Cooking With Myra: Good food, good family make for a good Thanksgiving
By Myra Starkey
Nov. 27, 2012 at 5:27 a.m.
This past week, we celebrated Thanksgiving with Taylor's family. After we got married, we made the commitment to take turns spending the major holidays with either my parents or his parents. If it was a Mitchem Thanksgiving, then it would be a Starkey Christmas.
My two sisters and his four sisters are on this same schedule, so whichever family gets together, it is a fairly large gathering because it also includes spouses and children. The population of the Starkey clan now numbers 27 if everyone is able to attend. My dad and my sister, Susie, also joined us this year.
This is the first family holiday since mom died in July, and she was missed. She loved great food and family gatherings. I could not help but think of her as I was preparing the turkey the evening before.
I know she had prepared a lifetime of feasts over the years, and I admit I took many of those for granted. My mom always added "just a few more dishes" at the last minute, sending us scurrying around the kitchen to get everything ready in time.
I have the same overachiever attitude where food is concerned and tend toward making more than my assigned dish. I missed mom sitting at the table and chopping vegetables for me or making her sweet potato souffle, but dad stepped in and chopped all one afternoon so I would have enough for the holiday feasts.
This year, I prepared a garlic and herb turkey roasted with about 10 cloves of garlic tucked under the skin and stuffed with sage, basil, onions, chives and rosemary. It was deliciously moist and mouthwateringly fragrant. My brother-in-law, Tim, smoked a turkey, and if we had a competition, I would most likely have come in second (a close second) as he had achieved a moist bird despite smoking it for hours.
The Starkey Thanksgiving actually started Wednesday night when we gathered at Taylor's sister, Loree's, place for four different types of soup. This lighter fare was to prepare us for the heavier feast the next day. I brought my favorite sweet potato-bacon-jalapeno soup, which is very flavorful, but take-your-breath-away hot.
That first night, we got to play with the new, 9-week-old puppy belonging to Walker, who is one of Taylor's nephews. This cute, little white dog is a rare breed from Korea called a Jindo. It has very sharp teeth and is not afraid to use them. It does not much like to be held except by Walker, and if you do pick it up, it would either try to bite you or would squeal like an animal that had been accidentally stepped on. So, to say that we played with the puppy might be an exaggeration.
Haley, one of the nieces, came down from Washington, D.C., where she works for the nonprofit World Vision. This organization has a worldwide mission of feeding the hungry. It is interesting to talk to her about their work. It is also entertaining to see her interacting with her new boyfriend, Rick.
Actually, they have been dating for about a year, and he has been to Texas to visit once before. He is from Boston. I hate to sound "Texas small town," but few of us in the group have spent much time around folks from so far north of the Mason-Dixon. We tend to ask him questions about what life is like in such a faraway place as if he is from a different country.
And despite what many Texans would think, Massachusetts is not a foreign country. People from there are humans just like us - only different. Seriously though, Rick is a good-humored guy who seems to tolerate all our Texas ways. We all teased them about weddings and engagements. I am quite sure he was mortified.
After soup night Wednesday and Thanksgiving feast Thursday, we had Italian night Friday. We were all still full from the day before, but we would not let that get in the way of more eating. Mignon, Taylor's youngest sister, hosted that evening, perhaps since she has spent more time in Italy than the rest of us combined. She made an incredible dish of corn polenta with Italian sausage and a sweet tomato sauce.
As we sat around the table laughing and talking on the last evening, I felt so blessed to be a part of these two families, both Taylor's large clan and my dad and sister. We are a blending of people with common ties. I am sure there are occasional conflicts, hurt feelings and disagreements, but everyone puts all that aside because of the genuine love we share for one another. I would do all in my power to help the people at that table with anything they ask because they are my family.
A couple of weeks ago, a very dear man brought me some lemons from El Campo. He knew a lady named Dorothy who had a tree in her yard. I am grateful to him for sharing them with me.
One might think I have had enough desserts over the past week, but this lemon creme brulee is so delicious and light that you can prepare it ahead and serve it at the end of a big meal and your guests will scrape out the last bite.
Myra Starkey lives in Victoria. Write her in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.