Want a family recipe? Write it down

Published 1:39 am Saturday, December 9, 2017

“Mom, I don’t know how many times I’ve asked you for your dressing recipe,” my daughter said. “You never have written it down for me.” We were involved that moment with preparing this year’s Thanksgiving meal.

Hiding a smile, I admitted that was true. “Here’s your chance,” I said, reaching for a pad and pen I kept on the counter to make a grocery list. “You can watch me and write it down.”

My mother had made the dressing for our Thanksgiving and Christmas meals until she was 94. She never wrote down the recipe. Either her mother or mother-in-law taught her. The first dressing I made, I relied on memories of watching Mother prepare it. Just like her, I had never written it down. Although my family says I make good dressing, I doubt it ever turns out exactly the same from year to year. In my opinion, it has never measured up to Mother’s.

During my husband’s military service, we were often far away from home at Thanksgiving and Christmas. One year it was especially difficult for me to hold the true spirit of Christmas in my heart. The children and I were in transit by ship to join my husband in Germany. My mother and I had no hand in making dressing that holiday, although we were served a nice Christmas dinner. I had felt pretty down for a couple of days until a Christmas newsletter distributed to the passengers reminded me that Christmas was not where we were, but what we felt in our hearts. It reminded me to count my blessing that soon we would be reunited as a family. I was also thankful that we had been with my parents during the months we awaited orders to join my husband. I suppressed the thought that at that minute we were out on the ocean somewhere away from our loved ones.

During the years overseas, we four enjoyed our Christmas celebrations together, and then sometimes joined friends in the afternoon. Since I had almost always depended upon my mother to lead in cooking our holiday dinners, it was a challenge for me to take up the task. I persevered, despite struggling with waves of homesickness.

My husband’s duty hours were long and irregular in Germany. He was always on call. He seldom got enough sleep, kept a bad cold, and usually drew holiday duty. We scheduled our holiday celebrations accordingly.

It was a joy to return to the states when his three-year tour was completed. He applied for and was assigned to civilian component duty, teaching ROTC at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. We were so thankful to resume spending our holidays back home with loved ones.

Thanksgiving and Christmas days now always spark memories of those times when we were far away from home and those we love. I anticipate our Christmas 2017 dinner with the hope of a great meal that includes a pan of delicious dressing, compliments of my daughter.


Nina Keenam is retired from the newspaper industry.