Alma rose at dawn to make the biscuits,
kneading lard into the baker’s flour,
rolling sheets and cutting discs for baking;
it took her just a bit more than an hour.
At which point, Alma turned to make the stuffing:
sausage, cornbread, broth and butter, nuts.
She pulled the neck and gizzard from the turkey,
(which, with the heart, she thought the sweetest cuts).
She filled the bird and stitched it tight for roasting,
then with a jar of cloves, she dressed the ham,
and pressed the honey from the comb she’d purchased,
to sweeten up her famous candied yams.
While collards stewed in bacon fat and bullion,
Alma snapped the beans and okra too,
then shucked the corn, (the Silver Queen she favored),
which, paired with shrimp, went in her Frogmore Stew.
By sunset, Alma’s work had been completed,
the family blessed their meal on bended knees.
An awkward silence followed, ‘til her son said
“How come there ain’t no Stouffer’s Mac an’ Cheese?”
A poem I wrote in 2010, resuscitated on this day of feasting and thanks. It has an autobiographical slant: when my sister and I were young, Thanksgiving dinner at my grandparents’ house always featured a family-sized tray of Stouffer’s Macaroni and Cheese, which pleased us more than any of the “from scratch” things Grannies would make for us. It was such a food talisman for us that on the evening of our father’s funeral, as we struggled to find something to provide comfort, we made a tray of Stouffer’s and sat on the kitchen floor and ate the whole damned thing ourselves. Nothing else as comfortable as that.
These days, our Special Smith Family Thanksgiving Food Tradition is a sweeter one: Marcia’s Pumpkin Praline Pie, which combines the best features of both standard pumpkin and pecan pies in one deluxe pile of unmitigated goodness and joy. Om nom nom nom nom!! Katelin and my mother are in Chicago with Marcia and I for the holiday, and we’re currently in that digestive hiatus period between the main meal and the big wonderful pie-shaped food narcotic event to come. The Kool Whip is thawing . . . soon, oh soon!
We all have many things for which to be thankful, most especially the opportunity to spend time together as an extended three-generation family in our wonderful new home in Chicago. Here’s hoping that the holiday has delivered goodness to you and yours as well.