“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. Gratitude
makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for
tomorrow.”– Melody Beattie
From Thanksgiving through Christmas, there are certain
things that I must put on our family’s holiday table, in some form or fashion,
for everything to feel right. Without these things, though we will all be full,
we won’t feel as if we’ve had our proper, traditional holiday meal.
There are three foods that say “holiday” to our family:
- Sweet potatoes
These three things have to be on our table in some form or
my children look at me as if I have lost my mind, my husband wonders if I’m
ill, and I personally feel as if I’m letting down my culinary predecessors
(also known as mama and Granddaddy).
I like to change things up a bit sometimes for fun, as
you’ll see in the recipes below, which, honestly, could be enjoyed anytime,
they’re so simple and tasty. But even when I make a unique sweet potato dish
like the savory au gratin below, my mom’s sweet potato casserole will still be
on the table. Those buttery layers of tender sweet potatoes, laced with
cinnamon, brown sugar and butter, topped with snowy-white marshmallows, are
required eating at every Thanksgiving and Christmas. When it’s there, I still
sort of feel like my mom is around, being part of our holidays through the food
she taught me to make. Food forges connections with the people we love.
As for the dressing, my children will always feel about it
the way I feel about my mom’s sweet potato casserole. When we have Thanksgiving
dinner at anyone else’s house, where they serve a perfectly fine dressing, I
still come home and get the same request, every single time.
“Mom, that dressing was OK, but it’s not like yours. Can you
please make some for us?”
And of course, because cooking is love, or at least a way of
expressing it, I happily oblige.
Clearly, food is one of those things that we reflect upon
with fondness and even laughter, like the time someone accidentally put extra
salt in the pie instead of sugar. (It wasn’t me, I promise.)
As you reminisce about your mom’s dressing or your
grandmother’s pie or granddad’s smoked turkey, or whatever says “family
holidays” to you these next few weeks, remember that even if you have none of
those things this year, you can still reflect, and smile, and maybe even plan
for the future holidays you will have with those you love, and new friends,
Because really, though we enjoy the special holiday food and
the connection it brings us to the past and the people in it, it’s really their
memory that we are looking for, a tangible reminder of times with those people
we love, so we can feel, just for a moment or two, that they’re still with us.
“Forever on Thanksgiving Day the heart will find the pathway
home.” W.D. Nesbit
That leads me to the three REAL necessities for
People we love
- Grateful hearts
- Happy memories
I hope your holidays are filled with those things, my
friends, no matter what is on your table.
“Thanksgiving reminds us that, no matter what befalls us in
life, we can take the charred remnants and we can reconstruct a life
unimaginably richer than that from which the shards and pieces fell.”– Craig D.
Here are a few recipes to use this year, or to tuck away for
another day, preceded by a few of my favorite quotes. I hope you
“Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to
say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil
and welcome good.” – Maya Angelou
“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of
thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” – G.K.
Rest, and be thankful.” – William Wordsworth
Stephanie Hill-Frazier is a writer, food blogger and
regional television chef, whose on-air nickname is “Mama Steph.” She
grew up in Gulf County, on St. Joe Beach, a place she will forever call home. She
is married and has three young adult sons who are considerably taller than she
is. You can find more of her recipes at whatsouthernfolkseat.com
and at Facebook.com/whatsouthernfolkseat.