Slimantics: A 'right smart' Thanksgiving mystery

November 12, 2013 10:04:50 AM

Slim Smith - [email protected]


Everyone talks about the start of the Christmas season, but nobody ever really mentions when Thanksgiving Season begins. 


There is no Black Friday for Thanksgiving, where grocery stores open at midnight and you can get killer deals on turkeys and cranberries and potatoes, etc. 


So everyone is left to their own devices when it comes to planning for Thanksgiving. 


For me, the Thanksgiving season started yesterday when a friend posted a photo of a beautiful, golden brown turkey on her Facebook page. 


I have been pretty much salivating ever since. 


Somewhere in my adulthood, Thanksgiving has become my favorite holiday, supplanting Christmas. That began when I had a falling out with Santa Claus, the cause of which I have never discovered. 


All I know is he stopped showing up at our house one Christmas and things were never the same. 


Oh, I still enjoyed Christmas and still do. But each year, Christmas seems a little more stressful than the last. The people on my shopping list seems increasingly hard to buy for. There is the matter of color, size, brands, styles. I'm a guy. I know as much about that stuff as I know about macrame. 


Women, by contrast, are professional shoppers. They seem to instinctively know a person's style. It's like a sixth sense or something.  


Years ago, when I was forced into the task of shopping with my 14-year-old daughter for a dress for her middle-school graduation, I was stunned at her ability in this arena. She would walk into a store, scan the room from a distance and know, with absolute certainty, that there was nothing in the store that would appeal to her. 


At first, I just thought she was being belligerent -- at the time, she was very much a tomboy and despised the notion of wearing a dress. When I mentioned this to a female friend, she was not surprised. Females, she said, can tell, by a quick survey of the store, if it has anything that suits their preference. I still don't know how that is. It has to be some sort of mystical powers imbued solely to the female of the species. 


Women also have an advantage when it comes to picking that perfect gift by virtue of the fact that they pay attention. 


Two common Christmas morning scenarios: 


Woman: "I knew you would love this duck print because I remembered that day 15 years ago when we were walking through a store when we were on vacation in Florida and you commented that you really liked that print." 


And by contrast... 


Man: "You mean green isn't your favorite color?" 


Woman: "Why would you think that? We've been together 30 years. In all that time, have you ever seen me wear green?" 


Man: "Oh." 


So Thanksgiving, on the other hand, is a snap. 


You don't have to worry about sizes or colors or styles. You don't have to calculate shipping dates or fight through crowds to get what you need.  


I would say that Thanksgiving would be completely stress-free were it not for mama. 


For years now, I've been trying to duplicate her recipe for cornbread dressing. Growing up, mama's dressing was the best part of our feast. The turkey, the mashed potatoes, the green bean casserole, home-made bread, pecan pie -- all of that was the supporting cast. The cornbread dressing was the star of the feast. 


Each year, my dressing fell short of mama's mystifying standard, but I refuse to take the blame. 


It's mama's fault.  


She grew up in rural Tippah County, where "a right smart" is still an accepted standard of measurement. Ditto for "a pinch" and "just a dab." 


Before she passed away, I would call her to ask for her help in determining how much of the various ingredients were required. 


It was never a "half-cup" of this or a "tablespoon" of that. It was "a right smart" of this or a "pinch of that" and "just a dab" of the other. 


Mama passed away in 2004, taking her recipe with her and leaving me to fend for myself in my endless quest to replicate her cornbread dressing. 


Undaunted, I will try again this Thanksgiving. Some years, I get pretty close. Some years, not so much. 


I take solace in the fact that my turkey is superior to mama's, though. My secret: Cheesecloth. 


I won't divulge further details, mainly for the sake of my two children. 


Someday, they will spend each Thanksgiving trying to figure out how to make "Dad's Turkey." 


Cheesecloth, they will remember. 


But how much? 


Oh, I'd say a right smart. 


Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]