12.21.2015

Sibling Assignment #173: Land of Counterpane, Precision Cuts, Where I'm From

I gave the sibling assignment this week.
"Three favorites". Review the archives of our sibling assignments and choose a favorite written by each of us. Link the post and share why it is a favorite.  Brother Bill's choices are here. Sister Carol's will be linked soon.
The three of us have written 519 sibling assignments as a trio. Like brother Bill I didn't read every one, but I first did thinking about ones that stood out to me.  Each of these posts I chose were memoir pieces that captured vivid details, strong emotion, and lasting words for us to reflect on.
In January of 2011 Silver Valley Girl gave us an assignment to write something about Mom. I chose one from my archives entitled "The Land of Counterpane". This is the third time I am posting this. You can find it here. It is one of my favorites because it is timeless. No matter when I read this post it continues to remind me of the comfort my mom has provided me. I remember reading it aloud to her. I think she was a bit surprised. I think it is hard for a mother to reflect on her own acts of comfort as she is living them. Having moved next door to her now the comfort may be working both ways. I have tucked her in a few times in the last year , but didn't read Stevenson's poem.
The writing of brother Bill's I chose went way back to our early blog posts to Sibling Assignment #4 in November of 2006. Silver Valley Girl gave the prompt which was to remember Mom and special Christmas treats. Bill wrote a beautiful tribute to our mom intertwining all she did while we were growing up and how many traditions such as fruitcake, pumpkin bread, and popcorn balls still continue. You can find his post here. Last month while Bill made a visit he was able to participate in the making of the fruitcake. I smiled yesterday while in the kitchen with Mom when she said "I think your brother does a very good job with fruitcake. " I agreed with her. Again, we are watching the traditions we hold dear with Mom doing role switching.
The choice from sister Carol's blog came from an assignment I gave during National Poetry Month in 2008. She composed her version of "Where I'm From" . You can find it here. Images of her childhood are woven into a memoir tapestry that caused me to also return and read all of our poems from this assignment. Again, now that I am spending more time at Mom's house next door, many of these pieces of childhood are still there. I liked this post because even though we have an eight year age difference, many of our images were the same.

(The photo at the top was taken about fifty-five years ago when we traveled to Orofino for Christmas.)

12.09.2015

Sibling Assignment #172: The Controversy Surrounding Thanksgiving Dressing

Brother Bill gave the sibling assignment this week after some surprising observations during the planning, preparation, and presentation of dressing for the Thanksgiving Dinner. I will link the sibs' posts when done.

His assignment: "Turkey dressing.. Take this topic any direction you'd like."

As Thanksgiving approaches each year and the meal planning begins, the first question often raised is whether we call the traditional side dish dressing or stuffing. This in turn leads to the question whether a turkey should be stuffed or not. The last few years the most controversial question has been, "Can we try another recipe for dressing that hasn't been used in the past?" Scary territory.

We are a family that does traditional turkey in a roasting pan. No brining, BBQing, deep fat frying, no bag, no smoking. Just Betty Crocker style turkey is all that has been served for almost all Thanksgiving dinners. About ten years ago we went off course and used whole wheat bread for stuffing and served game hens. It was okay, but not the same. Last year Mom and I tried cornbread stuffing. That was quite a departure from tradition, but not "weird" (any time in our house when Raymond Harold "Pert"/Dad Woolum thought we were serving something new or different he called it "weird" or "weird shit food".  Experimenting with cornbread was only the bread, so he may have only said, while grimacing, "This is 'different' sissy." When food went out a window to the bushes or the loaf of white bread and peanut butter came out on the table, I understood I had gone too far on the "weird" scale for Dad. Thus, usually traditional dishes ruled.

This year I volunteered to roast the turkey since I had never done one. As I began planning the dinner I researched a wide variety of recipes for dressing. How daring could I be? Would the rafters fall on the table if I added new ingredients? I decided not to stuff the turkey. If it didn't work out I didn't want to ruin both. I focused on combinations of flavors and textures I thought would work. I am sure Dad was smiling down from heaven , pleased he didn't have to try "this weird shit."I chose Sweet Potato and Cranberry Dressing from a recipe found on a woman's blog. Mom had the dried bread she saves all year, a friend harvested fresh cranberries from a local lake, and I thought sweet potatoes partnered with carrots, onions, and rosemary sounded like a good combination. To add fresh flavor, I added orange juice and orange liqueur. Brother Bill loved it, JEJ was on board also and I liked it. Mom smiled and said, "Well... it is different. " I like weird and different.

Why does dressing only have to be served with turkey? Maybe I should have a dressing bakeoff another time of year and challenge family members to get creative!
You can find the recipe here.