Growing up in the South seems to lend itself perfectly to almost a clairvoyant knowledge of just the right way to make the perfect Thanksgiving dinner.
Candied sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes with lots of butter and milk, yeast rolls, cornbread dressing with plenty of sage and green bean casserole are all staples of any self-respecting Southern woman’s table.
As tasty as these all may be, they really are just compliments to the real star of the show: the Thanksgiving turkey and giblet gravy.
To the uninitiated of you, giblet gravy is a rich broth based gravy that contains the “giblets” [pronounce the g like a j, please.] also known as gizzard, neck meat and livers of the turkey.
My grandma always took care of Thanksgiving dinner. She would sit at her kitchen table with a cutting board too tiny for words and methodically chop celery and onions and carrots until there were perfectly formed piles of green, white and orange at the corner of the cutting board.
Grandma never seemed hurried or frazzled. Everything magically came together no matter what and the only time you would hear Grandma complain was when some random cousin had dared to sneak a piece of whatever it was that Grandma happened to be taking out of the oven at that minute.
When I was in college, my grandma suffered a massive stroke which left her bedridden and unable to communicate with anything other than her eyes. Thanksgiving rolled around and everyone was at a loss as to just how we should carry on such a steadfast tradition without the family matriarch to hold everything together.
For some unholy reason, my mother and I decided that WE would take the reins and make Thansgiving dinner.
Neither of us had ever baked a turkey before much less made giblet gravy or sweet potato casserole. We weren’t sure how long to cook the turkey. Heck, we didn’t even know what kind Grandma had always gotten.
In a word, we were screwed.
Mom and I settled on the old method of basting the turkey with pan drippings and butter. We didn’t know how much butter but we would play it by ear.
The day arrived and the turkey was put into the oven. After a short time I basted the turkey with butter.
This went on for the remainder of the cooking time. Every thirty minutes or so more butter was drizzled over the top of the turkey.
While the turkey cooked, we made the other trappings that would serve as the supporting cast for the turkey.
Somehow we timed everything perfectly [dumb luck] and the turkey came out about fifteen minutes before everything else.
Mom went to put some butter out to soften for the rolls and it was then that we realized that we had no butter. Three pounds of butter had magically disappeared…all over the turkey.
At least it was moist.