Mama’s Thanksgiving Dressing

“Mix up a large skillet of cornbread.” “It takes LOTS of black pepper.” “Wash the celery really good and use the whole stalk.” “Once you get everything mixed together, taste it, if it’s not right, adjust it.” I stood at the sink today chopping ingredients for Mama’s cornbread dressing. I could hear her words as though she were standing right over my shoulder instructing me like a military colonel. It’s just down right funny how things stick in your mind. I continued chopping and pondering the years I stood, first on a stool, or sitting on the kitchen counter watching her every move until I outgrew those places. There was an unspoken message that this dish was of utmost importance to her.

 

You see, she passed away three years ago this week, two days before her favorite holiday, Thanksgiving. To Mama, Thanksgiving was all about the cornbread dressing. That’s right. I said, “dressing” – stuffing is what sofa cushions are made of and you better not get the two confused. In her kitchen, the turkey could have burned to carbon and the yams could be bitter, but the dressing was always done to perfection. I was an apprentice of cornbread dressing for fifty years, and my Mama learned from her Mama. Truth be told, I probably could have attempted the culinary dish much sooner however, while she taught me everything there is to know about this southern Thanksgiving staple, Mama would never consider allowing me to make it if she was going to eat. She prided herself as an expert and her pride only swelled with the more compliments she received over the years around the family table. As her grandchildren married and brought their spouses to her home year after year, she delighted in watching everyone fill their plates with seconds and then ask for a to-go plate before heading out the door. Nothing pleased her more.

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After her cancer diagnosis, she managed to share with the family one more Thanksgiving and one more performance of preparing a huge pan of dressing which tasted as good as it ever had in past years. In October of the following year, her disease progressed causing severe illness. I was at her house one day sitting with her. She had not been eating well as the chemo caused nausea. It was fairly early in the day when out of the blue she asked me to make cornbread dressing. At first I thought I didn’t hear her correctly. After all, I held the record for apprenticeships. I said, “You want me to make dressing?” This seemed very odd since Thanksgiving was still two months away. With a slight smile she nodded. I moved her to a chair close to the same kitchen where as a child, I had observed her cooking. She sat peacefully and watched my every move. I was careful to do it exactly in the same order and methodically as I had witnessed her, using the same knives, spoons, and bowls that she had used my entire life.

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While I knew how to prepare this dish, I couldn’t help but feel a bit anxious. My dear Mama was allowing me the honor of preparing this sacred dish for an audience of one, the Queen of Cornbread Dressing. Once it was browned to perfection in the oven, I pulled it out and placed a serving on a small plate and handed it to her. She smiled as if this plate of dressing had brought back all of her fondest memories. In her weakened state, she managed to take a couple of bites. Handing the plate back to me, she looked up in satisfaction and said, “It’s as good as mine.” At that moment, time seemed to stand still. The lump in my throat was uncontainable as I realized that I had just prepared my first and last pan of dressing for my Mama. I passed muster and a big pan of cornbread dressing.

 

About Sandy Byrd

I am a wife, mom, grandmother, aka "Honey". I am passionate about my role in life. I love to share my faith in Jesus Christ and His great love for all people. My writings are personal and come from my heart as I hope to share my vulnerable thoughts, struggles, and celebrations with you.
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19 Responses to Mama’s Thanksgiving Dressing

  1. Janet says:

    Love you beautiful posts. They never fail to bring tears to my eyes (in a good way!) please continue to post!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. vicki52672 says:

    I love reading your stories. Very emotional and yet leaves me smiling. Thank you.

    Sent from my T-Mobile 4G LTE Device

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sandy Byrd says:

      Thanks for stopping to read, Vicki. I heard you were in the old neighborhood not too long ago. I think there are some Amarylis bulbs waiting on you! Happy Thanksgiving!

      Like

  3. Millicent Yount says:

    Nothing beats a good family story. My grandmother was the one who always made the dressing for us, and later it was my daddy. He loved to cook, and he followed her recipe for this one. One year he kidded her that he thought his dressing might be better than hers. Everyone laughed, and she told sonny boy (my daddy) that he could make it every year. They were both mentors for me in the kitchen, and as I make dressing this year, I will remember both of them as you’ve remembered your mama.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sandy Byrd says:

      And great mentors they were to you, Millicent! I can just imagine what your Thanksgiving table looks like…an abundance of great food for sure!

      Like

  4. Jennifer says:

    So enjoyed this Sandra – I can see Beverly instructing you and giving you her approval May you enjoy this memory each year when it’s time to make dressing. Hope you all have a wonderful holiday – love to you all.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sandy Byrd says:

      Happy Thanksgiving to your family also, Jennifer! Such a fun time to remember all those special people in our lives…love to you and yours!

      Like

  5. Tomi Oliver says:

    This brought tears to my eyes as an Oklahoma Aunt taught me to make her dressing in pretty much the same way as yours. Now, however, I make the Oliver version of cornbread in cast iron skillet sizzling hot with butter. It honestly looks just like your picture. I make a couple pans of it, crumble coarsely the biscuits – let them dry while I am sauteing the onions and celery, add about 3 to 4 eggs to the biscuit and cornbread, season with sage, salt and pepper, and some poultry seasoning. Add butter to chicken broth and bring it to a boil and pour over all ingredients. Seasonings are “to taste”. I put pats of butter on top before baking. Do you make it differently? My old aunt used to grate 1/2 a potato and grate 1 carrot in her. I miss my Mom, too. She taught me to make hot chocolate!! I was only 33 when she died and my kids were young. I can’t wait to join her in heaven! I will sip on hot chocolate while she has a cup of coffee and a cigarette!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sandy Byrd says:

      Great memories, Tomi! Thanks for sharing. Sounds like the dressing recipes are very similar. The “to taste” is where the rubber meets the road…this gets tricky! LOL!
      Enjoy your family this Thanksgiving!

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  6. Kristine Hembry says:

    My Oma and mom made the best dressing. That is what I miss the most at Thanksgiving dinner. I have tried to make it, but it,s not as good as theirs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sandy Byrd says:

      I don’t think my dressing is either, really. It just doesn’t have the love of my mom in it – that’s the difference. Happy Thanksgiving, Kristine!

      Like

  7. Patsy jordan says:

    Beautiful, why did I never taste your motherp’s dressing?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Sallie Burk says:

    Thank you for the beautiful story. It brought Beverly back so clearly and made me happy that we have so many good memories. She lives on through your cornbread dressing. I miss her and think of her often.

    Like

    • Sandy Byrd says:

      Yes, she definitely left her mark on the world! Thank you for taking the time to read and respond! Hope you and yours are all well and wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Janice Byrd says:

    My Mom was much like yours regarding the cornbread dressing for Thanksgiving, and I am much the same way. My favorite part of the whole meal is the dressing. I miss my Mom and her dressing much like you. I never tasted your Mom’s dressing, but I can only imagine how wonderful it must have been. I am sure your girls have learned how to make the same receipe as perfectly as you did. I would like to wish you and your family a wonderful Thanksgiving as you enjoy this special treat! Love to you and Bill!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sandy Byrd says:

      Thank you, Janice! Hope you all enjoy your day with the family and have lots and lots of dressing!! Love you and Bobby!! Happy Thanksgiving!

      Like

  10. Peggy Gless says:

    It is so hard to believe it has been three years…Your story put a lump in my throat, I miss her so much. I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Though we dont see each other often all ofyou are in my thoughts. Love to all. Aunt Peggy Gless

    Like

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