Family, Memories of Home, Traditions


My mother, Winnie Latimer

For most of us, the holidays are enriched by family traditions sometimes established by someone who’s no longer with us. But a custom doesn’t magically pass from one generation to another. Instead, it endures when someone younger embraces it and shares it with those they love.

For my daughter and me, one such tradition is preparing my mother’s cornbread dressing during the holidays. No turkey is complete without Grandma’s dressing.

Terry, Maria and me with Mom and Dad, back when
we were getting our first lessons in dressing making.

The last time Maria and I made this holiday staple, I realized the conversation surrounding its preparation had become a tradition in itself. Each year, if you joined us in the kitchen, you’d hear a variation of the following:

             “Why are you making biscuits in the middle of morning?” Maria asks, as she sautés onions and celery in butter.

            “For the dressing. Grandma always added a couple of biscuits and rolls to the cornbread.”

            Later, I crumble the rolls, biscuits and cornbread into my biggest bowl and ask, “Did Grandma put eggs in her dressing?”

            “You always ask that, but I don’t think she did.”

            “I’ll leave them out.”

            In obedience to Mother’s voice in my head, I pour a generous amount of broth into the bread mixture and say aloud, “Make it sloppy so it won’t dry out.”

Then I cautiously add salt, pepper, poultry seasoning and sage, frequently stopping to taste. It’s easier to add more than to deal with too much.

            “Needs more poultry seasoning.” I sprinkle and sample again. “Is this about right?”

            “I’m leaving that up to you,” Maria says.

In this manner, I season and taste my way to a dish as closely resembling Mother’s dressing as possible. And in the process, she is with us in the kitchen, encouraging us as always with the thought that whatever the outcome, it will be just right.

Somewhere in what I hope will be the distant future, I hear a similar conversation going on between Maria and her girls. After all, it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving and Christmas without Grandma’s Cornbread Dressing.

Maria and her girls, Caroline and Emily

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