I come from a long lineage of great cooks. My paternal grandpa taught me how to make popcorn on the stove using bacon grease. (I haven't done it in years, but it is delicious, I can assure you). My paternal grandmother taught me how to make frosting from scratch, put it on graham crackers to make a scrumptious, highly-refined carbohydrate sandwich fit for a Queen. My maternal grandpa (we all called him Bampa) could make anything. He was a man of few words, but a whiz in the kitchen. When I was in college, I would make the 2 hour trek to see him just to get some homemade mashed potatoes and home grown green beans. My maternal grandma (everyone just called her Nama) could also make just about anything I asked. Her specialty: buttermilk biscuits, from scratch. A.MAZ.ING!!! And, I'm not really a huge fan of biscuits (except for those flaky ones that come apart in layers that you get out of a can--it's my one, pre-made, highly processed weakness).
My mom is also a great cook. She can make anything! She can cook the heck out of wild game--elk, venison, antelope, you name it! Her homemade German Chocolate Cake is to die for! My dad, well, my dad's skills really aren't so much in the culinary arts, but he did teach me to fry Spam a few times when my mom was out of town. . . My brother is probably a better cook than all of us though. He makes his own venison jerky, elk and venison sausage, steak (from whatever wild game had the misfortune of stumbling across his path) and a mean scrambled egg. He even knows how to can! I have to admit, canning has never really been high on my list of things to learn how to do, but I am a bit envious that my brother could single-handedly survive the Apocalypse with his hunting, fishing, farming, cooking, AND canning prowess. So, the bar has been set pretty high for me in this crazy family of mine.
All that said, Thanksgiving was always a pretty big deal for me. Everything was from scratch. Everything was delicious, and everyone pitched in. When I got married, I realized that it was a pretty overwhelming task to get all that stuff ready in one kitchen without the benefit of 3 generations to help. I still remember calling my mom that first Thanksgiving just to ask her the specifics of making dressing. I had been elbow-deep in it for years, but never really paid attention to the proportions of egg, cornbread, regular bread, celery, onion, sage, etc. Since my grandmother (and mom) didn't really have any of these recipes written down, they would just figure out what was needed, throw all the stuff in a huge bowl and tell me to squish away until it was all mixed together. So, 12 years ago, I set out on a journey to figure out how to make a great Thanksgiving dinner (it's actually lunch at my house, but it just sounds more American to call it dinner). My goal: have everything ready at the same time, piping hot, in a pretty serving dish, on the table at 12:30 p.m. SHARP! The first few years were a dismal failure. . . one year I think it was probably about 2:00 by the time it was done. I still feel bad about that one, as one of my college friends and her two very, very patient young children were there to join us.
I have, however, managed to refine this task and have decided this year to start passing all of this information down to my kids. They both really love to help me in the kitchen. Like my mother and her mother before her, I don't really have many of the recipes written down (except pies, those have to be EXACT!) So, this year may be a bit of a challenge for me. I have decided to actually take the time, while I am teaching them, to write stuff down (well, most of it anyway).
I hope to post updates over the next week of our progress, if anyone is interested. Anyway, we'll just have to see how it goes. . . should be fun!