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Small Talk: Stepping up to the plate this Thanksgiving

hope you are relaxing somewhere comfortable, munching a turkey sandwich from leftovers, as you read this. Another Thanksgiving has come and gone and I feel reasonably triumphant. It was my first time hosting the whole shebang.

No laughing. It wasn’t that I wasn’t willing. My mom simply loved to cook and bake and have holidays at her house, so we always did. Yes, I would have helped. Nope, she and my dad did not want help. They knew what they wanted on that table, and how it should taste, thank you very much. Now get out of the kitchen.

I admit I never fought their edict very hard. We loved going over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house. When I wasn’t looking though, I became the matriarch of the family, and I’m still getting over the shock. Let’s just gently say I am not the cook my mom was and don’t find her level of joy in the kitchen.

So how did it all turn out? Well, no one was laid low with food poisoning and nothing burned. I call that a win. The preparation began, unknowingly, a week ago, when my daughter asked if I would help her make scratch mashed potatoes for a “Friendsgiving” party she was going to. “Well, sure,” I said, not having a clue what I was signing up for.

At least I managed to boil the potatoes the night before — all 10 pounds of them. By now, my child had pointed out that she was making potatoes for 14. The next morning began with rubbing peels off the spuds and cutting them up. At this point, I had a vision of my mother putting the potatoes through her big, silver ricer, which I chose not to keep a few decades ago.

So, first we tried to mash them in the food processor, which proved inefficient. We then switched to hand mashing and I realized why true cooks have the arms of a Green Bay Packer. Then we began adding the butter, the cream cheese, the half-and-half and the salt — and we mashed some more. I then went after them with an electric hand mixer, which usually will take the lumps out of gravel.

Finally I pointed out to my adorable girl-child that these potatoes were not going to be fluffy and lump-free. To my great relief, she came back with, “Oh, that’s fine! The lumps are how you can tell they are made from real potatoes.” That worked for me.

The potatoes were delicious, and two large pans went out the door. To my delight, one large pan came home again. I swiftly looked up how to freeze mashed potatoes for future use, made them into small patties and — bingo — one Thanksgiving dish finished. I did my happy dance, and had the kids help with the green beans, turkey, stuffing, ham, sweet potatoes and pies.

Leftovers are a wonderful thing.

Jean Gillette is a freelance writer and, finally, a holiday cook. Contact her at [email protected].