THE OLD GREY MARE
My latest book, HALLEY, awarded 2015 Jefferson Cup Honor for Historical Fiction, awarded the Moonbeam Silver Medal for Young Adult Fiction, and awarded the 2016 Frank Yerby Award for Fiction. Available at: NewSouth Books: www.newsouthbooks.com/halley and Amazon.
Faye was the first children’s writer to be recently inducted into the Alabama Writer’s Hall of Fame
Lingering at one of the tables with dessert after a big family dinner back in the late Nineties.
A family dinner in the early nineties. Benjamin, Faye, and David in the kitchen. But look who’s wearing an apron!
Well, I thought I was old to do it anymore. I was sure all that was behind me. In fact, I hadn’t even dreamed of doing it for years. And I’m not hinting about a night of romance. I’m talking something requiring a lot more energy. I’m talking about hosting the family Thanksgiving gathering.
There was a time back in the Eighties when I volunteered to take over my mother-in-law’s job of hosting that gathering. I never did it with as much style as Mama Gibbons, and I didn’t offer as many family dishes as she always had in her spread, but I knew, unlike her, I could do it without using every single pot, pan, dish, and culinary tool in the kitchen (and leaving them for volunteers like me to scour after the feast). However, I knew right out of the gate that I’d have to use mostly her recipes, because she had set too high a standard to do otherwise.
So I did. I dug through my recipe box. Though not as well-organized as I’d like, it is easy to spot the good dishes. As a onetime friend once told me, if you want to find out whether you’d like a Faye recipe, you only had to lick the index card. I confess—each time I use them, those recipes collect more debris. So I selected all those butter stained, cream splotched cards and in a couple of days I put out a Thanksgiving feast that I felt proud of. In fact, I did this for maybe twenty years.
Then something wonderful happened—Benjamin’s cousins invited us to their Thanksgiving gathering in Memphis. The burden of cooking for days was lifted from my shoulders. I didn’t even have to clean up afterward. Several men in the family (one in particular) INSISTED that cooks should not have to clean up afterwards. Don’t you just love that kind of sexy man? I qualified as one of the cooks, since I always provided my mother-in-law’s jam cake.
Time moved on, and our oldest grandchild, Matthew, went off to college at Auburn. One of his scholarships was for band, so that meant he had to be back at Auburn on Friday after Thanksgiving to practice for the biggest game of the year—the Iron Bowl. Memphis was out of the question. The parents of this grandson live in Huntsville—still a long drive from Auburn. Our younger son and family live near us, but in a small house with a small dining room. A shiver of apprehension passed over me. Was I going to have to step up and volunteer after all these years of sloth? Then David and his wife Aca saved me. Despite the crowded conditions, they wanted to do the family gathering. Miracles still happen! Now where was that jam cake recipe? And could I still read it beneath last year’s splatters? I could.
That brings me down to Thanksgiving 2019. Matthew was still in Auburn. Still in the band. Still had to be in Auburn to practice the day after Thanksgiving. BUT David and Aca (younger son and wife, remember) were in the middle of renovating the kitchen, one bathroom, and the dining room. They didn’t even have a kitchen sink!
No one stepped forward. There WAS no one to step forward except for the person who’d been sitting on her rear end for the past eighteen or so years and letting someone else do the work. So I bit the bullet and volunteered. I do have a few excuses for all that sitting—a few back problems, a worn-out knee, and feet problems—okay, I’m old. In light of this, I decided that with some help from my husband, I’d do as much as possible ahead. I made dressing first, freezing it in quart bags. Then I made cake layers for jam cake and chocolate layer cake and froze those layers. I made squash casserole and put that in the freezer. A couple of days ahead I made Cousin Barbara’s marinated vegetable salad and refrigerated it. A day ahead I made Sister-in-law Jo Ann’s wonderful chocolate chess pie and refrigerated that. My husband in the meantime, did most of the cleaning. Be still, my heart! Keep. Mind. On. Cooking.
Thanksgiving Day, my wonderful daughters-in-law appeared with side dishes. I pulled that turkey out of the oven (baked by my mother-in-law’s foolproof method), along with dressing, squash casserole, and so on and on and on. I sat down with everyone else—as amazed as anyone that I had done it. There’s life in the old girl yet.
Two post scripts:
First, I should say, my terrific sons cleaned up afterwards. Sexiness must be genetic.
Secondly, I am praying that David and Aca’s renovation will be complete by Thanksgiving 2020!
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