Thanksgiving

There’s a lot to be thankful for this year. I’ll skip over the obvious (that I’m kicking cancer’s @$*) and the flippant (that Dr S still takes my calls, after all the grief I’ve given him), and skip right to the heart of the matter: that this year the rolls were a success.

Y’all may have heard that my mom was a fantastic cook. Everything was homemade, even the hamburger buns & English muffins, when I was a kid. The holiday meals of course presented her with her moment to shine. And shine she did. That woman made the entire Thanksgiving meal — turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes & gravy, cranberry stuff, sweet potatoes, crescent rolls, and at least 2 kinds of pie (with from-scratch crust, of course). And she made every bit of that homemade food the day of the meal. She didn’t believe it tasted quite as good made in advance. She repeated this feast for Christmas, too.

Needless to say, she was a serious over-achiever.

The problem with over-achievers is that they cause normal people to think they may be inadequate. If you know someone like this, I’m not sure if it’s best to spend as much time as possible with them, hoping & praying their wonderfulness rubs off in some kind of cosmic osmosis; or if it’s best to surround yourself with idiots instead so that you always feel good about yourself.

We’ve suffered through 5 years of holiday meals without my mom, and I’ve attempted to make her crescent rolls since, but it hasn’t gone well. Yeast bread & I don’t get along. I wasn’t going to try it this year, of all years, but both of my kids asked, independently of each other, if we were having YaYa’s crescent rolls for Thanksgiving. Ain’t no way I’m saying no to that.

My mom’s recipes are funny. As in ha ha, the joke’s on you because she often left things out completely (the chicken crepes recipe that contains no chicken comes to mind), or she gave instructions that left a little to be desired, as in: continue mixing until it seems right. How the hell do I know when it’s right?? That’s the most vexing part, is that she did know. Me, not so much, at least when it comes to yeast breads.

Now I’m a pretty decent cook, and even I’ve been stumped by her recipes before. Thankfully, the crescent roll recipe is pretty straightforward (at least by her standards). She’s not real specific about what temperature the water needs to be when mixing with yeast. Nor is she overly fussy about exactly how much extra flour you may need to add to keep the dough from being “too sticky,” and of course that descriptor opens up a whole ‘nother can of worms. She often included little editorial comments in her recipes, too. My favorite is the butter cake recipe that calls for a pound of sifted powdered sugar. She made a note in the recipe that she was heading to Williams Sonoma to get a new sifter right now!

I made the bold move this year of not having a back-up plan if the rolls didn’t work out. Every other time I’ve attempted them, it’s been with a package of Sister Schubert’s rolls in the freezer. But one thing I’ve learned post-cancer is to dream big, so I was gonna make those rolls without a safety net.

Did I mention we were dining with friends and their family? 18 of us in all, I think. My contribution to the shared meal was rolls. Homemade rolls. And green beans. So woosheegaga, I really needed those rolls to work out.

I have to cheat a bit when I attempt to make my mom’s rolls or pie crust; I roll them out on my cheater’s mat. Over-achievers don’t need the mat. My mom had a huge marble slab (way before the ice cream store) that she used to roll out all her dough. No measurements on her slab like there are on my mat.

The idea is that once the dough is mixed up and given a chance to rise, you say a lot of prayers and make appropriate sacrifices then roll the dough into a big circle, and cut it into halves and halves again until you end up with a dozen triangles.

Then you carefully roll them up, starting at the wide end, to form a crescent roll. Gotta be gentle, though, because if you handle them too much, they bake up tough. In which case, you might as well pop open a can of Pillsbury crescents and consider yourself a major loser.

The yeast dough gods were smiling on me, though, this year, and Pillsbury wasn’t part of the peaceable domestic scene.

These rolls certainly weren’t as pretty as they were under my mom’s reign as kitchen queen. Some were fatter than others, and some had a much more definitive crescent shape. A few didn’t want to stay tucked together, and needed a little extra attention.

But they turned out ok, and I don’t think I cussed one time while making them–a new kitchen record for me. They don’t taste quite as delicious as they did when my mom made them. But they’re pretty close. And for that, I am thankful.


6 Comments on “Thanksgiving”

  1. Susan Christopherson says:

    You amaze me. I’m always the loser with the Pillsbury crescent rolls. 🙂 I have ventured to homemade french bread, cinnamon rolls, and white bread, but nothing ever as delicate as a crescent roll. I bet they were delicious, and I’m certain your mom would have been super proud of you, too.

  2. Amy H. says:

    I’m impressed! Wish I was there to have one. I MAY have even brought some corn!

  3. Ed says:

    I can vouch for the rolls and they were delicious. The kids at dinner were mad for them, to the point where I had to warn them against grabbing the off the baking sheet as it came out of the oven lest they burn themselves! Barb is proud.

  4. Jody Hicks says:

    Congratulations! We both still remember how good your mom’s pies were.

    I like your comment about being around over-achievers, since that’s how we felt at Thanksgiving with Nate and Jonathan doing all the cooking for us all ten days we were there. Everything they do is a gourmet production – Nate even makes mayonnaise from scratch! It was quite intimidating. All I was able to contribute was Grandmother Hicks’s biscuits a couple of mornings. And of course, now all my pants are too tight because everything was so delicious.

  5. David says:

    I had the joy of sharing Thanksgiving dinner a la Barbara Katapodis at least twice (she made special in-the-bird stuffing for me), and NO ONE does Turkey Day like she did. I’ve hosted Thanksgiving dinner for most of the last ten years and I learned my way around the kitchen from Barb and Nancy. I’m only starting to get caught up on the Pink Underbelly blog, but it’s bringing back a flood of memories. Thanks, Nancy, for writing all of this–even though you had to fight your way through a mountain of sh*t to do it. You rock.

  6. […] and I would be remiss if I didn’t remark upon the things for which I am thankful. This time last year I was fresh off the post-mastectomy infection train and trying to navigate life as a survivor. This […]


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