Whenever I start to assemble the ingredients for my Momma’s cornbread dressing...I feel a little nostalgic. I remember her standing over the stove, cooking mounds of onions and celery, that were to be added to the buttermilk cornbread she had already prepared in big hot cast iron skillets. And keep in mind, in the South, we eat dressing, not stuffing. And it’s cooked on the side, not in the bird. And it’s made with cornbread(oh dear God, don’t ever try this with the travesty of sweetened cornbread), not bread cubes.
Mom’s dressing is pretty simple really, as long as you begin the day before getting the cornbread done. My first Thanksgiving here in Baltimore, my first year away from ‘bama, and my first ever preparing the meal on my own…was a disaster. I waited to until that day to do everything. Such innocence. With only one oven to cook a turkey, the dressing, the cornbread for the dressing, the sweet potatoes….it was a long day and maybe the latest we’ve ever eaten Thanksgiving dinner.
So let’s just say you cook a big pan of cornbread the day before….crumble that up and add a couple of sauteed onions and plenty of celery, Momma does put in a single bag of Pepperidge Farm stuffingfor flavoring…they know what they’re doing….salt and pepper, some sage if you’re feeling daring, mix it alll up with plenty of broth for moisture. She says her Mother….Clifford(can you imagine?)…put in a couple of eggs. But Mom likes the dressing not so set, as do I, so no eggs here. But don’t skimp on the broth…it should be just slightly goopey. Bake at 350 degrees for maybe 30-40 minutes until set. It’s luscious. Divine simplicity….this year I added some sauteed shitake mushrooms this year, from that crazy mushroom log I told you about. That…Momma would consider just so wrong, or as she would say, “That’s a good way to mess up a pan of dressing.”
But I don’t think it will…just adding my own touch, as she added hers along the way. And so it goes, Thanksgiving traditions passed down from one generation to the next. I’d love to hear about yours, and I’ll post your responses Friday. Have a wonderful day tomorrow, even if you don’t have a big happy family at your table…not everyone does, you know. I distinctly remember one bizarre Thanksgiving as a girl, when my Mom’s side of the family ( there were issues with her brother), including my Grandparents, now long departed, all sat silently at dinner. My sisters and I shot looks at each other that basically said, “Can you believe this ??” Luckily that only happend once.
So, let’s be thankful for what we do have, whatever it is…cousins who argue, a Grandfather that drinks too much, a sister who criticizes your every move, kids who don’t understand why we all have to sit for a long time at the table with all these people! And you may even be alone…if you are, I hope you find a way to celebrate. Fix yourself a nice dinner, or buy it, light some candles and watch It’s a Wonderful Life….because it is you know, even it it ain’t perfect. Happy Thanksgiving everyone.