I loved my grandmother dearly. She loved me back unconditionally.
Our family spent many Thanksgivings in grandma’s small apartment, and she made a great effort to serve us a truly traditional meal. I know now she had grown tired of cooking. As her husband progressed up the University ladder, she hosted many meals for the faculties and staff of several universities. By the time I came along, grandpa was very ill, and they were reduced to living on a pittance. Medical bills took it all.
She would serve a turkey, stuffing, two kinds of potatoes, onions in a crème sauce, peas, Brussel sprouts, rolls, and two kinds of pie that’s she baked herself with two kinds of whipped cream. I remember two things about these special days. She would keep her oven door closed with a broom stick, and her stuffing was the best stuff I ever had.
For years I tried to duplicate her stuffing. More butter, less butter, chicken soup, no chicken soup…always with minced onion, dried bread, sage, and celery. The basic stuffing. Mother added chestnuts or oysters to hers, but I wanted the flavors of my childhood.
One year when we were in the Lotus Street cottage, I was mixing the Thanksgiving stuffing on an extra small counter. My hands were greasy. The saltcellar slipped into the stuffing bowl. I hurriedly scooped as much salt as I could from the bread bits, stuffed and roasted the bird. When it came out of the oven, that stuffing tasted just like my grandma’s. Exactly.
I’ve laughed about it ever since. I didn't know my grandmother over-salted everything, but she did an especially good job of salting my Thanksgiving memories.