Tag Archives: Dinner

November Madness

I’m in the middle of NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month is when crazy people like me take the challenge to write 50,000 words in a month. I know I can do it. I’ve written more than that many times over the years but I do love the madness of November when I have companionship on the journey.

I’m a little behind the eight-ball since I had dinner with my cousin last night when I could have been doing some word count or- gasp- this blog post. I totally blew it all off to see her. She lives about five hours from me in northern Alabama and we don’t get to see each other much so since she was in the next town over for a conference, we had a last-minute dinner date with her and her lovely husband. They are such a cute couple. She is ten years younger than me and has her doctorate in education. She’s very much a happy person and so is her husband. They do my heart good when we’re together. It was a fun evening and we made a vow not to let so many years go by again before we get together.

I love the month of November. It’s such a pleasant one for us weather-wise that I enjoy being outdoors and going to events all over the area. This weekend, I think I’m going to go to a festival in Biloxi- it’s about an hour and a half from here so we’ll see if I actually go or if I decide that’s a good day to get some big word count in for #NaNoWriMo. I’m just as likely to curl up on the couch and read a book, though.

Here’s hoping your November is shaping up to be a great one. IMG_0402

Slop’s On! by Valerie J. Patterson

My mom is an excellent cook.  Just ask anyone she’s ever fed, and they’ll tell you the same.  No matter what she fixes—unless it’s liver and onions—it’s bound to be fabulous, and you’ll be determined to make room for seconds.

Growing up, if we had a favorite teacher, Mom would occasionally make a couple jars of her homemade spaghetti sauce and send it to school with us to give to the teacher.

My fourth grade teacher comes to mind.  That was the year I was mauled by a big dog and was out of school for a while recovering.  When I finally came back to school, I came sporting a giant bandage that covered nearly the entire right side of my head.  When I got on the bus, the kids were great, but when I got to school, my teacher made a joke and I cried.  I was homeward bound before lunch.  He told my mom I wasn’t feeling well and maybe came back to school too soon.  I told my mom what he said, and my best friend Debbie from across the street told her mother the same story.  That night just happened to be parent/teacher conference night, and my mom was like a lion about to rip into the beast that hurt her cub.  Let’s just shorten this story by saying my teacher didn’t receive any of Mom’s homemade spaghetti sauce, and is in fact fortunate he wasn’t wearing a jar of it home that night.

But the real subject of my story is one my dad was fond of telling.  It’s about the little boy who lived across the street from us.  One evening he had dinner with us because his parents had to visit someone in the hospital and they didn’t want to drag him along with them.  My mom fixed a pasta dish that really was a combination of spaghetti and chili complete with the red kidney beans and all.  It might not sound delicious, but she served it over a heaping pile of mashed potatoes and with a side of bread buttered to perfection and there was rarely any left over.  It was also a meal that stretched when there were extra mouths to feed like that evening.

So we all sat down, and the neighbor kid exclaimed what a delight dinner was, which always tickled my mom when someone complimented her cooking.  When his parents called to say they were home, my mom was going to walk him across the street—deliver him safely.  When they got outside, his mom was waiting on their porch.  She called over to him, “What did you have for dinner?”

He beamed with pleasure as he yelled back, “Slop, Ma.  She fixes the best darned slop I ever ate.”

My mom’s face was about as red as one of those kidney beans and so was his mother’s face!

She met my mom at the edge of the yard, face still as red as could be, and asked, “Did you serve chili?”

Mom nodded.  “Sort of.  I make a spicy tomato sauce, add kidney beans and ground beef and elbow macaroni.”

“That’s what we call slop because there doesn’t really seem to be a real name for it.  It’s not the best name for it—and I certainly didn’t expect it to ever be called that at someone else’s house—but that’s what my older son called it when he was little.  It sort of stuck.”

Mom smiled, glad her neighbor didn’t think she served her son something unfit to eat like he was a barnyard animal.  From then on anytime she made that meal, she’d call us all to the table by yelling, “Slop’s on!”

I don’t know what made me think of this incident today, but it made me smile, and I thought you might smile as well.

Hope you’re all well and enjoying the fresh start of summer!

Until next time…

A Near-Perfect Thanksgiving by Valerie J. Patterson

Up until six years ago, I had never prepared a Thanksgiving dinner.  My mom and dad together prepared Thanksgiving dinner, and I happily ate it!  Six years ago, I took over the responsibility of making the Thanksgiving feast!  That first year, I was so excited.  I made the cutest little dinner invitations and mailed them out the end of October.  I even went so far as to begin a new tradition—asking all guests to bring a change of clothes in order to participate in the first annual Swanson-Patterson Turkey Bowl.

