My first Thanksgiving away from my family's table was the year I got married. It was horrible! Not because I didn't love my husband and his family, which is where we spent that holiday. It was because the food was foreign to me. Nothing was right and it made me miss the Thanksgiving foods I'd grown up with, and my family too, of course.
The strangest thing of all was my mother-in-law's stuffing. First of all, my family never stuffed a turkey. They stuffed themselves, definitely. Turkey, never! Now I was not only confronted with some gooey mess pulled from inside a turkey, but it had hamburger in it! What were they thinking?
Our stuffing -- the only kind I'd ever eaten -- was baked in a separate pan and was called dressing. As I wrote earlier, my family had to have two kinds of dressing to begin with -- oyster and plain. I never ate the oyster kind. And another matter was having enough dressing to feed our big, carb-hungry family. There was no turkey that could hold that much stuffing inside -- not even trussed!
Now, there is not any question about Lorraine's stuffing being good. It was good made with hamburger, in and of itself! It just wasn't right. It wasn't dressing. So it wasn't Thanksgiving to me.
I simply wasn't prepared for people who did things differently that first year I was away from home, but I learned quickly. Well, maybe not by the next year, because we had a huge Thanksgiving dinner with our entire Air Force pilot training class in Texas. And, I guess, not the next year either, when we were in California and shared Thanksgiving with our friends who were there with us for the second phase of pilot training. In both cases, I did not have the necessary experience to contribute such an integral part of the holiday meal to a group of people who had more marital and military rank than us.
I guess I finally made our first Thanksgiving dinner the fourth year of our married life, when we were living at our first permanent assignment in North Carolina. I remember negotiating a couple of family traditions between us, and then sort of creating our own hybrid holiday meal. You know though, I don't remember a thing about the meal itself. Except my family's tradition won in the dressing category.
Both of My Favorite Husband's brothers and his sister, and almost all of my brothers will be here to celebrate the fourth year of our new hybrid tradition -- Thanksgiving dinner at our house. My mother will be making the plain and oyster dressings for our holiday table.
But you know, I'd give anything if Lorraine was still here to make her stuffing with hamburger. I'd love to taste it again.
LORRAINE’S BREAD STUFFING WITH HAMBURGER
1 lb. hamburger
1 1/2 c. water or broth
1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. minced onions
1/4 tsp. ground pepper
1 tsp. poultry seasoning
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. parsley
1/2 c. diced celery
2 qts. day old bread cubes
Cook and crumble ground beef; drain fat and set aside. Pour water/broth into a large pot and bring to a boil. Add butter, onions, and celery; reduce heat to simmer for 5 minutes. Add cooked hamburger and remaining ingredients; mix until well blended. This makes enough to stuff an 8-lb. turkey. Double or triple the recipe for a larger turkey. Stuffing may also be baked as dressing in an oblong baking dish, if you prefer not to stuff the turkey.
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