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A time for questions...what are you thankful for?

November 30, 2010

EATS ONE ATE
Jay Reed

Thanksgiving is a time for questions. You can just about count on it. Inquiring minds want to know what you are thankful for, what you are going to eat, where you are going to eat it and with whom.
I have been pondering the first question quite a bit. Be assured that I am thankful for the big F’s: faith, family, friends, and okay – food. I tried to think beyond that, however, and be a bit more specific. What kept coming back was this: I am thankful for Starkville. I never really imagined living here again, after being far, far away for nearly 20 years, but I am very thankful that it has turned out to be a round-trip. I am thankful that I can turn the corner nearly anywhere in town and see an old friend, or that old friend’s parents, children, or even – gulp – grandchildren. I am thankful that my folks live all the way across town, and that it still only takes ten minutes to make that trip if I hit all the lights just right. I am thankful that Starkville has progressed in many ways in those 20 years, but continues to showcase one of its greatest attributes: the small college town atmosphere.
Those other questions all get jumbled up amongst each other. “What’s for lunch?” was my question on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. After a long day at work, I called Mama to see if the menu had been set. She already had a long list. Planned without any consultation from the only self-proclaimed foodie who would be at the table, I didn’t know whether to be offended or relieved. I chose relieved – I was worn out and the thought of planning a menu was a bit stressful, even for me. Not that planning a Thanksgiving menu takes a great deal of thought in our family. We start with the basics – turkey and dressing, jellied cranberry sauce, and gravy - then branch out to individual requests. This is how the menu (and belly) expands.
This year we added some old family stand-bys: corn casserole, green bean roll-ups, candied Vardaman sweet potatoes, and turnip greens from Starkville’s own Lancaster Farms. Despite my aforementioned fatigue, I still found the energy to put in my two cents, adding sweet potato biscuits and pumpkin swirl cheesecake to the list.
The challenge to this year’s thank-feast also answered the “where and with whom” questions – we went to Belmont to spend a few days with Granny. It can be a challenge to cook in someone else’s kitchen, not knowing where pots and pans live, whether or not all the basic ingredients are present and in sufficient quantities, and the state of readiness of the appliances. Since Granny does not do as much cooking as she used to, all these questions were legit. Granny does have the perfect setup for Thanksgiving, however – she has two stoves, a dishwasher, toaster oven, microwave, extra refrigerator and freezer outside, and even a trash compactor.
Because the turkey took up so much room, and we had other things to bake, we re-activated the upper stove. Apparently this one had a reputation for not holding the right temperature and the door did not close well, but we only needed to reheat the pre-smoked turkey and we were going to be close by – we decided to give it a try. Since it had been re-purposed as a storage unit, we detached the tape from the knob (the primary deterrent for any uninformed cooks), removed the cracker boxes and hot chocolate mix, and commenced heating the bird. Aside from the initial burning smell from stray cracker crumbs, it worked just fine.
In the process of making the cheesecake and biscuits, there was a bit of kitchen search-and-rescue. I tend to use a lot of bowls and utensils when I cook, and I needed an extra something-or-other. Mama looked in the plastic-ware storage area, known to most by its more common name: dishwasher, and found what I needed. Later when I needed something to cover the cheesecake for chilling, I knew where to look for foil and plastic wrap – that kind of stuff has been stored in the trash compactor for years.
Now I can say that I am thankful for the Thanksgiving we had. A long weekend off. Good visit with Granny. Great family time around a great table – as it should be. Actually looking forward to leftovers. If only the Egg Bowl had turned out as satisfying as the deviled eggs…

Jay Reed is a local foodie and pharmacist. The culinary tastes expressed here are his and do not necessarily reflect the appetites of the Starkville Daily News or individual members of its staff. He welcomes your comments at eatsoneate@gmail.com.

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