Guest Blogger Susannah Locketti: My dad expected a meal on Thanksgiving, my mother had no idea how to cook and they were broke. She is however a highly resourceful woman ... let's just say that her resourcefulness proved fatal.
My mother made her first Thanksgiving dinner at age 18, freshly married nine days after graduating high school. Proper kitchen equipment for a holiday meal is key and my mom had nothing. So when it came time to baste the turkey, my mom needed to find a suitable device in the house for the job. She cleverly found a paint brush. But not just any paint brush ... an old, used paint brush.
When the turkey was done, my father distinctly noted that "something just wasn't right about it." Now my dad never turns down a meal ... NEVER. He is known for his shameless consumption of food. The fact that he turned the turkey down tells me this thing had to look or smell worse than dog crap on a sunny day after a bad rain. So they gave it to the family dog ... and it was the dog's last supper. Can you imagine how it must have felt to kill your dog with your first turkey?
My mother claims a congenital medical condition was responsible. My dad calls that condition "turpentine." Whatever the case, there is a bright side to this story because with every sacrifice comes a period of growth. After that incident, my mother cooked her way through every French cookbook and we were eating gourmet on a dime by the time I was five. She learned from her mistake and my palate has benefited ever since.
Watching my mother prepare Thanksgiving was a riot growing up. She hated anyone in the kitchen while she executed (no pun intended). I am one of four kids and we enjoyed lifting lids, picking at stuffing and double dipping the spoon for a taste of her mashed potatoes. She'd yell at us in her bathrobe while she worked her magic in our little kitchen, drinking from an endless mug of coffee stronger than Popeye.
When it finally came time to eat, my mom was exhausted, sweating and still in her bathrobe. The robe was always soiled and stained from cooking every aspect of the feast from scratch. I truly admire her now, but back then I was your typical teenager with a big mouth. So I asked my mom over dinner why she didn't dress up for Thanksgiving like other moms do ... this did not go over well. I further told my mother that when I got married and was in my own house with kids, I'd host Thanksgiving, pull it off just like her, only I'd be in makeup and nice clothes.
Fast forward to a beautiful fall afternoon, married in my first home, a newborn baby with severe colic and the phone rings. "Hi honey, it's mom. Oh I'm just calling to collect on an old offer now that you're in your own house with kids and all." My mother never missed a beat and I knew immediately what she was referring to. Damn she was good!
I was up for days preparing my first Thanksgiving. My newborn was a nightmare, I was nursing and my oldest was into everything. "I did it with four" my mother kept repeating on the phone in the weeks leading up -- she was relentless, but I deserved it. The worst part of the day occurred when the timer popped on the turkey at 9 AM and company wasn't expected for five hours. I initially looked for the Butterball hotline number because there was no way in hell I was calling my mother for cooking advice. I was desperate and called my mom. She calmly talked me through storing the turkey until company came while laughing in between every bite of wisdom.
I cooked in a robe just like my mom that day. In fact, I shot my first Thanksgiving cooking show back in 2003 in my bathrobe as a tribute to my mom and this story. I may have eaten my words, but I did keep up my end of the deal. I changed out of my robe, put on a full face of makeup, a holiday outfit and even a strand of pearls. And ya know what? So did my mom and she looked beautiful ... because for once she had the time. From that day forward, my mother passed the torch on Thanksgiving. She realized she had four children that were capable of taking over this holiday. My mother's much deserved break had finally arrived.
The funniest part is, she's the first person to mill in the kitchen, lift a lid and pick food prematurely from the pots...but she's earned it and the memories are priceless.