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2020 Thanksgiving Challenge Cornbread Stuffing: Culture
The game drones on in the background as groups of people sit around in different corners of Grandpa's house having both boisterous and quiet conversations, if that is even possible in this environment! Quiet? Who am I kidding? Less loud! Still, family sits and some eat dessert. Others are outside the house smoking cigarettes and other relaxing barely legal things because there is no smoking in Grandpa's house.
A few people, start putting things away and cleaning up in the kitchen as a few trumpet good-byes and give hugs to everyone on the way to the next family gathering of in-laws or just home. This happens every year.
It is familiar. It is custom. It is my culture on Thanksgiving. It is a sacred act and cherished expectation that will not happen this year. No more of the familiar and something alien to replace it.
It is familiar. It is custom. It is my culture on Thanksgiving. It is a sacred act and cherished expectation..,
The first time I paid attention to a holiday other than Christmas was when I was a little boy living in Miami at Aunt Patricia's house. When I think of Auntie, what I called her, memories of this soft-spoken but stern-faced woman who cooked the best foods fill my mind and cause pangs in my stomach. Her face has wrinkles now, but I still remember her young smooth shiny face from my youth in the kitchen whipping up cakes and pies like nothing! The savory foods did not win my attention as much, but I recall the hunger pangs they inspired as I awaited the announcement for dinner. I did into care about the holiday. I cared about the food! Thanksgiving at Auntie's house was my world! My favorite thing she made was potato salad. A plate piled high of her mouth-watering potato salad was enough for me--besides the cakes and pies she made.
Of course, the adults would not let a kid eat only potato salad. They put stuff like meat, ham and turkey, collard greens, yams, chitterlings, and my next favorite thing, cornbread stuffing! I didn't call it cornbread stuffing, though. I was a kid. I called it stuffing. Adults called it dressing. I always called it GOOD!
I only wanted stuffing/dressing and some potato salad. And some ham... and some turkey, sometimes. Okay, I wanted it all really. This was the only time a year where eating too much was not considered horrible. Not even Christmas was this cool! There was no limit to the amount of food. I mean, there was, but no adult seemed to talk about it. I wasn't about to bring it up either!
I just wanted more of my favorite things. I did not like to eat all the other things but it was Thanksgiving. All the foods came with the holiday! it was the only day a kid could get an adult-sized plate, which I never finished. It ended up in the trash usually, but I ate the potato salad and stuffing. I always sneaked another serving when the adults stopped paying attention to the food table. There was always an auntie lurking around the kitchen, but even they sat down to talk for a spell.
This was the only time a year where eating too much was not considered horrible. Not even Christmas was this cool!
I did not know any other type of stuffing/dressing existed until I grew to adulthood. Fascinated by the preparation that goes into making the meal, I made it my life's goal to learn how to cook the foods of thanksgiving. Every holiday became my holiday! But, when I moved to Arizona, every holiday already belonged to Grandpa!
We will get back to that. The way that I learned about stuffing/dressing is that all of it is made from cornbread. There have been different ways to prepare it, but I like the way I do it now because it is closer to the way Auntie did it when I was a kid. I still remember her's tasting so much better than what I come up with.
The first thing that I start out with is making the cornbread. My turkey is in the oven by the time I have started making the stock I need to use in my cornbread stuffing.
For the Cornbread:
- 6 Boxes of Jiffy Mix, Follow Directions. I don't do homemade cornbread often.
- 6 Eggs
- 2 Cups Milk
- 1 Package Jimmy Dean Breakfast Sausage, Miniced
- 2 or 3 cups Turkey (Chicken) Broth, Best from the roasting turkey or chicken in my opinion
- 2 Cups Green Onions, Chopped
- Six Eggs
- 1 Cup Butter or Margerine
- 4 or 5 Stalks Cellery, Chopped
- 2 Heaping Table Spoons Garlic, Minced
- 2 Large Onions, Chopped
The way that I learned about stuffing/dressing is that all of it is made from cornbread.
Once I have made the cornbread following the directions multiplied by 6 on the Jiffy box, I use the stock from my roasting turkey (or chicken broth if the turkey stock is not available) pouring it all over the cornbread until it is saturated.
Some people stop there. Just doing those two things makes a savory dressing/stuffing, but not for Thanksgiving. It needs more!
