Mama Sue’s Thanksgiving

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This past Friday evening turned out to be the best time for our family Thanksgiving meal. We almost always pool our efforts, but last year our daughters insisted that they do the cooking. It was fantastic. This year I gave them the day(s) off. I simply wanted to cook it myself, and I found it very rewarding. I couldn’t have done it if the house hadn’t already been clean and if Ray hadn’t washed sink after sink of dirty dishes.

Cooking was my Mama Sue’s special talent. I decided to cook the menu I remember from Thanksgivings at her house.

Daddy’s mama, my Mama Sue

I always use Mama Sue’s dressing recipe. After eating it every Thanksgiving since I was old enough to eat solid foods, it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without it. For many years, I savored the dressing Mama Sue made herself. Every other year of my life, I have made it from her recipe. That was my daughters’ one concession last year. They did let me make the dressing. It’s really the centerpiece of our dinner—more important even than the turkey, or in the case of Mama Sue’s Thanksgiving dinner, a big, fat hen.

In addition to the turkey or hen and dressing, we had these dishes at her house and at ours last week: mashed sweet potatoes with marshmallows, green beans, dressed eggs (dressed not deviled—after all, this is Tennessee!), cranberry sauce, celery stuffed with pimiento cheese, and a relish tray with pickles and olives. I bought braided bread from our longtime friend Debi Reynolds, who graciously baked it with maple syrup instead of her son Kamon’s yummy and famous Tennessee Bees honey so that our youngest grandson could have her delicious bread, too. We also had five-cup salad (coconut, pineapple, mini marshmallows, mandarin oranges, and pecans, dressed with a cup of sour cream; I substitute dates for the pecans because of one grandson’s nut allergies), but I can’t remember if that was at Mama Sue’s Thanksgiving dinners or only at my Mother’s Christmas dinners. Either way, it is certainly easy, delicious, and one of my traditions.

I diverged from Mama Sue’s menu when it came time to make desserts. While I would have loved to have made her fresh coconut (as in hammering open the coconut herself) cake with one pink layer and one white layer and homemade cooked divinity frosting and her jam cake with homemade cooked caramel frosting, I opted for much easier desserts. I made no-bake pumpkin cheesecake (in bought graham cracker pie crusts), using a recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction. I also made the recipe Sally calls The Best Pumpkin Bars I’ve Ever Had.

When our older daughter said she was going to take a picture of her plate, I decided to do the same. Here’s a picture of Mama Sue’s Thanksgiving menu.

I didn’t learn only how to make dressing and how to plan a Thanksgiving menu from Mama Sue. She was an important part of my life until she passed away at age 93 when I was 52 years old. When my aunt Emily and I cleaned out her room at her assisted living, we found her New Testament. It had been a gift from me when I was about three years old. I took it home and enjoyed reading the passages she had marked.

As we all know well, the most important elements of our Thanksgiving celebrations are the people we love and hearts that are grateful to the God who gave us them and all we have.

For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you,
which first dwelled in your grandmother Lois
and your mother Eunice,
and I am sure that it is in you as well.
2 Timothy 1:5

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