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Making memories in the kitchen

by Amy Roby Ranchos Roundup
Genoa artist Jennifer Hollister created this pie from homegrown apples.
Kurt Hildebrand

Something has happened to my ability to track the passage of time because yesterday was the start of summer and next week it’s Thanksgiving. I thought I might be having a Rip Van Winkle moment but if that were the case, I’m sure I’d feel more rested than I do right now. It must have something to do with the time change. Or the alignment of the stars. Or something.

Though we sometimes travel for Thanksgiving, my family is having a home-based holiday this year. We discussed how we might like to celebrate and what to prepare for the festive menu, and it turns out each of us has a different favorite-part of the traditional spread.

Our oldest son requested an apple pie, though he added helpfully (hopefully?) that we could “make a pumpkin pie, too.” I spent a good amount of time processing and freezing apples from a bountiful backyard harvest this year, so that aspect is pretty well covered.

 It’s all about the stuffing for our youngest son. I make it from memory the way my mom did when I was a kid: lots of chopped onion and celery, browned ground sausage, dry bread cubes, flavorful chicken broth, sage and thyme.

My husband said it’s a three way tie between roast turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing, because a little of each on the fork makes for “a perfect bite.” I love the creamy green bean casserole with those crunchy fried onions on top that my grandma taught me how to make; it always has a spot on the holiday table.

The discussion got me thinking: what is it about a particular dish that makes it a favorite? Is it simply the taste, or the fact that we don’t typically enjoy it but once or twice a year? Or is it something more?

From an early age, my sisters and I shared the important task of basting the turkey for the holiday meal. When I got a little older, I was responsible for prepping the vegetables for the stuffing. There was something intensely satisfying about all the methodical chopping and dicing, and I loved the inclusive feeling of contributing to our family meal. I think about my grandma every year as I carry her green bean recipe on. Each of these early experiences piqued my interest in cooking and helped me develop an appreciation for traditions.

I’m looking forward to some kitchen time with the boys and sharing with them how to make these family favorites next week. We’ll stick with the tried-and-true dishes, but I’m also considering ways to get creative with any leftovers. There’s always something new to learn, and we may just find a few more recipes to add to our collection of classics.

Amy Roby can be reached at ranchosroundup@hotmail.com.