Her potatoes not worth their salt
Mashed potatoes are a required part of any traditional Thanksgiving meal, at least in our house growing up. Fresh potatoes were inexpensive and fed the seven of us easily.
One year, while I was in either 9th or 10th grade, Mom must have felt prosperous enough to buy instant potatoes. She followed the directions carefully because she had never made them before. Dinner was ready to be plated and set on the table and just before the coveted potatoes were being placed in a bowl, disaster struck.
Mom tasted them and gagged.
Each of the four of us girls and Grandma tasted what appeared to be the fluffiest potatoes - and discovered a pickling ability hidden within.
Mom dug the box out of the trash and reread the directions, still claiming to have precisely followed the directions. It took some convincing, but we determined that instead of the couple teaspoons of salt called for, her sight was twisted to read a couple of cups of salt.
We tried to add more potatoes to weaken the pickling. No good there. We thought we'd freeze them and add chunks to potato soup later that night. Still too salty. Amid tears and apologies, embarrassment and humiliation, the wretched things were thrown out.
A prayer was said that no unsuspecting animals would find them (except those looking for a salt lick), and a memory was born that we still laugh, and cringe, over some 30 years later.
Note: This historical Thanksgiving disaster has never been repeated by any member of our family.
- Peggy Sayre, Dunbar
Deviled eggs fit for the dogs
My mother has Alzheimer's and last year she decided she would show me how she makes her famous deviled eggs. (She and I always try to outdo each other's eggs.) I boiled, peeled and got the ingredients together to fill the boiled egg halves. Mom said she wanted to fill them with her "special ingredients." Well, unbeknownst to her, I had left a small dish of canned dog food on the counter where she was working with the eggs.
Well, you guessed it, Mom started to fill the eggs with the meat mixture and every so often she would sneak a bit or two of the filled eggs. I walked over and noticed the off look on her face and burst out laughing. I told her she does, indeed, have the best deviled eggs and I now know her secret ingredient.
Luckily, we could still fill the rest of the eggs with the proper mixture.
Later, with family gathered together for Thanksgiving dinner, Mom exclaimed, "Wait until you taste Kate's eggs! They are so good that even the dog will beg for more!" She passed the blame to me!
We all had a good laugh anyway and some members were examining their eggs real close and swore they saw a "secret ingredient" in them.
This year, Mom won't be helping with the eggs. Her Alzheimer's has progressed rapidly and I will always cherish the last time we worked together in the kitchen on that fine Thanksgiving Day 2012. And the dogs were very delighted with their special treat.
- Kathy Cunningham, Winfield
The mother of all holidays
As I write this story on holiday kitchen disasters, I'm preparing for this year's Thanksgiving to be the worst.
Six months ago, I signed on the dotted line to replace my dark, dreary 35year-old kitchen with a modern, gleaming Martha Stewart model. Yes, as I type these very words, the project still isn't finished. In fact, it's my Christmas wish to have a completed kitchen by 2014.
However, the food editors of "Southern Living" warn that Thanksgiving is coming whether my Ox Hill cabinets are installed or not. This in and of itself presents a problem. Am I cooking this blessed meal in a half-baked kitchen, or am I having it catered?
I don't understand how most women end up becoming the Family Holiday Coordinator. It's a tremendous amount of pressure to be in charge of other people's festive happiness, and it requires an exhausting amount of preparation from October through January - a time that should be spent with family as opposed to for family.
Thanksgiving dinner is the trophy meal of the year - the one that simply can't be ruined or rescheduled.
It's on, people. It's on!
Growing up, my mother prepared every single Thanksgiving meal that I can remember, except for the year she was angry with me for getting married (that's another story saved for another time).
Because I moved out and moved on, in her opinion, my mother declared her house closed.
Thanksgiving dinner? You can find that at Southern Kitchen.
So we did. And my mother quietly hated every minute of it. Five of us were crammed into a faded red booth, ordering the special of the evening advertised on a handwritten sign by the cash register. I tried to pretend that my mother's semi-peaceful protest didn't affect me, but the truth is, it was the worst holiday ever recorded.
But when we saw a friend walk in alone - unaccompanied by her adult children and permanently separated from her husband who had just passed away - my mother announced that we should've been at home. Thanksgiving should be spent at home.
The following year, the task of bringing Thanksgiving to the table was handed down to me when my mother was too sick to eat, much less cook. I was determined to make her last supper as perfect as a Norman Rockwell painting, and I delivered.
It was important to make sure my mother's favorite holiday was honored, but also to prove to her that I had paid attention all of those Thursdays that she stood in the kitchen while everyone else sat on the couch.
However, I did too good of a job. From that year on, Thanksgiving was my responsibility. So here we are - more than a decade later - and I want to quit.
Why? Because I set unreasonable expectations for myself and others.
Celebrity chefs lecture me on what a real turkey is supposed to taste like. Home decorators show me what an inviting atmosphere should look like. Television psychologists remind me of what a holiday should feel like.
It feels . . . frustrating. Sure it's funny now, but year after year, the same things happen: 1) I live at the grocery store 48 hours before the big day, grabbing for the last 10-pound bag of Russet potatoes and generic tins of dried herbs.