            I had it all planned out in my head.  We’d play tag football outside then come inside for some football on TV and a home cooked feast.  In my head, the day would go off without a hitch, hiccup, or hang up.

            In my head …

            The week prior to Thanksgiving, I made a list of everything I would need and I sent my darling husband to the grocery store.  When he got back home, I arranged everything on the counter according to order of use.  I dug up recipes that put a new spin on old favorites.  I bought fall decorations and hung them on the front door.  I bought new table linens and got out my wedding china and set a beautiful table.  I put the turkey to thaw in the refrigerator 5 days prior to Thanksgiving.

            I was set.

            I was organized.

            I was prepared.

            I was convinced I could pull off the perfect holiday.

            I was somewhat wrong …

            The morning of Thanksgiving, I was awake at dawn.  I had the turkey in the sink and I was rinsing it out and brushing extra virgin olive oil over the top, rubbing in a variety of seasonings, and preparing it for stuffing.  I set the bird aside and got out my recipe for stuffing.  The recipe called for 8 cups of bread cubes.  I pulled out the bag of the brand of bread cubes my mom always used and looked at the weight: 14 ounces.  I panicked.

            “Steve!” I called.

            Steve wakes up, stumbles out to the kitchen.  “What?”

            “Happy Thanksgiving.”

            “You woke me up for that?”

            “No.  I woke you up because I need you to find an open store and buy me 3 more bags of bread cubes.”

            “What?”

            “The recipe calls for 8 cups of cubes.  This one bag only has less than 2 cups.  I need at least 3 more bags.”

            “That doesn’t sound right, Valerie.”

            “Please, just go get the bread cubes.  If I don’t get the turkey stuffed and in the oven it will be 7 o’clock this evening before we eat.”

            Steve shakes his head, takes a look at his frantic wife, and changes his clothes.  “Is that all you need?”

            “You better get me another half dozen eggs while you’re out.”

            When he comes back, I hastily snatch the shopping bags from him without even asking where he found an open store.  I get out my largest mixing bowl and pour in two of the bags of bread cubes.  The bowl barely contains them.  So I get out the top of my large Tupperware “Cake-Taker” and use it as a mixing bowl.  When I poured in three opened bags of bread cubes, I looked at the amount of stuffing I was about to make and then looked at the turkey, and then back at the stuffing.

            A light bulb goes on inside my tired brain.  The recipe called for 8 CUPS of bread cubes, meaning 8 actual measuring cupfuls of bread cubes.  How could I have not been thinking clearly enough to know this?

            Since I’d sent the hubby out to the store, I felt like I needed to make all that stuffing … or at least 3 bags of it.  I stuffed the fourth bag into a cupboard and hoped he wouldn’t find it any time soon.  I mixed up my stuffing, stuffed the bird, filled a muffin tin full of stuffing-muffins, and scooped the remaining stuffing onto a sheet of aluminum foil, added some turkey broth, folded it tightly, and put it in the oven with the turkey.

            You understand, I now had enough stuffing to feed a couple blocks of homes in the neighborhood where we live.

            Everything else seemed a piece of cake after the stuffing panic until it came time to make the mashed potatoes.  Oddly, my husband prefers instant potatoes over hand-mashed because he dislikes lumps in his potatoes.  So I set a large stock pot on the stove, filled it with milk and butter and a little water and watched it carefully.  I couldn’t take a chance on the milk scorching and ruining the potatoes.  Now, I was using a new electric stove after many years of using a gas stove.  After I added the potatoes and the seasonings, I whipped the potatoes into stiff, fluffy peaks, which immediately commenced exploding and popping out of the pot, all over the stove, and reaching clear to the ceiling.

            Steve reached around me and grabbed the pot off the stove and set it on a trivet.  Instantly, the potatoes simmered down and remained inside the pot.  That’s when it hit me.  Even though you turn off an electric burner, it doesn’t cool down immediately.  Not even a ceramic top like ours.  Hence the exploding potatoes.

            My family—and Steve’s—took all of this in stride.  No one said anything to me about the potatoes stuck to the ceiling.  No one mentioned the copious amounts of stuffing.  Everyone just seemed to fill their plates, eat their feast, and talk about the moistness of the turkey, the flavor of the stuffing, and the delicious desserts.

            As I looked around the dining room at my 11 guests, and across at the children’s table where my nieces sat, I was thankful for my family, for my loving and helpful husband, and for surviving my first holiday dinner.

                I could clean the potatoes off the kitchen ceiling after my guests went home.

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Thanks for reading.  I hope this story brought a smile or two to your face, but also that it brought back some memories of your first–or last–holiday dinner.

Until next time … Happy Thanksgiving, Valerie