It’s that time of year….Auld Lang Syne and as the poet, Robbie Burns wrote, “old long since”. And I’m in the mood to tell a story.
Mother, Violet, on right
In a very ‘Auld Lang Syne’ kind of mood, I remembered things from my long ago youth at holiday time. Especially my mother’s traditions in the kitchen. Christmas dinner was a big stuffed turkey with all, and I do mean all, the trimmings. Dinner began with a ‘shrimp cocktail’. If there was fresh shrimp (there had to have been; we lived in the Pacific Northwest for goodness sakes); my mother had never heard of them. Canned shrimp filled two third’s of a martini glass, topped with her homemade cocktail sauce. A sprig of parsley on top and the glass was then placed on a paper doily covered saucer. On the saucer was ONE, (never two or three) Ritz cracker.
The sage, giblet stuffing, made from scratch and that means my mother saved the heels of bread loaves for weeks. I’ve never tasted dressing as good since. She would make the usual trimmings, gravy from the turkey drippings, green beans (out of a can, of course) flavored with bits of boiled bacon, baked sweet potatoes, and jellied cranberry sauce. She considered whole berry cranberry sauce savage. Home made biscuits and mashed potatoes. And then the pièce de résistance………..her oyster dressing. Heaven in a bite!
Mom & me
Not being a particularly religious family the blessing was be short. If my Dad could get away with it, he would add: “Pass the spuds, pass the meat, for
Godssakes, let’s eat.” We would toast each other with Manischewitz wine. A wine connoisseur Mom was not! And I never knew why a Kosher red wine was part of her tradition.
As dishes were passed around the table, someone would always mention my mother’s off colored joke about a “boarding house reach“. A stickler for good manners, she would instruct us that a ‘boarding house reach’ was when you could ‘reach’ for something on the table and at least one butt cheek remained on your chair. That was an acceptable ‘reach’ and not bad manners. Otherwise, you must ask politely for someone to pass down what you wanted.
the flapper days
I was never certain whether she had run a boarding house or had just lived in one sometime during her 1920’s flapper*bar owner*professional bowler* speckled younger days. If she had run a bordello it would not have surprised me! Miss you, Mom!
Footnote: “Auld Lang Syne” is a Scots poem written by Robert Burns in 1788 and set to the tune of a traditional folk song (Roud # 6294). It is well-known in many countries, especially in the English-speaking world; its traditional use being to celebrate the start of the New Year at the stroke of midnight. By extension, it is also sung at funerals, graduations and as a farewell or ending to other occasions.
The song’s Scots title may be translated into English literally as “old long since”, or more idiomatically, “long long ago”, “days gone by” or “old times”.
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