What treasure is this dug up?

Thanksgiving table

The day after Thanksgiving, and Ed was up and out to work by 4am. I heard the car leave the driveway. Unable to fall back asleep, I tiptoed downstairs, poured myself a 1/2 cup of coffee, grabbed a handful of granola and headed back upstairs with my battered copy of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. I’d put this novel aside after our return from Europe in July–140 pages to go.

Our Thanksgiving celebration was fabulous. Food, family, friends. For me, the magic began the day before. The house clean and ready. I took a breath after running a few errands to the Leverett Co-op and Stop & Shop. Texted my my sister Julie. Are you home? I’ll bring coffee and we can have a little chat.

Back at home, I resumed my preparations for our overnight guests: pillows, blankets, towels. What to feed them tonight? Shortly after 6pm, they arrived and the kitchen was lively. Within two hours, almost everyone was headed to bed. Natalie and I watched “Mississippi Masala”, reprising years of mama/daughter movie-watching.

Thursday morning was DYI breakfasts, fueling ourselves for furniture-moving.  Making space for the folding tables, end-to-end, that would seat 16 people. The bird in the oven at 11am. Undertaking the task of peeling and boiling 15 lbs of potatoes. Enough potatoes for potato-sausage stuffing, mashed potatoes, and leftover potatoes for potato bread. My recipe is based on the stuffing recipe in my grandmother’s Fanny Farmer cookbook. Her comments for doubling the recipe were penciled in the margin. I’ve boosted the amount of potatoes and added the instructions to save out 3 cups for potato bread.

Family Potato Sausage Stuffing, my version

8 lbs potatoes, boiled and mashed
1 lb breakfast sausage, cut into 1/2″ pieces
1 onion, finely chopped
1 lb “stuffing bread”, torn up
2 eggs
1 T sage
1 T salt
pepper

*save 3 cups of mashed potatoes for potato bread
Brown the sausage, and add onions. Cook until onions are translucent. Drain. Mix potatoes, sausage, onion, bread, eggs, sage, salt and pepper. Grease ovenproof bowl and fill. Cover and bake at 350 for 30 minutes (while the turkey sits).

At lunchtime, we opted for hot dogs and veggie burgers on the grill. Family and friends began showing up at 2pm, with armloads of food, drink and folding chairs. Regina brought out her cut-glass wine glasses and we placed them alongside the cheeses and stuffed peppadews. As darkness fell, we lit candles and gathered everyone around the table for a moment of silence and 2 poems. I read the first:

Come Inside Now  ~David Budbill

Come inside now.
Stand beside the warming stove.
Watch out through the windows as
a cold rain tears down
the last leaves.

The larder full of dried herbs,
hot peppers, chutneys,
jellies, jams, dill pickles,
pickled relishes,
pickled beets.

The freezer full of frozen greens–
chard and spinach, collards, kale–
green beans, basil, red sauces,
applesauce, and
smoked meats.

The woodshed dry and full of wood,
winter squashes stashed away.
Down cellar: potatoes, carrots,
crock of sauerkraut.

Come inside now.
Stand beside the warming stove.
Listen. Wait.

Ed read the second, a poem found in the Tassajara Cookbook:

Who Knows What Thus Comes? ~Ed Brown

Picking up an onion,
what is held in hand?
How many dusty miles
and blazing asphalt truckstops,
hidden in darkness, locked in steel?
How many cups of coffee and tired-eyed
waitresses greeted the driver?
How many minutes of country music
and rambling thoughts helped onion here?
How many days at home, in ground,
intimately connected, embedded,
nestled unseen, rapt in absorption,
knowing just what to do
with earth and water, sun and wind,
to make them onion.
That everything thus comes
at once as onion, what
treasure is this dug up?
Who knows what hand holds?

We are grateful for all the hands who brought food to our table, and the natural elements that conspired to bring us onions, sweet potatoes, turnips, spinach, cranberries. God’s bounty.

***

Here I am, on the day after Thanksgiving. An owl calling at 6am. I opened photo (4)my window to listen to the wise one.

After another hour, I headed downstairs.  Meghan and the baby joined me–the baby round-eyed and mouthing everything he could get his hands on. We pulled out the griddle for pancakes with maple syrup and leftover cranberry sauce. By mid-morning, the house was lively again with bluegrass tunes and packaging up leftovers for the overnight crew. I said goodbyes to everyone, filled a bowl with potato-sausage stuffing and settled on the couch by the woodstove. After this soporific lunch, I lay down and fell into a hard sleep for 2 hours.

An afternoon of assessing the leftovers–my greasy hands cracking apart the turkey carcass so that it would fit into the soup stock pot. Pureeing the leftover Gilfeather turnip dish with Mum’s creamed onions for a soup to serve with potato bread. Eating slices of Valerie’s apple and pumpkin pies. My hands full of bread dough.  My heart full of gratitude.

Potato Bread Recipe (4 loaves), from The Tassajara Cookbook

2 T yeast
3 1/2 c warm water
1/2 c honey
6 c flour
3 c mashed potatoes, cooled
1 T salt
6-8 c more flour
egg, beaten for wash

Dissolve yeast in water with honey. Beat in 6 c flour. Cover and rise for 1 hour. Add potatoes, salt and enough flour to knead. Knead for 10 minutes. Rise another hour. Punch down (25X). Divide dough into 4 parts. Shape into loaves, place onto greased pans and rise 20 minutes while oven pre-heats to 350 degrees. Brush with beaten egg and bake for 50 minutes. Delicious toasted.

Author: Margot M

I make my home in Western Massachusetts with my husband Ed. We are natives of Massachusetts with allegiances to North Carolina, where we spent the first four years of our marriage. We have four grown children (two are his, two are mine) and a young grandson. We are excited to see what adventures await us all.