Taking the newly wetted cornbread, I use a large mixing bowl, the largest I can find, to pour the wet chunky cornbread into for remixing. The key is not to make the cornbread mixture into mush, not just yet.
While the bread is still steaming from the hot stock/broth and oven heat from baking, I take the butter/margarine and mix it into the mixture. I don't know why. That is what I saw my mother doing when she made stuffing. It is easier when it is time to clean up because I have dirtied another dish trying to melt the butter/margarine.
The key to food tasting good is not a dirty kitchen afterward but a clean kitchen as you go! It's easier to find ingredients in a clean kitchen, okay?
Confession and Still More Directions
I chop the Large onions, celery and put them into the bowl with the cornbread mixture. Then, I chop the green onion.
In a large frying pan, I heat the minced breakfast sausage frying it very well and removing the big chunks of meat. I throw the garlic and green onion in the cooking meat to fry it up as well.
My wife doesn't like big chunks of meat in things like spaghetti or chili, so I make the minced or ground sausage really fine. Bogus are her claims that she hates the sausage in stuffing/dressing. I never tell her that I put minced sausage in the stuffing/dressing and she eats it just fine.
Never can I tell her or she will say it doesn't taste good. I love it, though. Since I am the one who is cooking it, we eat it on Thanksgiving! She always likes it.
After 15 years of doing it, I told her what I had been doing with the sausage. She said, "I knew. I ate it not to hurt your feelings. Boy, you can't get nothin' past me!"
Saying that she doesn't like the sausage...
I believe she was lying, though. That woman. She did not know! Now she always checks to see if I have it--and I do! Every time I have it! This will be year Twenty. I use turkey sausage, though. I only use pork when my sister doesn't visit. She has this thing against swine.
Chunky, the word chunky has been used in this article an obscene about of times.
I Know, Some More Directions
The sausage mixture goes into the cornbread mixture next, followed by the six other eggs. I know that's a lot of one ingredient, eggs. I suppose you don't have to put 12 eggs into that one dish, but I do. I am fat like that on Thanksgiving. It is probably why I tend to end up in the hospital each other year for overdoing it on the carbs, mostly potato salad, cornbread stuffing, and sweet potato pie. At least eggs are a protein!
If the mixture is too thick, I put some milk in the mixture to give it a more manageable consistency--really chunky mash potatoes. Chunky, the word chunky has been used in this article an obscene amount of times.
Because of the many ingredients in the stuffing/dressing, I don't usually season it more than the natural salts and spices that come with it.
My last ingredient is bread crumbs, but I have been using the hard boxes of stuffing. I use the one and only Stoffers Stove Top Stuffing! I never mentioned that I did things from scratch. Since I cook all the food, I cut it short where I can. Any stove top stuffing will do.
Put all of the mixture in several pans and bake at about 350 to 400 oF. Stuff the bird with a little of the stuffing/dressing. Use the stock from the turkey to flavor the rest of the stuffing/dressing, which is so much better than broth for seasoning the dressing than broth alone, in my opinion.
If you make this recipe I use every year, and you must use broth, I suggest boiling the broth with the whole onions, celery, and the turkey's neck.
I only eat this once, maybe twice a year. This is hecka unhealthy, but I love how it tastes. I am willing to eat my weights work in calories this once or twice a year. Maybe three times...
COVID-19 Changed It
We need to social distance for 2020. I am blessed to have a large family of 8 people. We are all here together and can enjoy each other. We want to go over to Grandpa's house and spend that time with him and Grandma, but it could be irresponsible to put other family members at risk. We may test negative at the clinic but catch COVID an hour later touching a wet surface someone sneezed on by mistake.
Phone calls and social media are God's blessing to us during this pandemic. Happy Thanksgiving.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2020 Rodric Anthony Johnson
Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on November 17, 2020:
This is a cool read. I like it. Great memories you share. I know what you mean about someone just taking over a meal in the kitchen. Sometimes good and sometimes not so much.
Ann Carr from SW England on November 17, 2020:
I love reading your memories and learning about cornbread. We do not have that as a norm here, nor of course do we have Thanksgiving, which is a shame as it strikes me as lovely. Family gatherings are so good.
You're right, of course. This year we don't get to do family gatherings and Christmas is going to be a rather sparse affair, lockdown or not. Well, let's hope it's worth it and that we get the better of this Covid. Hope is on the horizon with the vaccines - that has lifted everyone I think. It can't come soon enough.
Thanks for sharing this.