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Nov 20

Bread is king at Thanksgiving dinners. (From my archived columns, first published in The Examiner on November 24, 2011. The Examiner is a daily newspaper published Tuesday through Saturday, serving Eastern Jackson County, Mo.)

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“Bread is the king of the table, and all else is merely the court that surrounds the king. The countries are the soup, the meat, the vegetables, the salad, but bread is king.”

– Louis Bromfield, American novelist, 1896–1956.

Thanksgiving Day is almost here, and dinner smells wonderful, yes it does, but nothing, absolutely nothing, has a finer aroma than light yeast rolls baking in the oven.

Each autumn, as the fourth Thursday in November draws closer, I think a lot about turkey and all the trimmings, including my Dad’s sausage-pecan-apple dressing, a green-bean casserole, fried apples, cranberries, mashed potatoes and turkey gravy, sweet potatoes and a large dollop of whipped cream atop a piece of luscious pumpkin pie.

A Thanksgiving feast could possibly be the most wonderful collection of food one enjoys during the entire year, but since childhood, ‘light’ yeast rolls have been my favorite Thanksgiving Day food.

Yours, too, or perhaps not? Some say yes, some no.

However, I know this to be true, at our house kids pop these heavenly rolls into their mouths like candy. Everyone else around the table eats at least two, and my husband would think the world came to an end if we served Thanksgiving dinner without yeast rolls.

The late Emily Post, renowned newspaper ‘etiquette’ columnist and author, wrote once “bread is like dresses, hats and shoes—in other words, essential!”

When families and friends break bread together, we are indeed sharing an essential food staple that has been a part of our world since the beginning of recorded time.

Bread is important. In fact, noted American chef James Beard once called it the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods.

Out of curiosity, I researched the history of bread and learned, to my surprise, that bread, beer and yeast went hand-in-hand in ancient Egyptian culture, where bread is thought to have first originated. Bread and beer were staples of every meal there. At some point, yeast was accidentally discovered when someone dropped it in the dough, as the story goes. Possibly someone had too much beer, but nevertheless, the rest is history. The Egyptian’s flat, hard crusty bread eventually evolved into light, heavenly manna from heaven.

Today when we think of Thanksgiving dinner, we know that bread is a major element in its own right, but it is also an ingredient in stuffing or dressing, whichever you choose to call it.

Inspired by this talk of yeast rolls and dressing, I decided to search for my Dad’s legendary sausage-pecan-apple dressing recipe and found Grandma’s “light rolls” recipe as well. Two undeniable stars of our turkey dinner this Thanksgiving.

After all, bread is the king of the table.

Note to readers: There are many yeast rolls recipes to be found, and you probably have your favorite, so instead here is my Dad’s aforementioned stuffing recipe in case you would like to try it for your next Thanksgiving dinner. It’s good.

Sausage Dressing with Apples and Pecans
8-10 ounces of sausage, chopped
14 cups dried bread, cut in cubes with crusts removed
1 ½ sticks butter, melted
2 cups chopped celery
2 cups chopped onions
4 large apples
3 cups pecans, chopped
3 tablespoons fresh sage
2 teaspoons dried sage
4 large eggs, beaten
5 cups turkey stock, maybe more if needed
Fresh chopped or dried parsley to taste
Dried thyme to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat baking dish with oil or cooking spray. In large skillet, cook sausage. Drain and remove, cool. In bowl, add bread cubes to sausage. Melt butter in skillet and add onions and celery and cook for a 3-4 minutes, add apples and cook two more minutes. Pour this mixture onto bread and sausage mixture. Add seasonings, mix, and finally stir in pecans.

Mix eggs in turkey stock and add to dressing mixture, stirring completely. Sometimes it takes more stock to moisten the mixture. Put in baking dish, cover with foil and bake 20 minutes. Uncover and bake until top is slightly browned and crisp, usually takes about 20 more minutes.

Serves 10.

Nov 03

From my archived newspaper columns: The final neighborhood garage sale is never the last (Or…”Hubby covets neighbors garage sale trash”)

(From my archived columns, first published in The Examiner. The Examiner is a daily newspaper published Tuesday through Saturday, serving Eastern Jackson County, Mo.)

 

 

“So that you’ll never be tempted to participate in a neighborhood garage sale, allow me to explain how they go. Friday night you’re up until two in the morning marking prices on all the junk you’re hoping people will buy. At this point you’re almost psychotically optimistic, calculating the total value of your inventory at slightly over twenty-two thousand dollars.”–W. Bruce Cameron, author, columnist and humorist.

My neighbors and I are planning our “final” garage sale.

