Greetings, Gero-Punk Project friends! We’re celebrating contemplation and gratitude all week long, so please check back daily for Thanksgiving reflections from our wonderful guest essayists. Many blessings, much love!
Folding the Apron Twice
By guest Gero-Punk
I always make Thanksgiving dressing to go into the Thanksgiving turkey the way my grandmother taught my mom and how my mom taught me: breadcrumbs, onions, celery, apple (red), sage, butter and milk – just like it has always been done. Salt and pepper to taste.
Early morning is best time to begin chopping and sautéing the vegetables and apple. I take each ingredient, arrange them just so on the cutting board and begin to slice. I notice familiar hands: my grandmother’s and my mother’s. Their long fingers gingerly hold the onion and slice it with the knife. We are careful to remove onion peel. If eyes become teary, place the onion under cold running water. (I won’t Google this for scientific authentication; it doesn’t matter.)
The preparation of turkey dressing is a sacred process, a ritual. Things have to be done in order. As my grandmother wore an apron, so do I. Then I chop the celery and the apple. Off into the pan they go, splashing into the melted butter. Oh, and don’t brown the butter. Toss it out if this happens. Stir with a wooden spoon. I feel around the back of the spice cupboard to find the small square can of Schilling’s Sage Powder. Sprinkle liberally. I suppose it could be fresh sage from a market or herb garden. But we only use the small square can.
We add milk to the sautéed mixture – about half a gallon or so. A low-sodium chicken stock might be a healthier alternative, but that wouldn’t be right. We use “homestyle” ingredients. It wouldn’t taste good otherwise.
The breadcrumbs are piled into a large bowl. There is flexibility here. Some years it can be white bread, freshly chopped from the bag. Other years, it’s Mrs. Cuthbert’s box of pre-seasoned breadcrumbs. With skill, we gently pour the buttery mixture over the breadcrumbs. Careful now. Don’t pour too fast. Be sure to do it evenly so one side doesn’t get too mushy. We use our hands to knead the mixture into the crumbs. Now it’s ready to stuff into the turkey. The smell of butter and sage comforts the house.
Turkey goes into the oven. Bowl and pan are washed, dried and placed into the cupboard. Cutting board is wiped down. The knife and wooden spoon are tucked into the drawer.
I remove the apron and fold it twice.
Jennifer M. Ortiz is a social observer and Progressive Era historian. She holds a Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies from Marylhurst University, and has worked as a writer for the past several years in the non-profit sector. Jennifer and her husband live in Portland, Oregon, with their three sons.