In the week leading up to Thanksgiving, Mema and Momma cleaned the house from top to bottom. Mema dug out the Thanksgiving tablecloths and napkins and her heavy gold flatware.
We rearranged all the furniture to make room for extra tables to hold all the food.
With 22 family members coming, Thanksgiving was a special time.
A long dessert table draped with a beautiful lace tablecloth was placed along the wall in the den. Another long table went in front of the large picture window, close to all the electrical outlets so the warming plates could be plugged in.
Mema spent hours going through familiar cookbooks and scraps of yellowed clippings piled high in boxes,trying to decide what dishes to make this year.
Eggplant casserole, sweet potatoe casserole, green bean casserole-all those were on the “must have” list.
Mashed potatoes and gravy,turkey and dressing,cranberry relish and deviled eggs…the list grew longer.
Momma,on the other hand,knew all her recipes by heart- she never had to look at a recipe because her cakes and cookies were “hers.”
She had made them for every holiday for so long that they were engraved in her memory. She made chocolate fudge sheet cake,prune cake,cowboy cookies and tea cake cookies from scratch.
Momma baked the chocolate pecan pie and Mema made the “regular” pecan pie, German chocolate cake and all the “whipped topping” pies-chocolate,lemon,buttermilk custard.
Three days before Thanksgiving,with all the final choices made and list n in hand, Mema, Momma and I went to the grocery store.
My job was to hold the list and check off everything as we walked along the aisles and to make sure we didn’t leave the store without some essential ingredient.
When we all got back home,the groceries were spread out; butter and eggs,vanilla and cocoa, sugar and spices to one side.
All the canned goods were stacked together;the recipes were laid on top. The turkey was put in the garage fridge to thaw.
Finally, the day before Thanksgiving arrived.
Mema and Momma woke early and began baking all the desserts. The aroma of Brown sugar and cloves filled the house. Chocolate fudge simmered on the stove,cookies were rolled and baked and laid on wax paper, and pie after pie cooled on the table.
The cakes were frosted,the fruit salad chilled, the banana pudding cooked and placed in the fridge.
We laid all the desserts on the special table that was reserved for them; beautiful pies with golden meringue toppings, three layered German chocolate cake under a glass dome, a white coconut cake, Momma’s chocolate sheet cake in a long pan,the prune cake on n the tall platter, tins filled with cookies, pecan pies lined up side by side.
It all looked absolutely beautiful, perfectly arranged,uncut, untouched and ready for the Thanksgiving guests.
But Daddy had his own Thanksgiving tradition.
When Mema and Momma were not looking, Daddy would sneak over to the dessert table and cut the tiniest,thinnest slice out of every cake and pie. He would load up his plate and eat every last bite.
He always said he had to try them out first, to make sure they were good enough for everyone else.
Mema and Momma would get so aggravated with him and try to convince him to wait so that the dessert table would look prettier when everyone showed up on Thanksgiving day, but he never listened. He always cut that tiny slice from everything he wanted.
Daddy died 14 years ago. Ever since that last Thanksgiving with daddy, the dessert table has been perfect when all the guests arrive. All the pies and cakes are still whole and everything looks like it should be in a home cooking magazine. But for Mema, Momma and me and the rest of the family, we would rather there be a thin slice taken from every cake and pie.
💙👣 This was my first published column for the Dallas Morning News on Thanksgiving day of 2004.
Momma went to bake in heaven that year and Mema joined them in 2009.
It’s now been 25 years since my Daddy took the thinnest,tiniest slice but we remember well how that house on Sharpview Lane was filled with love and laughter on Thanksgiving day and we are grateful.
I still have the recipes and the cookbooks and my daughter carries on the traditions of baking everything from scratch just like Mema and Momma.