Thanksgiving Dishes

By Reba Phelps

Being raised below the Mason-Dixon Line and the poverty line at the same time made for very interesting times during the holidays. Still to this day I am not sure if it was only our family who labeled our pots and pans according to their functions or if this was a normal everyday occurrence in the South.

We had a chicken and rice pot that was mainly used to cook, you guessed it…chicken and rice. There was the biscuit pan that was torn and tattered and must have baked thousands of homemade biscuits in its lifetime. We also had a pan that was dedicated to the baking of the southern staple known as cornbread.

The most famous of the named pots and pans was the 70’s avocado green chicken dressing pan. It was larger than all of the other pans in my mother’s kitchen and must have weighed a solid ten pounds empty. She was a plus size pan. Looking back, I am quite sure that the paint on the metal pan was also lead paint. You know, the kind they warn you about today. The edges were starting to chip but that small imperfection did not keep us from using it with pride.

This beloved pan would make her appearance at all of the major holidays such as Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. It seemed as though her favorite time to shine was at Thanksgiving. This holiday was basically a casserole festival but the dressing was always brought to life from the depths of this heavyweight pan.

I cannot recall if Pam, the miracle-working non-stick spray, was even invented at this point. I wasn’t even sure if non-stick pans had already made their entrance into society. In either case, our family could not afford either of the two luxuries. So, we would grease a pan with Crisco, keep SOS pads on hand and hope for the best.

My hope is that you can visualize the foundation of the exquisite pain that my siblings and I experienced as a children.

Old pans. Holiday casserole festival. Not a non-stick surface in sight. Tons of holiday cookware being used. The icing on the cake would have to be not owing an automatic dish washer. My parents gave birth to the only automatic dishwashers they ever had.

However, they did try to be fair about the delegating of dishwashing. Each child had a specific night to wash the family dishes. I cannot recall how I became so blessed to be the recipient of the Thanksgiving dishes and Christmas dishes all in the same year. It felt rigged but there was no appeal process for this chore.

“Get thee behind me Satan, and take these pans with you”…..was the mantra that was on replay throughout the entire holiday season that year. The food seemed to be extra sticky that year, it took lots of elbow grease to get the pans to pass my mothers quality control inspections. It was a memorable year.

As a child you never truly understand the true meaning of Thanksgiving and it is so easy get lost in all of the work that a holiday can produce. It is not about the amazing homemade food, the fighting over who is washing the dishes nor is it about getting out of school or being off of work. Thanksgiving is meant to be spent with the ones who mean the most to you. The ones you cherish and feel thankful for any extra time God allows with them.

I am not sure if was the lead paint that made the dressing taste so good or that it was made by my mother’s hands. But, being raised by her and my dad have made me so grateful for every Thanksgiving meal that I am able to spend with my family and friends. May God bless you and keep you during these holidays and remind you to cherish those around you.

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
I Thessalonians 5:18


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