Peanut Butter and Purple Onions

Sounds crazy until you try it.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Stuffed

I was sixteen the first time I attended a Thanksgiving meal outside my own home. For reasons I can't really remember, my high school sweetie and I decided we'd attempt to get through two versions of the feast -- lunch at his house, dinner at mine. Everything went fine, actually, but I'll never forget the horror that broke over me at the first bite of his mother's stuffing. It was light, flaky, nearly ethereal. It tasted of fresh bread, raw parsley, and sharp onions, and when spooned onto my plate, it fell easily into individual bits and pieces.

To me, it was all wrong. My dad's stuffing is a thing of beauty and wonder. It's a dense, almost sticky mixture, rich with sausage, apples, and sage, and the only ingredients an observer can immediately identify by sight are the chopped celery and whole olives. I mean, I assume there's bread in there, but I certainly can't point you to it. And this stuffing, which Dad mixes with intense concentration and both hands in an enormous aluminum roasting pan, is the absolute best part of Thanksgiving. Turkey is an afterthought at our house. The real glory of the feast is a stuffing sandwich, smeared with cranberry sauce and eaten surrepetiously in the den so as to avoid accusations of illicit stuffing pilfering.

I'm not going home for Thanksgiving this year -- too expensive, sadly. And I think the Parental Units and Devorit are going to go hiking instead anyway. So I'm venturing into the kitchen to cook my very first Thanksgiving meal, for just me and Dimples. When I was planning the menu, I had a hard time choosing a stuffing recipe. There was no question of trying to recreate Dad's; he doesn't really use a recipe, and I didn't want to make an attempt that fell depressingly short. It's like Mom's spaghetti sauce -- I can come close, but close just isn't good enough. So I have an all-new (to me) recipe, which I'm tentatively excited about. And gravy! That's a first for me too. (We never have gravy at my parents' house. I don't really know why. I don't miss it at all, but Dimples stared at me in appalled consternation when I suggested leaving it off our menu.)

I have high hopes for this recipe. But my secret plan is to ask Dad if we can mix up a batch of his stuffing, sans bird, at Christmas time. Because no year should end without it.

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