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How did my grandmother do it? Well past her 75th birthday, she was still having holiday dinners at her house and with her five children and their children and spouses and their grandchildren, she fed a real house full.
Granted, everyone (the adults) took a dish. But just getting the house ready, the dishes out and the tea made would have done in a lesser person (such as I).
Oh, the tables that had to be set! The kitchen table was for somewhat older grandchildren. There was a kids’ table for the small ones; and the dining room table was reserved for the grownups. I know I am not alone when I say my coming of age is related to the table at which I sat.
When Nanny finally said no more, my mother did her best to fix the Thanksgiving dinner for her three children, spouses and grandchildren. But Mother was just not good at it. There were some things she could cook quite well, but good turkey and dressing were just beyond her.
Several years ago I began to try my hand at the Thanksgiving meal. My nephew’s family came down every year from Columbus, Ind. Because I really do enjoy cooking and because I so wanted to have my great niece and nephew remember a family tradition, I would work myself into a frenzy, making way too many side dishes and desserts. But while I always had leftovers to send home with them, I never in my imagination dreamed I could fix food and settings for 30-plus people.
This year the kids, as I call them, went a different direction. My nephew and his wife divorced a few years ago but remain friends. I am still close to his ex-wife and the children (now 17 and 15). So we planned a get together for Saturday, and it was not to be so many dishes this time — lasagna and salad. Keep it simple I kept telling myself. Then 17 year old, Eric, made a special request and so did his sister, and I just had to make a caramel cake. Before I knew it, I was cooking for three days.
And how the numbers grew. I thought we would be four. But my niece (former I know but she will always be ‘my niece’) had gotten engaged, so the fiancé came too, and his two teenagers. Then my nephew said he would like to be here. (Remember I said they are still friends.) So he drove over with my brother and I managed to get nine around my table, with the three leaves in. I had combined Bobby Flay’s (Food Network) caramel cake recipe with one from Southern Living and the cake was the only dessert anyone wanted. (Of course, I had more than one.)
I will mention here that I have way too many cookbooks, especially now that I can look up anything on the Internet, but if I could have only two, I would keep my 1964 edition of Joy of Cooking and Southern Living Party Recipes (1972). Both are coming apart but I still love them best.
But back to Thanksgiving Dinner. My friend Evelyn and I went to Louisville to see the new George Clooney movie and afterwards ate a very good meal at the Bristol Café on Bardstown Road. They offer good food, a fair price, no mess and no leftovers to gorge on. I thought it a successful day and gave much thanks for my many blessings both in my current life and in my most wonderful ‘growing up’ years.
Jarrett Boyd is the retired director of Carroll County Public Library and resides in Carrollton, Ky.