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Hart Beat

What's stuffing without giblets?

I can hardly wait for Thanksgiving. Not only do I get to forget about sensible eating for one day, I always look forward to stuffing myself on my most favorite food - turkey giblet stuffing.

My mouth is already beginning to water as I think about the smells which will soon be emanating from the kitchen as the dinner's main course, a giant turkey, roasts in the oven.

I can smell the pungent spices used to flavor the family's homemade pumpkin pies. I can even detect the aroma of celery, sage and the giblets as they simmer on the back of the stove waiting to be combined with dry bread crumbs, a little butter, chopped onions and more sage.

I really love stuffing, especially a nice, traditional no-fuss giblet stuffing, smothered in turkey drippings-flavored gravy. Yum.

Unfortunately, this year, unless I make some giblet stuffing for myself, I'll not be eating any with my family at next Thursday's holiday feast.

To my extreme disappointment I've learned that my children hate giblet stuffing. I'm appalled.

I've been making the same recipe for stuffing for more than 30 years and I never realized they didn't like giblet stuffing.

Like so many American cooks, I've gotten up in the pre-dawn hours on Thanksgiving day to cook the giblets in preparation for poking the mixture into the turkey's waiting cavities.

My succulent turkeys have always been stuffed chock-full of the ingredients my grandmother showed me how to use when I was just 12-years-old. Now, I find I'm the only one in my house who likes it. I'm heart-broken.

My memory of my grandmother showing me how to cook stuffing is one of my fonder cooking memories. Most of my cooking impressions have been less than memorable as my cooking tends to be adventures in disaster.

I started learning to cook as a six-year-old barely able to see over the kitchen counter. As the eldest of five children, my mother counted on me to help out with household chores, and yes, the occasional meal. I became a pint-sized expert at making my own oatmeal, biscuits and finally helping roast the family turkey. That experience came about the year my mother was terribly ill. The giant turkey might have melted on the table, uncooked if my grandmother had not come to the five little Abercrombie kids' rescue. While my mother was recovering from her surgery, grandmother shared with me the secrets of conquering the turkey. In addition she demonstrated how to create stuffing made from the turkey's innards.

Imagine my dismay to find out that a side dish I have such fond memories of is not a hit with the Hart girls.

This week, as we were preparing our shopping list for the huge meal, Becky and Sarah both told me that giblets were not to be on the menu. As it turns out, they are not big fans of turkey neck, gizzards, liver and heart used to flavor my special stuffing.

I nearly cried. Still, I've resolved that I will enjoy whatever stuffing combination my daughter Becky chooses to serve. I'm sure it will be good. She is hosting the family dinner and it's not polite to complain when someone else cooks because, well - someone else cooked.

And, I know Becky's stuffing will be delicious. She has turned into a wonderful cook, daring, but not extreme. And she hardly ever burns anything.

I'll miss Grandmother's stuffing. But perhaps I can sneak off with the innards when no one is looking and after everyone is gone home I can whip up a private bowl of old-fashioned giblet stuffing. Some traditions are just too good to let die.

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