Rethinking Christmas dinner

Brenda's Thanksgiving 002

I celebrated two Thanksgivings last week – one with my family and one with my neighbor, Brenda.  Of the two, Brenda’s was way more fun and captured something I’ve been trying to achieve for 35 years.

What was it?  I’m not sure.  Maybe it was the casual nature of Brenda’s wingding as opposed to the stuffiness of mine.

Brenda's Thanksgiving 003

Maybe it was the fact that her guest list was so … inclusive. She invited her family, extended family and a few strays like me – turned out to be close to 30 people once they all arrived.

Me?  I’m limited to how many people I can squeeze around my dining room table – or I thought I was.

I always set the table with my best china and silver and work for days on my centerpiece.    My table cloth is white and I watch the company like a hawk to see who dribbles the gravy.

Brenda's Thanksgiving 001

I don’t allow anyone in my kitchen and insist on cranking out the dishes like a martyr about to be put to death.  (Do I secretly want all the credit?)

There were never fewer than six cooks in Brenda’s kitchen, which is smaller than mine!  She didn’t care, and was cool as a cucumber. I, on the other hand  usually get overwhelmed, burn the bread and join my guests  on the verge of tears.

When cooking was complete, Brenda threw out some unbreakable plates and a basket of forks.   Everyone served themselves right out of the pots still bubbling on the stove.

And what a spread.

There was corn on the cob, peas she put up last summer, and the best sweet potatoes this side of the Mississippi.  She cooks Vardaman sweet potatoes (they HAVE to be from Vardaman)  right on the stove top, adding butter, sugar and vanilla when they are tender.  They were so delicious I had some more for dessert.

There was a ham she “crocked” and a turkey (crocked by her sister Ginger).  Ginger also made the dressing which was the best I’ve ever had.  I got the recipe and it was shockingly simple and just the right consistency.  Mine required a soup bowl.

There was a huge green bean casserole – wonder why I stopped making that years ago?

Brenda's Thanksgiving 004 Brenda’s granddaughter, Madeline, is at left.

There were cakes, pies and three or four salads brought by some of the guests.

Once everyone got their plates filled, they grabbed a seat wherever they could.  The men gravitated to one area (near the TV), the women to another.  (I always cut off the television and watch the men grimace.)

We had so much fun, it was almost dark when I finally trudged back across the street to my place.

Now, that’s what Thanksgiving SHOULD be like.  Next year, I’m dumping the white table cloth, good china and setting up a portable table in the television room.   Heck, I may even serve on paper plates.

4 thoughts on “Rethinking Christmas dinner

  1. Sure – will get the exact ingredients and pass them along as soon as possible. Her secret is using the eggs (at least three and buttermilk) in her cornbread, not in the finished dressing as I do before baking. She doesn’t use all that poultry seasoning or sage (mine tasted a little like perfume because I added too much). Instead she adds a can of cream of chicken soup. She also boils a hen and uses that rich broth to finish off the dressing before baking. It was perfect – not too dry but just right. Will find out the ratios and post.

  2. You entertain the way you do, and Brenda entertains the way she does. I guarantee you that you will not be satisfied without seated guests and a white table cloth. Some of us are laid back and some of us are not. It is fun to go to parties like Brenda’s, but I could never have 30 people eating all over the house and not depending on me to “wait on them.” The food is good either way, and I suspect your guests like the way you feed them, too!

  3. You truly received a BLESSING when at Brenda & GiGi’s Thanksgiving’s
    I have been a part of those gathering for many years.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *