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Monday, November 19, 2007

Let the Holiday Foolishness Begin! - "Jiffy Gate 2008"- Yes, We Will Have a Podcast on Thanksgiving

Tis the season to engage in folly. The email traffic between my immediate family members reaches frenzied levels about one week out before Thanksgiving when my older sisters in their quest to recreate my grandmother, MaDear's, recipes engage an effort in culinary intelligence gathering that would put the covert operatives to shame.

'Dear has always guarded her recipes zealously and trying to peak over her shoulder would get you a “get out of my kitchen” side eye that would send you scurrying into the other room. As we got older she became a little more lax with the sharing of the ingredients, but the quantity is another matter. My sisters want “a cup”, a “tablespoon”, “ a teaspoon.” but the best they have been able to wrangle out of Dear is “a pinch, a smidge, a little bit of this and a little bit of that.” So every year they engage in a reverse engineering attempts that have come close, but never quite recaptured Dear's sweet potato pie, potato salad, and cornbread dressing. Although I must concede that Sister X's ( identity withheld to maintain family harmony) potato pie has come close.

I'm announcing the launch of Holiday Foolishness! A holiday blog to capture the best of holiday foolishness because Baby Jesus is so not pleased. We'll call people on their foolishness this holiday season (Like my beau's obsession with "Black Friday"-Seriously , I don't want a $399 laptop or a $75 Zune or a $10 cell phone.). In addition, You'll get a behind the scenes look at my immediate family's “Secret Santa-Elf-Angel” tradition. They had their own version of WAOD via email long before this blog was ever heard of.

What in the Heck is a Secret Santa Elf Angel?

In my family we pull names and have a $75 cap.( I highly recommend pulling names) So I only spend about $150 TOTAL on Christmas each year. The family member responsible for running this complex operation is the Secret Santa Elf Angel.

My family basically waits the entire year for this. Daddy was asking about it Labor Day weekend. Not the actual gift giving, but the logistical foolishness that ensues leading up to Christmas day. We don't spend a lot, but trying to figure out who your Secret Santa is , my brother-in-law complaining that (once again) somebody put somebody put Victoria's Secrets bras and panties on their list, Sister X sending out emails after the wish list deadline attempting to alter her selections (every year) and then the annual lobby from Sister Y to try to increase the cap to account for inflation ( the cap was $50 for the longest, she raised the cap the year she was the Secret Santa Elf). And who could forget Christmas 2000 when my Sister Z unilaterally decided to give the boot to Secret Santa (something about the Devil and idol worship. blah blah blah)and replace it with the "Christmas Angel".

I, the president of the Secret Santa Elves Union had to launch an official protest of her unilateral firing of the Secret Santa Elf, leading to the change of the name from Secret Santa Elf to the Secret Santa Elf Angel. Yes, fully grown folks-But it is fun to us anyway. I won't even mention "Stocking Gate 2000." Yes, Mama still fills our Christmas stockings. She didn't a couple of years back and you should have seen grown folks pitiful expressions because they didn't get some miniature Snickers in their stockings

"Jiffy Gate 2008"- Reverse Engineering Goes Terribly Wrong

For a hint of what you can expect at Holiday Foolishness and on our Thanksgiving Podcast, I am offering this behind the scenes look at “Jiffy-Gate 2008”. Here is an email exchange between Sister Y and moi related to cornbread dressing ( She gave me permission to post it):
Sister Y wrote:
Date: Thu, 15 Nov 2007 Good Morning! > Since I am not spending Thanksgiving in Texas, I am taking the [Family] Thanksgiving [up North]. In that vain, I need some recipes. The originals would be nice, but if you have a variation or modification, that would be wonderful. Here is my request: MaDear's sweet potato pie recipe ( a rough guess-timate since she never measures) > Broccoli rice casserole- can I use brown rice instead? > Pistachio > Cornbread dressing > [Cousin A's] recipe for pecan candy > [Her Godmother's] shrimp and rice casserole > > (If I can get them by tomorrow that would be great, cause I'm really not trying to be in the grocery store with the rest of the Thanksgiving shoppers) > > Love you much, >SISTER Y

I responded:
Yes you can use brown rice instead, BUT you got to be careful with how you cook it. pistachio is pineapple, pistachio pudding mix, colored marsh mellows, sour cream, coolwhip and chopped pecans. Cornbread dressing. Celery, onion, bell pepper, I cook mine before I throw them in with the cornbread mix it up with the cornbread and > some chopped meat and bake again. I kind of wing it.
Sister Y (God Bless Her Little Heart) wrote:
Thanks for those two! What should the consistency of the dressing be? The last time I made it, it had a pudding like consistency once I cooked it. Should I cook the veggies with the chicken gizzards? I was going to experiment this weekend before I tried to make it on Thanksgiving. Also do you have more exact measurements for pistachio?
To which moi replied:
Hmmm your dressing had pudding like consistency....hmmm. Um you had to work at that. You cook the corn bread separately and then I actually cook all my veggies and I don't use gizzards I use shredded chicken or turkey, but sautee all that together and then mix that with the cornbread and season. then I go back with the liquid for flavor and consistency. I mean seriously you had to work to get pudding-like dressing.

At which point Sister Z, the organized one, provided EXACT measurements for the pistachio.

Sister Y responded:
I Love YOU GUYS! It almost reminds me of Thanksgiving morning in Texas. Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!
Well everything was OKAY until I got this FOOLISHNESS in my email box Sunday morning. I KNOW SHE DIDN'T!

Sister Y lamented:

Y'all didn't tell me not to use Jiffy! I did a test run today and it was too sweet.
To which I replied:
Um there is no other cornbread other than Jiffy. What the heck do you mean too sweet? Don't insult the Jiffy, the cornbread God will not be please and all your stuff will burn. If the dressing is too sweet, that means you didn't provide enough flavor to cut down the sweetness. I guess I like my cornbread sweet.

It ain't the Jiffy its the Iffy...cook. Nobody bet' not say nothing about the Jiffy. Just ain't right. Seriously, make some peach cobbler and call it a wrap. Thanksgiving Dinner with your boyfriend's parents ain't the time to try to convert yourself into B. Smith or some foolishness. You can't cook. You almost set your house on fire trying to brown some flour in the oven. Your rum cake is light on the cake and heavy on the rum and your attempts at gumbo have been well past poor. Accept that you do not have the gift. Go buy a pound cake and throw up the deuce. But leave. JIFFY. ALONE!
We have to make a sacrificial offering to the God of Cornbread. He is so not pleased. Mama I know your position on worshiping idol Gods. You can sit this one out.

I went on to add in an email titled “Sister Y, you need to repent”:
Before the God of Cornbread curses your cornbread dressing for all of your days, you need to go and repent: http://www.jiffymix.com/ .trying to blame Jiffy for your iffy cooking abilities. Just ain't right.
Sister Y then tried to defend her defamation of Jiffy Cornbread Mix:
I followed the directions that were given. I seasoned it with Ms. Dash and added some sage. I did not add additional seasoning because I thought that it would be too salty since I used regular chicken broth. I called Dear's looking for Momma to ask about the cornbread and [Aunt D] advised me not to use Jiffy. I only eat dressing when I go home. I am trying to maintain my Southern roots while incorporating other healthy options.

By the way, I have excellent cooking skills, my peach cobbler not only won the church baking contest, but got Thumbs up from the [her boyfriend's coworkers].

Y'all should at least applaud me for being transparent enough to ask for help and to practice making it before I went to [up North] and embarrassed myself and my family.

Excuses. Excuses.Mrs. Dash? Mrs. Dash? Did she just say she tried to make cornbread dressing using Mrs Dash? What in the world? Sage? There is no SAAAAGE in cornbread dressing! That must be some East coast culinary encroachment going on. Healthy options? Healthy options? It's Thanksgiving! If you are embarrassed [up North], that is no reflection on the family. The family recipes do not include Mrs. Dash, sage and, and, and, a “healthy” version of cornbread dressing.

Finally, Sister Y sent this reply shortly thereafter attempting to defend her culinary abilities:
I've come to the realization that I need to accentuate the positive and minimize the negative. I am not making cornbread dressing. Parenthetically, [the boyfriend] thought that the "stuffing" was good and wondered how would I coordinate with the person cooking the turkey putting the stuffing inside the turkey. He did think that his family would view my dressing/stuffing as a side dish. Therefore, I am making Pistachio and peach cobbler, broccoli rice is a possibility. Does anyone have Momma's recipe with the exact measurements for broccoli rice?[there she goes with the measurements again- amateur]

To the naysayers: [the boyfriend] has been eating my cooking and he thinks that I am an excellent cook. [Cousin M] as been eating at my house for six years and never had a complaint.
What.Ever. I am just glad you didn't try to pass off that Mrs. Dash and SAAAGE infused concoction as the family cornbread recipe.

To which I was forced to reply:

Hmm me thinks you doth protest to much Madam! You slandered Jiffy cornbread mix. Twas not the mix, but the Mix-er! I give you credit for the cobbler, but if recall correctly the cobbler is not from scratch and you in fact utilize artificial ingredients[canned peaches and bisquick/cake batter] and take “short cuts” thus your cobbler technically does not qualify as a southern holiday culinary staple and a couple of pats on the back about that cobbler at a single Thanksgiving does not trump the burning of the flour in the oven incident of 2001. Call me when you walk through the door with a sweet potato pie... cobbler HA! Sorry Madam! Your record remains unchanged!And I will not trust the opinion of man that refers to cornbread DRESSING as STUFFING. He clearly is not qualified to issue an opinion on southern holiday culinary staples.[Did he actually ask how do you coordinated getting the DRESSING inside the turkey?]

Sister Y has agreed to come on the WAOD podcast, the Black Womens' Roundtable to defend her culinary honor. In other words, we're going to have a blast this Thursday at 8:00PM CST.

Y'all have a good vacation. Travel safely!