Sunday, November 6, 2016

Crashing Casseroles Batman! It's Almost Thanksgiving! By Gail Roughton

It won't surprise anyone who knows me to see a cornucopia centered here rather than an image of a turkey. See, I hate turkey. Oh, I've nothing against the birds themselves per se, I just don't like the taste of turkey. And the smell of turkey as it bakes--oh, dear Lord forgive me, I know it's un-American bordering on treason to say this, but the smell of roasting turkey makes me ill. So does this mean Thanksgiving at my house is a meal most fowl? (Sorry, I couldn't resist, it just happened.) 

No, actually, it doesn't. We have ham. Spiral-sliced and honey glazed. That is, we almost always have ham. There are those years when my hubby's memory taste buds get the best of him and he begs and pleads with me, going so far as to buy a turkey and just present it to me with the litany  "Please, please, please--can we have turkey this year? " Please note that he attempted this same tactic for years with liver, buying it and bringing it home, only to watch me deposit it firmly at the back of the freezer to freezer burn into an unrecognizable lump before tossing it into the trash. It never did work with liver--to this day, I've never cooked a piece of liver and I assure you I'll go to my grave with that record intact-- but occasionally  it works as to turkey. Mostly because deep down I feel guilty at depriving the other members of my family of such a deep-rooted and dearly loved American tradition. There's only one problem with that. Turkey hates me as much as I hate it, and no matter how hard I try (and believe me, I've really tried), pretty much every turkey I've ever tried to cook has been a total disaster. It's either too dry, too greasy, too over-done, or--horror of horrors--not cooked completely all the way through and any cook will tell you that's the absolute worst criminal offense you can commit with any type of poultry. Yes, yes, I'm well aware there's nothing to it and 99.9 percent of all Thanksgiving Day turkeys turn out just beautifully.  So go ahead, tell me again how easy it is to cook turkey, I can take it. We've all got our little sack of bird feed to tote around with us.

NOT Gail!

The fortunate thing about this is that after forty-one years of marriage my long-suffering husband's finally come to the realization that turkey, like liver, will never grace our table. Certainly not a turkey I've cooked, 'cause most every turkey I've ever tried to cook is inedible. He's resigned himself to feasting on honey-glazed ham this year and every coming Thanksgiving thereafter. 

Thanksgiving's not just about the turkey or the ham, though. It's not really about food at all, when you get right down to it, it's about being thankful for who we are and what we have, especially our families. But somewhere in the human experience, deep down, food's become symbolic for us, tangible evidence of how much we love and are loved. Getting together for the special holiday meals is one of the greatest joys in life. And the food that graces the table, well, it's not just food for the body, it's food for the spirit. It triggers treasured memories for adults and creates treasured memories for our children and grandchildren to take into adulthood.

And that's where the side dishes come in. Everybody's got their favorite and if a cook's not careful, they could easily talk themselves into a dozen sides, because of course everybody's got to have their own personal favorites. Otherwise, the cook has failed! That's another thing my husband's realized. If nobody helps me reign myself in, the casseroles just keep on coming. It's a given everybody--most everybody--wants dressing/stuffing on Thanksgiving so that's never even up for discussion. But other than the dressing, he tries every year to curtail us down to just one additional casserole, mostly so I won't fall down in the kitchen floor in an exhausted stupor before we even sit down to eat.  But one? Just one?!  I ask you, is that even realistic? No, of course it's not, nor is such going to transpire at my house, either. But how to choose between broccoli casserole and green bean casserole? Noooooo, don't make me choose... And then there's squash casserole and sweet potato souffle and corn pudding and--and--that doesn't even take into account the lighter dishes, like pistachio fluff and ambrosia. Wait! What about dessert?!?  What about the pumpkin pie?! The pecan pie? The peach cobbler?

Well, you get the idea. It's a good thing Thanksgiving isn't every Thursday, or we'd all weigh so much we couldn't walk. Not to mention, we'd be broke, 'cause that type of cooking ain't cheap, folks. Still, I know a place where every Thursday's Thanksgiving. Oh, yes. See, over at the Scales of Justice Cafe in Turkey Creek, Rockland County, Georgia, you always know what's on the menu each and every day. The town folk like it that way. If it's Monday, lunch is goin' to be roast beef. And if it's Thursday--well, if it's Thursday, most folks in Turkey Creek are having turkey and dressing for lunch, right along with broccoli casserole and sweet potato souffle. Come on over, why don't you, and check out the menu? Drop in anytime!

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