holiday preamble

I’m at the library with books stacked to my chin; it’s the Holiday Preamble, a preface to the pudge, a prologue to the pounds. Planning for the holiday season makes me want to smack my mama and roll her in the mud. Gathering lists, comparing recipes, flipping through holiday circulars, it’s all tastier than spoonbread, more toothsome than cider-glazed turkey, sticky sweet sin pudding. I can’t get enough.
duck that goose
This season, however, we’re taking our show on the road, winding our way up to the Treasure Coast, where we’ll be giving thanks at Yiayia’s house.

We’ll be picking up my grandmother “Big Yiayia,” in Delray Beach, then heading north to my mother’s home in Stuart, FL. My sister Lea will be meeting us there, after her drive down from Gainesville (she graduates this January with a degree and license in Chinese Herbs and Medicine and Acupuncture, a nice addition to her massage therapy and cosmetology licenses). I call first!

At my mother’s home: She and her husband Don, Lea, Big Yiayia, Phil, Lucas, Abigail, and their mother, The Glutton. My grandmother, age 96, will be baking cookies and assembling Baklava (she has worked as a chef and caterer, and she spent a lifetime married to, my pappou (pah-pooh), a Greek man named Euripides, so the Greek sweets and appetizers are always aplenty. My mother will bake her cider-thickened apple pie and will construct a salad, roast a bird, reduce a cranberry sauce with pear, nuts, and mandarin orange. As always, she’ll compose a gravy—without saying the word “giblet”. If she uses innards, we needn’t know about it, even though we know about it. Then, she’ll orchestrate a dressing (stuffing) worthy of hymn.

Oh, the stuffing. As an indecisive Libra, I can allow that I’ve always got my hand in it, and I’m never completely satisfied until I’ve taste-tested my way through the options. There’s the traditional sausage, celery, white raisin or apple, sure. There’s the wild mushroom camp. The cornbread addicts. The chestnut fools (Sorry, but chestnuts only smell good. They taste like mealy mush scrotum). Oysters. Sage. Wild rice! How you dress your bird is a decision as paralyzing as how to trim a tree (another obsession of mine).

A few doors down, my aunt will host neighbors and her own children and grandchildren. Then, after dinner, we’ll all gather together at a tented pool reserved for our family, where we’ll binge pick our way through desserts. Together, we’ll be close to twenty-five people, give or take a drumstick.

My job: glorious side dishes and extraordinary desserts. My dream job. Where, oh, where to begin. My answer: the library. One thing I know for sure: I’ll be making a tray of macaroni and cheese at Phil’s request. ‘Cause he likes nothing else on the Thanksgiving table. I can’t believe we’re related.

Previous Thanksgiving Love Notes:

It’s The Thought That Counts, Not The Calories
(This includes links to previous Thanksgiving years)

Giving Thanks For Leggings

Thanksgiving Meats


  1. Hi Stephanie! You’re probably all ready to go with the Mac and Cheese recipe, but on the off chance you need one, I have a great one from scratch if you want it! Would be happy to send : )

      1. You bet! Here ya go:

        One box elbow maccaroni (Medium sized box)
        4 T. Butter
        4 T. Flour
        2 tsp.Salt
        4 cups Shredded Sharp Cheddar
        2 Eggs
        4 cups Milk

        Melt butter in sauce pan, add flour and salt. It will make a pasty mixture. Add the milk. After that gets hot (not bubbly or boiling), stir in cheese until melted. Beat eggs and stir into mixture (always stirring, so the eggs don’t scramble). Mix in noodles. Bake in a 9X13 at 350 for 30 mins. Stand back…Behold your culinary creation!

  2. How funny you mentioned the gravy and the stuffing. Both my obsessions this turkey day. I’ve already put out the memo to my family that these are our focal points of opportunity this year but as of yet not a one response back:( Let me know what you choose to do, xx The sad & lonely foodie in the fam.

  3. “tented pool reserved” – snobby? Check.
    “They taste like mealy mush scrotum” – Nasty reference to seem edgy? Check.

    Sometimes I think you drop these phrases just to make me happy.

  4. Stephanie, have you joined Pinterest yet? It’s hard to explain, but it’s basically an online “pinboard” that allows you to search for…well…anything. But the recipes you can find on it are too die for! It also has beautiful photography, great DIY projects, and just all around cool stuff. Check it out!!

  5. Check out the recipe for baked sweet potatoes with hot red chile pepper in the first (I think) of the Union Square Cafe cookbooks. The best!

  6. God bless your grandma, still kicking and cooking at 96! We should all be so lucky. :)

    1. I know what you mean, Barbara – sounds so romantic…tastes so vile. My mom’s stuffing involved bourbon and dried fruit…GAG! Because of my early exposure to this horror, I actually loathed all stuffing until I found Stovetop back in the 90’s. Okay – I still love Stovetop. It’s like PB&J on white wonder bread…why mess with perfection? And I’m not kidding.

  7. I’ve always wanted to try oyster stuffing, but I’m afraid it will flop. I always go with the sausage, celery, onion, white bread safety net. I think you should have a “Stuffing Taste Off” before the holidays!

  8. to Kathy:
    I finally made an oyster dressing a couple of years ago and it was a huge hit. I also made my traditional cornbread recipe for those not fond of oysters. Give it whirl. I think you will be surprised at how yummy it will turn out.

  9. My husband’s family always requests that I make/bring your Saucy Cranberry Compote for Thanksgiving. They covet the leftovers for making compotinis or mixing it with their oatmeal the next morning. Honeycrisps are on sale here. I made this pumpkin pie brownie last year

    and still the compote was the preferred of the two. Both are vegan, but maybe I shouldn’t have told them the pie/brownie was.

    Does your grandmother share her Baklava recipe?

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