are still lucky. We will go and visit with these lovely people, and their house will smell wonderful. I have asked to be able to bring a green salad — I’m counting my calories. The turkey won’t be Grandma’s turkey, and that’s okay. The stuffing is always good, but I will not have put it in the bird. We will make a toast “to family and friends, here and absent” as we meet once more around the long table, my son will ask to be excused in order to run and play with their retriever out back, and we will clear away the dishes and wash up. We will drive home.

It will be lovely. Grandma’s gone, though. Dry turkey, dangerous stuffing, hugs and kisses. She’s gone, and I feel it in my bones.

2 Responses

  1. Very nice post, and I share some of you feelings. I never got to help my grandmother cook (I think she somehow had that all done by the time we arrived) but much enjoyed eating her food. This will be my first thanksgiving without either of my Grandmothers, and it will be weird to say the least.

  2. Yes, last year was terribly difficult as the first holiday without Grandma. A palpable loss.

    Hang in there, strugglingwriter. I’ve found the best way to get through Grandmaless holidays is to recognize that it will be different now and not try to make it at all the same. I’m sure your darling daughter will help distract, too!

    Bon appetit!

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