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Thanksgiving cooking adventures

Published November 30. 2013 09:00AM

I hope everyone had a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends. If you braved Black Friday I hope you survived relatively unharmed and with everything you were hoping to find at the malls or stores.

Everyone has their own traditions around the holidays and Thanksgiving is no exception. When I was younger while my grandparents were living, my mother usually cooked on Thanksgiving. Through most of my childhood everyone who was available came to our house for Thanksgiving dinner.

One of my earliest memories of Thanksgiving Day dinner was the year of the cranberry bread. When I was in first or second grade, I belonged to a book of the month club and for a year or so, my parents got a monthly book for me to read. The one that came in October was about a Thanksgiving dinner and featured in the story was a cranberry sweet bread. As Thanksgiving neared, I pleaded with mom to make this loaf of cranberry bread and she eventually gave in and added the bread recipe to the menu.

Now, I must point out my mother was a pretty good cook. She hardly ever made a bad meal and even to this day like most men, I know whatever Mom prepares will be good.

With that said, Thanksgiving came and dinner arrived. We all gathered in our seats for grace and soon dinner began. As the dishes were passed, I had a little of each food choice; stuffing, corn, mashed potatoes, turkey and more. All looked good but soon the highlight of my meal arrived by plate handed by my pop or my grandmother, the bread. It looked so wonderful that I took one of the best looking slices and buttered it. With eager anticipation, my trembling little hands moved that delectable slice of heaven to my mouth and along with many of the family we tasted that novel dinner item.

And then we spit it out. Most of us were polite about it, but saying it was not very good was an understatement.

My mom was probably the most displeased about it and she grumbled about using the loaf as an anchor or a paperweight. That bread didn't survive dessert, and I think it cracked the garbage can, it's final resting place. Fortunately the rest of dinner was wonderful, but we still discuss that bread from time to time, and I think if you were to ask her about her biggest Thanksgiving mishap that bread would rank up in the top three (and trust me it's at the top because I don't think there are any other food disasters that I can remember).

Of course, my own turkey disaster topped my mother's bread in the way the main event outshines the undercard. It was one of the first times I roasted a turkey and the bird was almost finished as were the accouterments including the potatoes, yams, corn and filling. All that was left was gravy. Up until that point I never made gravy other than opening it in a can and dumping it in a saucepan. This time I was going to do it right.

I never made gravy and all I knew came from watching my family master chef, Mom. Also, bear in mind that like the typical guy, I didn't call and ask her a question about it. After all, how hard could it be.

I had one of those gravy mixers with the goofy propeller in the top of it. To this day I'm not sure what the heck the propeller does for sure. It doesn't attach to anything and just sits in the top of this cup, but I left it there as I was sure it had some purpose. I remembered she used cornstarch. So I dumped a little in the bottom of the cup, and It really didn't look like enough so I added some more and then some more. Pretty soon there was enough I thought. Next step would be the broth. From what I remembered she also put broth in the mixture, so naively I poured a cup of hot broth in there. The cap fit tightly down on the cup and the little cover on the spout was snapped tight.

After she added those two components she would shake it to mix it. At least that was how I remembered it. Funny thing is I didn't remember what happened next ever happening to my mom. I shook it for about ten seconds and what happened was so quick I still don't remember it totally. One second I'm shaking the gravy container and the next minute there was a loud bang. The lid flew off the cup with such force that it almost took out all the hair along my scalp.

If that wasn't bad enough the geyser of hot cornstarch goop flew in all directions all over the kitchen. I was impressed with the explosion after my life stopped flashing in front of my eyes. What was less impressive though was the cleanup effort.

There was glop everywhere. I'm pretty sure some of it embedded in the ceiling. If it was paint it would have looked like a paint can exploded in the kitchen. I couldn't figure out what I missed, but being a true guy I didn't ask; at least not right away. I was stumped. I did everything she did, but yet my mom's mixture turned into gravy while mine exploded. It was a mystery until I spoke to her.

What I missed was an important item. "Never mix hot liquid with cornstarch because it explodes", she told me. Duh. I mumbled, "Thanks, ma. You could have said something sooner."

Always quick on the retort, she chuckled saying, "Well maybe you should have asked first." Always good advice even when not timely.

Til next time…

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