Sunday, November 25, 2012

Tastes of Thanksgivings Past

Living in the present moment is harder to do at the holidays.  There are those decorations accumulated over decades, that bring back memories of holidays past and thanks to our collection of ornaments gathered at countless vacation destinations, vacations around the world.  
And then, well, there's the food.  
This year I cooked.  Really cooked.  With help.  My daughter loves mashed potatoes and took charge of assembling an authentic version.  No skim milk, I can't believe it's not butter facsimile.  She got organic whole milk from Whole Foods, in glass bottles that have to go back to get a deposit refund.   Claiming to be "from grass fed cows on family farms", and mixed with real butter, the mashed potatoes were a hit.  
In Thanksgivings past, when I hosted dinner, I perfected the art (?) of the shortcut.  Stove Top stuffing, boxed gravy, store bought pies, and the infamous green been casserole made with canned fried onions and cream of mushroom soup (light).  
With real mashed potatoes, I vowed to be a bit more authentic this year.
Taking a literal page from the family cookbook (first edition), I made Aunt Edith's 'Zesty Corn Stuffing Balls".  I actually chopped the celery myself.  It was all worth it when my sister-in-law commented, "this stuffing tastes just like your mom's."   It brought back another holiday memory at my other sister in law's house, when she made pasta with sauce.  Upon tasting it, I said, "this sauce tastes just like my mom's".  
"I watched her make it one day and just wrote down everything she did", she said.  It was the real thing.  
Aunt Edith is gone and so is my mom.
Here's the recipe.


1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
4 T butter or margarine
1 17-ounce canned cream style corn
1/2 cup water
1 t poultry seasoning
1/8 t pepper
1 8 oz. package (3 cups) herb-seasoned stuffing mix (I like the plain seasoned croutons)
3 eggs slightly beaten
1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted

In saucepan cook onion and celery in the 4 Tablespoons butter or margarine till tender but not brown.  Add corn, water, poultry seasoning and pepper.  Bring to a boil.  Pour over stuffing mix; toss together lightly.  Stir in eggs.  Shape into seven or eight balls.  Place in a 9x9x2 inch baking pan.  Pour melted butter or margarine over.  Refrigerate if desired.  Bake in 375 degree oven for 25 minutes."

I confess to two shortcuts in this recipe -- the chopped onions came from Whole Foods and I skipped shaping the stuffing into balls, just pressing the mixture into a large baking dish.

It was good -- one serving of stuffing and the real mashed potatoes were quite enough.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Roots, Wings and Tears

Years ago at a home party that my cousin held to support a woman-owned business selling art, I purchased a print that hung in our house when my children were young.  The quote on the print reflected what I thought was one of my core beliefs about parenting.  In lovely hand drawn script, it proclaimed that "There are only two lasting bequests we can leave our children.  One is roots and the other is wings."
What was I thinking??  
The nest is empty.   Really empty.  While at least one child is still in college, you can cling to the notion that you are still tending the nest.  She graduated last May.  They both have truly gotten wings and flown.  Away.  They are both seeking.  Neither seems to be settling or settling in.  My generation had a more structured road or at least an apparent path to follow. 
My two children spent their college years on different coasts; now they are about to be on different continents. 
I find myself ruminating.   Should I have spent more time on the roots part?  Should we have done less traveling and confined our vacations to places like the Jersey Shore, Lake Chatauqua or Niagara Falls?  Should I have drawn a circle on a map like the one described to me by another mother who told her children that their college options were limited to an eight hour drive from home?  
I am shoulding all over myself these days.  Should I have worked less?  Should I have been a better cook, a better housekeeper?  We live in a wonderful city.  Even the National Geographic says so.  
And what does that saying mean anyway?   Does it mean they fly away and remember where they came from?  Does it mean they come back for selected holidays and call home once a week?
I am not handling this well at all.   Intellectually I know they have to go.  And I keep reminding myself that with all of the available technology we are still connected in ways that were not possible just a generation or two ago.  My own father's father died when he was a year old and he was raised by a step mother in a hill town in Italy for reasons I have never fully understood.  She sent him to the local tailor so he could learn a skill and when he was still in his teens, kissed him goodbye and sent him off to America.  She did not see him again for two decades and then it was for the last time.  He bought her a stove and when he went back in later years, a tombstone for her grave.
I find myself wanting to talk to her.  How did you do it?   Did you cry?  Maybe that's just the way it was and she stoically sent him across the ocean in a manner that was common in that era.  There was nothing for him there and she sent him off with hope. 
I find myself reflecting on Khalil Gibran's beliefs.
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.  
They come through you but not from you,
and though they are with you and yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love, but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
for their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward, nor tarries with yesterday.