Thus, a definition of the word “final” might be in order here. According to Encarta Encyclopedia, the word means the last of a number or series of similar things. “Final” also means conclusive and allowing no further discussion.

Such as involving a garage sale, the last garage sale, in fact, that my neighbors and I will ever have.

We mean it this time, too.

No one believes us.

We are deadly serious though because the upcoming fall sale will be conclusively the last, positively the last, and without a shadow of a doubt, the last garage sale! There will be no further discussion of this either, we neighbors agree.

But we lie. Here’s the proof.

Neighbor, we’ll call her Susan, once signed a pledge written by her husband promising to never again hold or participate in a yard or garage sale or any other kind of rummage sale. Another neighbor, let’s call her Kathy, announced clearly and adamantly that she was finished, done, spent. No more garage sales for her. The third neighbor, we’ll name her Sandy, was too busy and was simply running out of things to sell and, yes, running out of interest, too.

Yet, we are doing it again.

One of the neighbors, not to be mentioned by name, was well ahead of the rest of us. Early on, she began the process of dragging her basement treasures to the garage thus forcing her husband to park outside days ahead of the sale. Her garage was overflowing with clothes racks, tables, and miscellaneous “like-new, priced-to-sell” household items, naturally there was no room for a car. Makes perfect sense to me.

Meanwhile, my husband, who incidentally never fails to notice anything that could possibly be free-of-charge, observed that said neighbor was cleaning out her house and bringing lots of non-worthy garage sale items to the curb for the morning trash pickup.

He began to covet her trash, in particular stacks of empty plastic 5-gallon buckets.

When I called to ask about the buckets, my neighbor’s husband answered the phone. “Could hubby have them,” I asked him.

“He wouldn’t want them, they aren’t any good. I drilled holes in them to water flowers,” came the reply.

Five minutes later my spousal unit was in their driveway snatching the buckets in the dark of night. He reported back to me that they were perfect for carrying boards, tools, bricks and rocks, and would work just fine.

Of course they would, I thought, and they will work just fine in my garage sale in the spring, too.

That is, of course, if I have a garage sale, you understand.

Jun 30

Fourth of July memories– it’s really the patriotism we love, not the potato salad.

(From my archived columns, first published on June 3, 2006, in The Examiner. The Examiner is a daily newspaper published Tuesday through Saturday, serving Eastern Jackson County, Mo.)

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“You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism.”

–Erma Bombeck.

Ah yes, I remember that “iffy” potato salad and the flies, too, at many a Fourth of July celebration of my youth.

The Fourth of July is a happy holiday bringing back delightful memories, but maybe it is more than the family picnics and fireworks that I remember and love.

Maybe it is the patriotism, 1950s style, not the potato salad, that makes it such a happy holiday.

For instance, one of the things I remember most about past Fourth of July celebrations is a television monologue given by the late great comedian Red Skelton in honor of Independence Day.

For younger generations who may not know this, Skelton was a comedian who rose to stardom between the 50s and 70s delighting audiences coast-to-coast with his weekly comedy television show.

After all these years, turns out I remembered very few details about Red Skelton’s then famous “Pledge of Allegiance” monologue. However, I do recall how much I loved his performance at the time.

If you search the Internet, you will find it easily, the YouTube video of Red Skelton’s Pledge of Allegiance, 1950 style.

Skelton tells a story about how his teacher Mr. Laswell of Harrison School in Vincennes, Indiana, felt his students had come to think of the Pledge of Allegiance as merely something to recite, something monotonous.

Mr. Laswell remarked to the students, “If I may, may I recite it and try to explain to you the meaning of each word?” He continued.

“I—meaning me, an individual, a committee of one.

Pledge—dedicate all of my worldly goods to give without self pity.

Allegiance—my love and my devotion.

To the flag—our standard, Old Glory, a symbol of freedom. Wherever she waves, there’s respect because your loyalty has given her a dignity that shouts freedom is everybody’s job!

The United—that means we have all come together.

States of America—individual communities that have united into 48 (now 50) great states; individual communities with pride and dignity and purpose; all divided with imaginary boundaries, yet united to a common purpose, and that is love for country.

And to the republic—a state in which sovereign power is invested in representatives chosen by the people to govern. And government is the people and it is from the people to the leaders, not from the leaders to the people.”

Red Skelton’s entire rendition of Mr. Laswell’s speech is too long for this column.

However, I will share with you here his final admonition to his students, “We are one nation so blessed by God that we are incapable of being divided, which means, boys and girls, it is as much your country as it is mine.”

Yes indeed, it is this kind of patriotism that I love and remember, but not so much the “iffy” potato salad.

Happy Fourth! May it be patriotic and memorable, even if you can’t keep those pesky flies off the potato salad.

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