Thanksgiving conjures up many friendly faces whose delicious cuisine has graced my holiday table: Colonel Sanders, Aunt Jemima, and, of course, Sara Lee. Nothing good ever emerged from my kitchen unless it had been baked, battered, barbecued or deep-fried by my fast food friends. I’ve tried to cook from scratch, believe me. Mom tried to pass on her culinary skills, but the raw chocolate chip cookie dough I stirred never made it to the pan.
Before the days of Lean Cuisine, every dish my Grandma made began with a big ‘ole hunk of bacon grease and a cast iron skillet. If I made dishes like “Granny used to make,” my husband would clot and blow out every artery in his pudgy body.
After years of gastronomical fiascos, I tried to learn a few cooking terms to increase my cooking prowess. Poach means add a little water. Sauté means add a little butter. Fry means add a lot of Crisco and flambé means set it on fire and burn it to a crisp.
As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, don't overlook the obvious.
Thanksgiving feasting is over-rated. Nobody, but nobody has developed a foolproof system for roasting the bird (even though the Butterball people assure it’s a cinch)!
I have it on good authority (Fox News…) that 4% of happy holiday homes catch fire when their owners try to deep-fry a turkey. Besides the imminent danger of flammable legs and thigsh, ingesting large quantities of poultry fat assures that Uncle Bill’s posterior will not fit in the tiny exit row chair when he returns to see Grandma at Christmastime.
Traditional turkey baking is just torturous. Haggard housewives stuff Tom Turkey’s behind with breadcrumbs and stay up half the night basting the bird for Thursday’s feast. By lunchtime, these overworked cooks are grouchy and exhausted from their Thanksgiving preps. “Turkey breasters” are snobs who only eat white meat and leave the consumption of neck and gizzards for the kids who don’t know any better. Dressing can be made from just about anything: paper mache, donut holes, day-old bread or dust bunnies. Shove it up the bird and bake away. Slop on globs of gravy and no one will ever know. Thanksgiving dinner…I love to eat it. I hate to cook it.
One year, I tried to grill a turkey breast “Texas-style.” The succulent white meat was charred on the outside and pink-frozen on the inside, like turkey sushi. My husband pretended to down the poultry, but he quickly excused himself, claimed he had to answer a “pastoral emergency,” and made a Whopper run. He didn’t fool me. I smelled the onion rings on his breath and spotted a lettuce fragment dangling from his bicuspid. I wrapped my little gobbler in foil and made him finish it for dinner, just for spite.
Nowadays, my grown-up daughters and their husbands insist upon eating Thanksgiving turkey cooked by Luby’s, Furr’s or Uncle Ronnie. They accept the fact that I skipped home economics for choir, and kitchen duty for piano practice. Brie and Bronwyn love me even if I only own two pans: a tiny pot for Campbell’s soup and a skillet for Egg Beaters. Skip the skillet. I microwave them in a paper bowl…
Fortunately, my “Martha Stewart” eldest daughter Brie is a master chef who creates epicurean delights. Bronwyn, my youngest, is a chip off the old block. She dumps Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal on canned peaches and calls it peach cobbler. Her Thanksgiving specialty features a giant bag of marshmallows covering two tiny sweet potatoes underneath. Even our most mediocre Thanksgiving spread is redeemed when we pass the pumpkin pie and chase it with a warm mug of Mussleman’s cider.
As matriarch of the Barrier clan, my meals may be paltry, but I never cease to marvel at God’s goodness on this day of days. My Pakistani “adopted kids” now face tremendous persecution as their country falls into political chaos. They continue to preach, but at great peril. My Jordanian girlfriend is one step ahead of the secret police as she rescues abused Muslim girls from prison or death.
I never go a single day wondering if I will have food to eat tomorrow. I can preach, teach and pray whenever I like. Churches dot my neighborhood in every direction. Though most of my closest family members have suffered serious health setbacks recently, I will see their faces at my Thanksgiving table this week, and I will be deeply grateful to God for His sustaining power this year above all years.
Pause and remember. Thanksgiving is not a holiday; it is an opportunity to see God, beautifully alive and active in our lives. Many days we rush through our prayers, skim our Bibles, and miss the moments He gives us His grace. We are to be grateful, humble and prayerful.
Call on His Name. So often we pray prayers of desperation and forget the power and authority of our Heavenly Father. Write verses on the attributes of God and have family members read them. Praise together and meditate on God's character and power. We used to have our children trace autumn leaves and write words like "Father," "Savior," "Healer" for them to read before the meal. Some of your family members may come with heavy hearts. Many grieve the loss of a loved one during the past year. It's time to call upon God to bring healing and comfort to them.
Make His Name known. Gathering your dear ones around you is a unique opportunity to share your love relationship with Jesus. Our family always invited the disenfranchised, the lonely, the needy to our table. Many who came to our table were far away from their families. We were enriched by our new friends and excited to share Jesus' love with them.
Sing to HIm. You don't have to be Broadway or boy-band quality, just lift your voice. Choose songs the little ones around your table know. Have a family member bring an instrument to play, or simply read a psalm.
Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name;
make known among the nations what he has done.
Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts.
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