There's an old picture of me the day before either Thanksgiving or Christmas, barely tall enough to see over a table, but I had a spoon in a bowl stirring something or other "'til it looked right...you'll know when it looks right." She was within arm's reach and dropping a thousand hints that crawl out from the attic of my brain every time I'm in the kitchen cooking for a holiday. And it's impossible to spend any time in a kitchen trying to remember how to cook for an army (whether one is coming or not!) without missing her terribly and wishing to God she was still here and watching over my shoulder.
"If you use too much celery, that's all you're going to taste...celery."
"Sage bothers my asthma...don't put any sage in there. Besides, it takes over whatever you're cooking."
"If your dressing's got juice standing, put some loaf-bread in there 'til there's no juice standing. You want it wet, but you don't want it swimming."
"How much bread?"
"You'll know when you get there."
"Rub vegetable oil all over the outside of that turkey...and then a bunch of black pepper."
"But it says it's self-basting, there's no need for oil?"
"Just put you some oil on it."
"We got to put Tom in the oven..and go to bed."
"Will it be allright? Do we need to stay up and watch it?"
"The oven doesn't need our help..go to bed."
I wrote somewhere (in some blog) that if there's a heaven I'll know it when I get there because it will smell like my mother's kitchen the day before Thanksgiving. Try as I may - using all her tricks - I've yet to recreate that smell. Maybe I actually have but it just doesn't smell as good because she's not in the kitchen. I can see her now, sweat on her brow and wearing an apron that looked like it'd been drug around by a truck.
I'm trying Mama. If you see me putting way too big a pinch of something somewhere, give me that elbow - "Uh, babe,,,how much of that did you just put in there?" And I'll fix it..because the woman that taught me always told me "Don't be afraid of cooking,,,because there's always a fix."