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John Winters Columnist

Published Sunday, November 18, 2012

Putting hair on your chest

Around this time two years ago, we held a memorial service for Papa.

Dad to the Little Black Dress, grandfather to the SONs of Thunder. The man who escorted The Dress, who wore a pink gown, down a very long church aisle, kissed her and said to me, “take care of her.”

He died Nov. 8. The ravages of dementia were too much. A veterinarian for almost 50 years, in the end he had zero short-term memory. We’d drive in from Georgia, say hello, and 10 minutes later one of the SONs would say something to him and he’d ask when we got into town.

He died in Colorado, where the LBD’s brother lived. All his friends were in Oklahoma. We were in Georgia. In other words, getting everyone together was not easy. We ended up having the memorial service the day before Thanksgiving. It was the only time that worked. And The Dress was thinking about whether anyone would come; who has a service Thanksgiving Eve? But they came.

And yes, it was still a little surreal.

The Dress had bowls of his favorite snacks out for everyone: circus peanuts and licorice. We played “You’re The Lucky One” by Allison Kraus. It was fitting.

And afterward, we all, friends and family, went out to eat. And it was a pretty unanimous decision that we hit the Sushi Train.

Which is exactly what its name implies. A sushi bar where you sat around a huge table. And a little toy train would come by toting plates of sushi. And you’d pick out what you wanted off the train as it circled by. Price was based on the color of the plate and at the end, the waitress just counted up your plates.

For some crazy reason, it just seemed appropriate.

Despite having two heart attacks over the years, Dad No. 2 loved spicy food. And so, being Thanksgiving I’m sharing one of his favorites taken from my book, The Little Black Dress and the SONs of Thunder - Recipes on Life and Food. Simply called: “Put Hair On Your Chest Stuffing.”

•••••

In honor of our first Thanksgiving together as a couple, I (John) cooked the turkey and decided to make my own stuffing. Of course, I had to hear about how everyone else’s mother made it, etc., etc. But even The Dress loved this one and it turned out better than I thought it would. If you really want to make this the way it should be, you really MUST use real andouille sausage. Enjoy, drink water, lots of it.

3 cups of chopped celery

1 1/2 cups finely chopped purple onion

1 1/2 cups margarine or butter

18 cups of soft bread cubes, torn up very small

1 teaspoon ground sage

4 teaspoons black pepper

Several shakes of Tabasco sauce, mucho shakes of red pepper flakes.

2 pounds of andouille sausage

Break the bread up into very small pieces. It will take a while, but it’s better than store-bought.

Cook and stir celery and onion in the butter/margarine in a large pot until tender. Remove from the heat and stir in everything but the sausage.

Andouille sausage usually comes in links, so you need to dice it up very fine. Brown the sausage in a large skillet. If you want, substitute part of the sausage drippings for the butter, we do and it’s better that way.

After cooking the sausage, mix it in with the rest of the ingredients.

Stuff the bird, but not too tightly. Anything left over can go into a baking dish.

Cook the remainder in the oven for about 30 minutes at 350°F.

For the stuffing in the bird, it will be done when a meat thermometer stuck in the middle hits 165°F. Bird should be at 180 degrees. Roast turkey in oven at 325°F.

•••••

A final treat since we’re on the subject of turkeys. Melt a stick of butter along with about two or three big tablespoons of red currant jelly. Add in some bourbon. I am not going to tell you how much, you’re an adult. After it’s all melted, use it as a basting sauce for your turkey.

And for an extra treat, you can pour that mixture into your gravy and have, yes, bourbon gravy. Now I’m not going to dare tell you how to make your gravy, everyone has their own family secret on that. For the gravy, we sometimes leave out the jelly and just go with the bourbon and butter mixture.

Holidays can be tough. But now is the time to give thanks for what we have, not for what we’ve lost.

Enjoy, remembering that life is a journey. Happy Thanksgiving to all.

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