It's been on my mind a lot since Thanksgiving time, so I simply assigned my sisters and me to write about turkey dressing, to take this topic in any direction.
Christy wrote about how turkey dressing fits into the ongoing story of our family and food that is different, here. Carol focused on warm memories evoked by turkey dressing, here.
Right off the top, I want to make one thing clear. I love my mom's bread stuffing/dressing for the turkey. For most of my life, it's the only dressing that was ever served with a turkey dinner and the combination of dried bread, celery, onions, sage, salt, and pepper -- help me, if you are reading this, if I've left anything out -- was always terrific and I always looked forward to eating the dressing as much as I looked forward to the turkey, potatoes, gravy, rolls, cranberries, and other Thanksgiving dinner items.
Mom put the dressing in the turkey -- I guess that means it was always stuffing -- and the turkey juices and bits of meat that flavored the dressing were very delicious.
That said, when I discovered this Thanksgiving that Christy was making a non-conforming dressing for our Thanksgiving dinner, I was ecstatic. Now, her dressing also was a dry bread dressing, but it was more adventurous than what our family had eaten over the years. Her dressing combined dried bread, sweet potatoes, fresh cranberries, carrots, onions, orange juice, and orange liqueur.
I was ecstatic, not because I don't like the dressing Mom has made for decades, but because I'm curious and love trying new and different foods.
I think this is especially important to me because I'm more keenly aware, as my sixty-second birthday approaches, that I'm becoming an old man.
I have been confronting the inevitable fact of aging by doing my best not to be averse to new things, of not wanting my life to be a string of repeating what I've done with my life before. I can't expect things to be the way the used to be.
I've been most keenly aware of my attempts to be open to things being different by having moved to Greenbelt, MD.
Unlike the first 60 or so years of my life, I now live in a densely populated place where, as a person of European descent, I am not in the majority of people who live in the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan area.
Not by a long shot. Nearly 65% of Prince George's residents are black. About 20% are white.
For the first time ever, in my day to day life, I am in the company of countless people from all over the world. I am not learned enough about the world I live in to identify people by the countries they come from, but from listening to people's speech and observing the clothes they wear, I know every day that I am shopping, eating out, drinking coffee, meeting doctors' appointments, having my hair cut, having my blood drawn, sharing the road, and walking around Greenbelt Lake that I am with Muslims, people from multiple African countries, from the Asian sub-continent, from the North and South Pacific rim of Asia, from Oceania, from the Caribbean, and from Central and South America. It being the Washington, D. C. area, I also encounter people like me, former Oregonians and others of European descent from back West and from around here, but most of the time I am different from the people I see and interact with when I walk out of our apartment home into the world of D. C., Maryland, and Northern Virginia.
I don't have anything particularly insightful to say about living in this place, about living about half way between Washington, D. C. and Baltimore, except that I'm not averse to it.
I knew when I moved here that it would be nothing like the four other towns I've lived in: Kellogg, Coeur d'Alene, Spokane, and Eugene. I had decided ahead of time that I would not bristle at how different things are, but do my best to enjoy seeing so many different ways of dressing, hearing English spoken in so many different ways, with different cadences,accents, rhythms, vocal tones, and vocal qualities, and hearing the music of so many different languages from around the world being spoken.
It's similar to the experience I had watching the movie Creed. I couldn't really put it into words very well because I am not articulate when it comes to talking or writing about matters of race.
But, I went to the movie Creed ready to see it as if I'd never seen another Rocky movie in my life and found myself enjoying its hip-hop soundtrack (with samples and hints of the soundtrack music Bill Conti wrote, starting with the original Rocky, nearly forty years ago). I couldn't quite put into words what else I enjoyed about the world and the story-telling in Creed, but then I read a piece by fellow white guy/Rocky admirer David Zirin, here, of the Nation magazine. He pointed out that "Creed is not a Rocky film", but, rather, "a Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan film", that "shows the value when conscious black directors and writers get to tell their own stories".
It's like coming to dinner and being told we are not having our traditional turkey dressing.
Do I measure the new dressing's worth against the quality of the old, or do I let the new dressing be what it is, on its own, and enjoy it?
Do I complain and grouse that living in Prince George's County sure isn't like living in Eugene or Spokane or Coeur d'Alene or Kellogg and point out all the ways that live in the West is better, or do I seek the beauty of where I live, try to enjoy how different things are, and accept the fact that the whole world has come and is coming to the USA?
Do I grumble about how black the movie Creed is with its hip-hop music, black Philadelphia slang, black street kids on quads and dirt bikes, and its story of a black kid being rescued from the prison pipeline by his black father's widow, but not his mother, enjoying an affluent life that he turns away from to become a boxer, his life's dream? Do I complain or do I go all in and enjoy Coogler and Jordan's story, their work, and the emotional richness of this movie?
And if I loved the movie Creed and the view it gave me into a life different from my own, does that mean I must turn my back on the saga of Rocky Balboa?
I loved Mom's dressing and I loved Christy's, too.
I loved living in Kellogg, Coeur d'Alene, Spokane, and Eugene and, despite having a friend back home razz me for being a traitor, I love living in Greenbelt, MD.
I loved being on the streets of Philadelphia with black kids and their quads in Creed and, in Rocky, I loved being on the streets of Philadelphia with the white guys singing harmony around fires rising out of barrels on the corner.
I don't have to pit one past experience I enjoyed against the different aspects of a new one.
In fact, there are a number of turkey dressings I've heard about that I'd like to try -- and hope I will one day.
I've had cornbread dressing -- and I want more.
I love the idea of oyster dressing.
I have read that people make sausage dressing. I'd love to have this, whether hot sausage or apple sausage or sweet Italian sausage.
I've seen recipes for cranberry pecan stuffing, cajun cornbread dressing, sourdough dressing, rye bread sausage and apple stuffing, cashew stuffing, rice stuffing with dried fruit, mushrooms, and nuts and they all sound wonderful.
As I grow older, my hope is that I'll keep drinking different beers, cooking new recipes, listening to new music, enjoying different movies, trying out different dressings -- and not expect my life and the world to be the way it used to be.
Hmmm.....I wonder..... who'll be in charge of the turkey dressing/stuffing next year in Kellogg.....