Friday, October 23, 2015

The Taste of Comfort

Mamaw and me (1980)

The holidays from my childhood were all the autumn colors of yellow, orange, brick red, green and brown. The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas smelled like musty boxes from the attic, pine cones that had been doused in some sort of cinnamon oil years earlier, rogue glitter and a little bit of plastic.

The transition between pine needle-filled scarecrows and cotton-stuffed santas always felt epic.

But the taste of the holidays. Oh, how everything tasted!

As the weather gets cooler and the leaves turn all those wild colors, I start thinking about my family, especially my grandparents. I remember holidays at their home when I was growing up. This is not a groundbreaking memory, many people have the same one. We all reach back into that dark corner and dust off the way we felt, the sights, smells and sounds.

For me, all those senses can be summed up in my Mamaw's cornbread dressing.

Before I lost her, I wrote down as many of her recipes as I could think to copy. But this one is my favorite by far.

I've never made it before, mostly out of fear. Fear that I would do it a disservice and ruin my crystal clear recollection of what comfort tastes like, the anticipation of the casserole coming out of the oven, and how it felt on my tongue.

This year, I decided I couldn't put it off any longer.

Mamaw had tweaked that recipe far beyond what was actually on paper. She "pinched" and "dashed" that sucker every year for our family.

I won't bore you with the cornbread baking and onion chopping...

...but when my version came out of the oven, I dove in to the piping hot dish with abandon!

I couldn't wait to see if I had even come close to that poultry seasoning flavor, the graininess of the chicken stock-soaked cornbread, the freshness of the tender celery bits and those crispy, browned corners.

My first bite was indescribable. Not because this is the most amazing dish that deserves to be served to gods and kings, but because it was as close to Mamaw's recipe as I could get. And as close to her as I could get.

I miss her. I miss her fussing at everyone to get out of her kitchen until it was time to serve ourselves buffet style.

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