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Wednesday, 11 December 2013

The Recipe

By Jackie Harrison

There it was! My recipe for the sweet potato casserole! How could she claim it as hers? This occurred at one of our traditional, Southern family, Christmas dinners.

Growing up in our small, semi-rural town in Georgia, I recall all the family members gathering at my grandmother's house for Christmas dinners. In those days, most children married and raised their children where they grew up. For Christmas, every wife brought her favorite dish or dishes made from the recipes handed down from several generations. They were very proud of their cooking and beamed with pride at every compliment.

If praised enough, they would write down their recipes and share them. The most popular dishes were served each year by the originator unless she was unable or unwilling to continue making it.

Before dinner, the grown-ups drank their whiskey-laden eggnog made by my wayward aunt who was reputed to drink too much. Dinner was served around three o'clock with the children seated in a room separated from the adults.

We always knew we were "grown" when we graduated to the adult table.

If my grandmother were still alive, she would probably feel right at home at our family's Christmas dinner table. Even though people and places have changed, at least one of her recipes is still served, perhaps slightly altered, and the gathering is not always at the same house each year.

The dinner hour varies now. It depends upon when the turkey was placed in the oven. That time is determined by when the kids awake to check Santa's deposits.

No one squabbled over who cooked the turkey. It was the dressing that was important. When my mother was around, seniority dictated. She believed she was the only one who knew how to make the dressing the Southern way. It definitely was not stuffed inside the turkey! "Only a Northerner does that", she said.

The only Northerner who came close to my mother's cooking was Mrs. Lincoln. Her cookbook describes my mother to a "T.” They both believed the hand was the only required measuring tool. My mother, however, made one exception - the 4X powdered sugar box which she used to make her prized pound cake.

Even though Mother didn't think so, I knew exactly how she made her dressing. I used to make it but I never told anyone how to make it or where it came from.

This brings me back to the sweet potato casserole.

When my daughter married, she asked for my recipe. Her children didn't like coconut. She leaves it out. This makes the recipe hers.

Last Christmas everyone "ooh-ed" and "aw-ed" over her sweet potato casserole. She felt as proud as a peacock and never acknowledged that it originated with me. This caused me to recall her other actions during Christmas.

On Christmas Eve, she put the children to bed and she and her husband hurried out to get the hidden Santa gifts and place them under the tree. Together they assembled toys. Just like we used to do.

She asked, "Where are the stockings, Mom?" She hung them over the fireplace and filled them with little personal things. Just like we used to do.

They headed to bed, exhausted. "If you wake up first, call us," they said. "We want to be downstairs when the kids find their Santa toys."

Gifts to each other came next. I didn't wear my usual Santa outfit that I had worn during her childhood, thinking now it was too silly. My daughter wanted to know where it was. She said, "Wait everybody! Santa hasn't come to give out the gifts."

I put on the silly, almost worn out plastic Santa outfit, beard and all, and bounced in saying," Ho, ho, ho."

The kids said, "Aw, Grandmother," but they loved it! Christmas was just like it used to be.

The more I thought, the more I realized, "Here, in my daughter, is a large part of me." She was mimicking me and wasn't even aware of it. This was my legacy.

From that moment on I did not care if she assumed the ownership of my sweet potato casserole. She had given me much more.

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Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Very nice story, and a good one for Christmas.

Thanks for the nice sentimental story. I am the only one who wants sweet potatoes at Christmas dinner in my family so I still bring them..I usually bake 2 nice big ones and make a small dish of the vegetable. To which I add a tot of brandy! No one else takes any...in fact it gets the "Too Yucky" vote from the grand kids. Then I get to take it home and finish it off the next day.
Their loss is my gain!

Loved t,he piece great lesson in it too...tough for daughters..My Mother died young so my sisters and I never got to have those problems, darn it...Instead we all seemed to take different food things and also add a note about Mommas serving of it ..I try to keep her secret, she didn't like cooking and many things came right across the street from her older sister, Aunt Florence, who could have been a Chef...food and family and holidays always remembered and always a story..thanks for yours..

I have lived in the South for almost 50 years, and Jackie reminds me of many other Southern ladies I have known over the years at Christmas. They love traditions, and are particularly proud of their cooking skills and certain recipes they think they started on their own. That potato casserole is something I have always loved, and I wonder if Jackie's recipe can even come close to what I make for the holidays. As proud as she is of hers, which she had passed on down to her daughter, I would love to have a tasting contest featuring her best against mine. I bet this is one instance where she would acknowledge that poor Remy, a male cook who can do wonders in the kitchen, is the superior one. Amen!


I loved your story and what you said about your daughter being a large part of you.

"The more I thought, the more I realized, "Here, in my daughter, is a large part of me."

This is how Shakespeare expressed it.

"Thou art thy mother’s glass, and she in thee
Calls back the lovely April of her prime:
So thou through windows of thine age shall see
Despite of wrinkles this thy golden time."

Isn't that beautiful and isn't he saying exactly the same thing you said?

Thank you, Nancy. I wish I could have said it that well.


The greatest gift you gave her is the seamless transfer to making a tradition without the pettiness of fighting for ownership. Bless you.

So, imagine how her daughter must have felt when HER daughter (Jackie's granddaughter) wanted the recipe that was still in the recipe book hand-written by Jackie herself! Yes, I'm Jackie's daughter and my daughter reminded me, "Don't go to the trouble of copying the recipe, just make a picture with your cell phone and text it to me." That's what I did and next I expect Mom's handwritten recipe might get posted and go viral!!!! Love you, Mom

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