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Another Day in the Country

Cooking up a storm

© Another Day in the Country

On the day before Thanksgiving, I already was cooking, planning, and counting down the list of items we’d be having for dinner.

Some need doing the day before and not just for efficiency in the kitchen, either. They need to firm up, absorb, or marinate for the celebration.

All this fuss! This year, for the first time in our accumulated memory, it will just be me and my sister at the Thanksgiving table — just we two, not that there couldn’t have been more here or we could have gone somewhere else. We decided to keep it simple.

With that in mind, we also decided no turkey for Thanksgiving. Turkey baking is one of those plan-ahead things.

There’s always a question of what brand of turkey or do we get one pre-cooked that we can reheat. Which is healthier? Which would taste better?

Do we just buy a small turkey breast? But a turkey breast looks weird on the Thanksgiving table. I wonder, what happened to the rest of that turkey? Was he chopped up and formed into turkey rolls or lunch meat?

And if I bought a whole turkey, what would we do with all the dark meat that we don’t even try to eat?

So we were down to no turkey this year. We’d have a vegetarian entree this year, instead. After all, we’ve spent most of our lives not eating meat.

Now, we get hungry for the “vege-food” Mom would make out of gluten, cooking the cutlets she formed in a mixture of soy sauce and onion-flavored broth.

This may sound strange to you who have grown up eating meat, but they are delicious breaded and fried. They are called “choplets,” and when Mom couldn’t make them, we’d buy them from a company named Worthington.

They still make them. We still get hungry for them. We have to drive to Salina or Topeka to find them.

We’re having them for Thanksgiving dinner this year. I had saved a can on a shelf in the pantry.

I decided to make Perfection Salad this year. If you said you were having Perfection Salad in California, folks would wonder what it was made of.

“Maybe Kale?” someone might venture a guess. Surely, you readers of a certain age, living in the middle of Kansas, know that Perfection Salad is orange Jell-O with shredded carrots and crushed pineapple added.

For most of my life, growing up in Kansas, if anyone mentioned salad, I thought of Perfection Salad.

Who ate lettuce back in those days — except in the spring? If we didn’t grow it, we didn’t eat much of it, and leaf lettuce, not head lettuce, is what we grew as quickly as we could every spring in Kansas. We left the head lettuce to grow in California and didn’t think much of it.

My Grandma Ehrhardt made another salad for special occasions. She called it Grape/Pineapple Salad. We always had it on Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I follow her custom and her footsteps as I pull out her old recipe to make it for our dinner this year.

We are still weight-watching. I fear it’s a habit I’m stuck with for the rest of my life. But we’re still having Grape/Pineapple Salad. I’m just making half as much. There are only two of us, so I probably could make even less.

The salad is simple but it needs to be made a day ahead. Pineapple tidbits, sliced red grapes, miniature marshmallows — all in equal proportion. Make a custard of the juice in the pineapple can, cool it, fold it into whipped cream, and stir all this together and pop it in the fridge overnight. It’s delicious.

Back in the day, before they had so many varieties of seedless grapes, it was the Tokay grape that we used for this salad. It always fell to me, growing up, to take the seeds out of all those grapes. It was a tedious job, but I knew the result would be mouth-watering.

While I cook, I count my blessings, texting my thoughts off to my circle of friends who have a group text. Texting is such a new thing that my old computer still considers it a misspelled word.

That’s something, come to think of it. I, who have been so frustrated and negative about technology, am giving thanks now for the ability to keep in touch with friends so easily.

And not just friends.

My grandson and I text back and forth. The other day, I asked him what he was doing during his vacation. He had all of Thanksgiving week off from school.

“Today, I let the chickens out for a while while I did some light yard work,” he said.

I grinned to myself. What exactly would a teenager consider to be light yard work? He didn’t elaborate.

“Then I put the hens away and went in to watch a show. It’s one you probably wouldn’t like.” 

“Too much violence, eh?” I texted back. 

“Science fiction,” he answered.

True! He knows me, even though I try to keep quiet with my opinions when I’m introduced to something new. Others try to be patient and semi-interested when I recommend some show that they consider to be less than thrilling. We navigate the gap of understanding and preferences that stretches out over 30, 40, 50, 60, 70 years in every family.

And we give thanks for it all, on another day in the country.

Last modified Dec. 1, 2021

 

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