Thursday, December 3, 2009
The Preacher’s Corner
Thanks given for Grandmother’s turkey pie
Along about this time of year our public school music teacher Marjory Smith at Parks School in Cleveland, would lead us in choruses of “Over the River and Through the Woods to Grandmother’s House We Go.” I joined in heartily, and the song worked its magic on me. Almost everyone identifies with it, even though there were no rivers or woods to cross for me, as I grew up in my grandmother’s home.
Thanksgiving and Christmas are almost, by definition, occasions to be spent with grandparents, and bless God if you have them, or remember your visits to their homes. As our population becomes more scattered these times become more difficult to arrange. But turkey was always part of the scene, and that is what I want to write about today.
My grandmother would have had no patience for frozen turkey breasts, deep-fried turkeys, or any of the other labor-saving ways to have Thanksgiving.
She also would not have wanted a modern house where the kitchen and the living space are blended into one. When she cooked, the swinging door into the kitchen was firmly closed, and God help the pet or child who wandered aimlessly through. There was serious work going on, and the cook was not to be disturbed.
Grand-mother would also have laughed at the way Paula Dean, Rachel Ray, Ina Garten, and especially Giada de Laurentis, claim to be able to cook gourmet fare without wearing an apron. At least Emeril is “authentic” in this regard.
My grandmother looked exactly like the grandmothers in the Norman Rockwell paintings, and her food was that good, too. Come to think of it, she could turn out those great holiday dinners and still make it to church for the holiday services. It could not have been easy, but she kept this up well into her eighties.
My grandmother cooked a wonderful, big turkey at both Thanksgiving and Christmas, and she insisted that we eat everything but the gobble. I do not remember this as arduous, for she was wise enough to scatter delicious helpings of other things in between encores of the big bird.
I realize that there are some who simply do not like turkey in any form. Fortunately I did and do. In fact, the best part of the turkey, for me, came along about the time you are reading this in the calendar — I refer to the turkey pie.
My grandmother’s turkey pie bore no resemblance whatsoever to those glue-like frozen concoctions that come from the store. She would save some of the best and most tender meat, hard boiled eggs, diced onions and celery, and potato pieces, as well as rich, cream gravy, and even some of the leftover cornbread dressing (we did not eat “stuffing”). This would be piled into a deep Pyrex dish an inch-and-a half thick, and topped with home made biscuits.
When served with her whole-cranberry salad and ambrosia for dessert, it was holiday all over as far as I was concerned. It must have been good for me to remember the dish after all these years. It cannot be replicated without real, baked-in-the oven whole turkey.
This is what I think of when I remember “Over the River and Through the Woods.”
Thanksgiving -- “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.”
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