Families get their fill of Thanksgiving leftovers
When I was a kid, I was so skinny that a near-sighted guy on the track and field team mistook me for a javelin. He didn't win his event, but I took first in the long jump before I was disqualified for having outside assistance.
My two brothers and sister were also medical marvels. Scientists were baffled how much food could fit in our stomachs. They estimated half my body weight was my stomach.
Facing such daunting odds, our mother didn't have much of a chance when it came to cooking enough food so that there actually was some leftovers. It was sort of like using a teaspoon to fill in the Grand Canyon.
Thanksgiving was one of the few times of the year when she cooked more food than we kids and Dad could eat in one sitting.
Of course, she had to start well ahead of time to accomplish this feat of feeding. She collected stale bread in paper bags in the bread box, so she would have the main ingredient for the turkey stuffing, which we usually called filling.
The filling was so popular that there wasn't enough room in even the biggest turkey to contain enough to let us eat our fill. The filling overflow would be baked in pans that would be squeezed in around the turkey pan.
If there wasn't quite enough starch in the filling, there was always the colossal pot of mashed potatoes. We must have used enough spuds to boost the economy of Idaho.
Creamed corn was our token effort at including at least one vegetable in the meal. The creamed corn did serve as a diversion. I would build up a mashed-potato dam, spoon in some corn and then eat away the potatoes until the dam burst and the corn flowed into the filling.
Also on the Thanksgiving menu was a pan of pre-boiled sweet potatoes that had then been sprinkled with brown sugar and fried. I wasn't a big fan of sweet potatoes, but I couldn't pass up the brown sugar.
There were also two other sweet items to clear our palates between helpings of filling and turkey. Mother made a raspberry gelatin mold that included walnuts and pineapple chunks.
This side dish did carry its own risks. If I put it too close to the hot food, it would melt and run into the foods. Eventually, it would run into the cream corn after the mashed-potatoes dam broke.
There was only one thing to do - eat everything on the plate and then start all over again.
Cranberry sauce was my favorite, especially the jellied kind. I particularly liked to get the slices from either end so that there was an imprint of the can on them.
Finally, there was the gastronomical guest of honor - the turkey. Dad would do the carving honors at the kitchen counter, piling up two large platters with enough white and dark meat to keep us fed without him having to slice more turkey to finish the meal.
That strategy did not work. However, there was still plenty of turkey left over even after the second carving.
Thanksgiving meals fall into the same category as pasta and tomato sauce meals - they taste as good or better as leftovers as they did when they were served originally.
I could make a meal of just the leftover filling - and I often did. However, just to keep in the spirit of the holiday, I would also make turkey sandwiches.
Actually, our practice of eating as much of the turkey as possible was not completely selfless. My brothers, sister and I knew that if there was any turkey left by the week following Thanksgiving, we would wind up eating turkey a la king.
There was usually not any creamed corn left over; however, this was not because we ate so much of it on Thanksgiving. Mom knew our eating habits, so she would only make a small can for the six of us in the first place.
The leftover sweet potatoes usually met the same, sad fate. They would be placed in a Tupperware container and wind up in a seldom-seen corner of the refrigerator.
We wouldn't find it until we were looking for a place to put the Christmas ham. This was a painful discovery.
It's not that we kids had to eat the brown-sugar science experiment. We had to watch Dad eat it. Dad grew up during the Depression and could not bear to see anything go to waste.
The holiday gelatin salad and cranberry sauce rarely made it past the first round of leftovers, so I took drastic action. I hid those containers beneath the one containing the sweet potatoes and nobody looked beyond the top container.
If you are a careful reader of this column (actually, if you were a careful reader you wouldn't read this column.), you would notice that I made no mention of the Thanksgiving dessert of pumpkin pie.
That was no oversight. Even after a Thanksgiving stuffing, we kids made sure that there was no dessert left over.
(Walt Kozlowski, a freelance writer from Mount Carmel, composes Walt's Way for each Sunday edition.)