I love Thanksgiving. One Thanksgiving Day long ago, I was invited to a very deeply Southern family’s Thanksgiving dinner. I worried over what dish I could make and bring to add to the feast and show my appreciation. I thought on this for many days. Here is the story.
I am not the best cook but, I am very daring and creative in the kitchen. Being raised as an Air Force brat, traveling a lot when young and then settling down in the deepest part of rural South Georgia for the remainder of my childhood, I guess I was exposed to many unique dishes. Things like sour cream gravy, cream of wheat and oyster dressing. Yes! That was it! My Mother always made the best oyster dressing. Our Thanksgiving meals were very different from the traditional Southern Thanksgiving dinner.
I decided to expose my fine Southern friends to my Mother’s oyster dressing. It is a recipe handed down to me and I rarely had a reason to make it for myself. I was delighted with my creative dish idea and happily set about whipping up this wonderful dressing. I could not wait to get it to the table. The first sign of trouble was when a friend picked me up, on her way to the Thanksgiving dinner. We both were headed to the same destination and she had offered to give me a ride. I settled into the car, proudly holding my large pan full of oyster dressing. As we drove off, she said “What’s that smell?” I informed her that she would soon find out. I felt a twinge of alarm but, I tried not to worry about it.
As we arrived at our destination, I carried the pan of dressing in and put it on the table, along with the many other dishes. Thanksgiving began and after grace was said, we all dug in. I noticed some did not delve into my dressing but, a few did. One of them was the hostess. I watched as she lifted a fork full of my dressing to her mouth. She wrinkled her nose, gasped and swallowed. She said “Who brought this?” gesturing at my dish. I proudly said “I did. Do you like it?” She asked “What is it?” I became uncomfortable, blushing and stammered in a low voice “It’s oyster dressing.” She started laughing. Most of the table erupted in laughter. I felt very bad. I could have died. What is wrong with these people, I thought. More importantly, what was wrong with my oyster dressing?
After all of laughter, giggling and eye rolling stopped, my hostess told me that she hated oysters. Oh no! Still, she said it was good dressing and I got the “Guess what this dish is” award for the day. Oh, great. I don’t think the redness left my face until the next day. Interestingly enough, her statement caused many at the table who now knew exactly what the dish was to try it. I still don’t know if they really thought it was good or if they were just being kind. They said it was delicious. Mind you, most of the dressing was eaten so, they couldn’t have been lying, could they? I will never know. But, I do know this. What not to bring to a Southern Thanksgiving dinner. Oyster dressing. Half there did not know what it was, half couldn’t understand the seafood smell at a Thanksgiving table and some, well, they just plain hated oysters. The next year, I did have the courage to show up again but, I brought the cokes. It would be many years before I was not eyed with suspicion when bearing a dish. Whew. Happy Thanksgiving!