TRADITION

“Tradition” such a lovely word! (Musica for you girlfriends, it’s our tradition — welcome to my world!) That word brings up memories of childhood and feelings of security for the lucky ones.  Traditions are the solid foundation of a family . . . a bridge from the past to the future.  With our changing times, many traditions have been lost, but what’s wonderful is that we can start new ones!  Maybe one of these:

Tradition’s don’t have to be fancy, it’s just doing the same things the same way every year, for years and years; until a season, a holiday, or your birthday just won’t work for you until you’ve had your dad’s root beer floats, your mom’s brownies, or your Grandma’s Molasses Cookies! (These foolish things, remind me of you . . .♥)  I know some of you have tried my Grandma’s recipe, but if you haven’t, you should!  She made these cookies year after year for us, brought them to Thanksgiving, or sent them for Halloween, wrapped in waxed paper, through the mail . . . now I can’t have Autumn without them.♥

Old-fashioned, bendy, spicy, and frosted, they are perfect for tea in front of the fire, delicious with Pumpkin Latte! My dad loves them.  Here’s the recipe♥

And another tradition I could not go through the season without . . . because my house would just not smell right at Thanksgiving unless my Grandma’s stuffing, buttery, sagey, oniony, was roasting in the oven. I love to open the door and come into the kitchen from the cold outdoors just to smell that wonderful smell. It takes a little bit of preparation for this recipe, so I thought I’d remind you about it now, to give you time to think about if you’d like to try it this year. Unless you already have a traditional stuffing that your family could not live without! Then, of course, forget about this!

You can find the recipe on page 64 of my Autumn Book — but it’s so easy, with so few ingredients, here it is in a nutshell:

The way my mom did it . . . I remember her, three days before Thanksgiving, laying the bread out on cookie sheets; putting the pans on top of the hutch, on the washing machine, anywhere my seven brothers and sisters and dogs couldn’t get at it.  Nowadays, I set up my ironing board in my pantry and it works perfectly.  The bread is the plain, cheap stuff; get two loaves of white, one loaf of brown.  For three days, I turn the slices in the morning and before I go to bed at night.  I want them to be hard as rocks.  Fancy bread and/or trying to dry them in the oven does not work.  Packaged bread crumbs don’t work either.  This is very old-fashioned way of doing it; my grandma’s mom made it this way too. ♥

You need a big bowl, preferably the kind you remember from your childhood.

My Grandma always came the day before Thanksgiving . . . on Thanksgiving morning, the bread would be ready; she and my mom, and now me, fill our clean kitchen sinks with the hottest water our hands can stand, about six inches of water, and then, one at a time, we dip each slice of bread in the water, and immediately wring it out.  You can see my finger marks in the bread above.  It gets thick and chunky, doughy, chewy; you break it up, just a tiny bit, not too much, into chunks and bite-sized pieces.

When you’ve done all the bread, you melt 2 sticks of butter in a large skillet, then slowly sauté six stalks of chopped celery and three medium chopped onions until softened . . .

 While that’s happening you take an entire jar of dried sage leaves (not ground), and do what my mom and Grandma taught me to do: pour a little into the palm of your hand and rub it together over the top of the bread bowl; then, before you drop it in, look at it closely and discard any large or woody stems.  Continue rubbing the sage until you use the whole jar.  Then pour your onions and butter over the bread and, using your hands, being careful not to burn yourself, mix it all together well.  Now the tasting, which at our house was a family affair, I think half of it was eaten while we were tasting!  My dad was the final judge: He always knew . . . more sage?  More butter? Salt, oh yes!  It needs to be just a little bit salty, the turkey will absorb it . . .

You can add any other ingredients you want to make this your own; people always ask me if they can, and yes, I’m sure it would be delicious with cooked sausage, apples, nuts, oysters, or prunes, if you are of that ilk; but we have never done that and never would, because we are stuck in our ways; we like it plain and simple; the texture is glorious; with gravy, it’s pure poetry.  Have it your way, as the song goes, because tradition requires that you make yourself happy!

I miss my grandma very much; she was my friend.  See that ring on my finger?  She gave that to me for my thirtieth birthday; I’d been trying to pull it off her hand since I was two and she finally gave up.  She’s in heaven now, but when I smell her cookies baking, or her stuffing roasting on Thanksgiving Day, she’s here.♥  And that is why family food is so important, and why traditions mean so much.

It has been cold here this last week; Joe is still working in the barn, making us a wood box now, but he’s wearing a hat and jacket while he works.

And me?  You know where I am.  Tucked in, listening to the rain against the window, making our book.  There are lots more wonderful wall/winter RECIPES for you HERE,  candidates for possible Tradition-making inclusion to your family repertoire.  With love from the Heart of the Home, and me, my mom, and my grandma. xoxo. P.S. Did you love that song?  Then dancing is in order:  Play this, get up, twirling is a wonderful way to start the day — just ask Angie!  Love you.

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483 Responses to TRADITION

  1. Barbara from North Grafton, MA says:

    Susan, just loved your post today. Thanksgiving is such a great family time for us and now that we have our 1st grandson to share it with, it will be heaven. But I am looking forward to starting a few new traditions just for him and I think he’s at the age (2 1/2) that we’ll start collecting pinecones from our yard and using them in our Thanksgiving centerpiece.

  2. diana says:

    i so love reading your blog and look forward to every entry…….i miss my mama…
    she passed away 2 years ago…everytime i make fresh pasta for lasagna, i think back to cooking in the kitchen with her. with 4 sons, 2 daughters in law (soon to be 3) and one very cute grandson,i make a lot of lasagna.

    hugs from here

  3. Judith W. says:

    Hi Susan. My sister-in-law put me onto your blog,love it. It has inspired me to start a note book with all my favourite things in it,pictures,patterns,recipes etc.I am not sure whether we can get your books here in Australia but next time I am at the bookshop I will have a look.Keep up the good work!!!

  4. Gumbo Lily says:

    You’re right….the dressing has to be plain. And we like it dry-ish, not soggy. Add the gravy and it’s The Best Ever! Tradition!

  5. Charlene H. from So. Calif. (S.F.Valley) says:

    Blessings and appreciation coming your way, Susan, for this heart-warming post on Traditions! I was intrigued by your Stuffing recipe last year when I first purchased your Autumn book. This year I am definitely making it! Can’t wait it hear what hubby says when “bread is lying around everywhere”. :).
    Also, I have a painting question…do you paint to the exact size of the picture on the page? Or do you paint a picture and then reduce it down for insertion unto your printed page? As we gaze at your cozy art studio photo in this post, did you paint each picture directly on the two pages we see? I hope that I am not asking for a “trade secret”! As I study your painting, I ask myself, “How DID she DO that?!” Just part of the charm and endless draw of your books! (Pun intended!). Thank you for a posting that inspires the Girlfriends to share their family traditions. The comments posted here are treasures within themselves. Collectively, they are so charming and a wonderful addendum to your posts. Blessings upon blessings to you, Joe, Jack, Girl Kitty, and the Girlfriends during this season of Gratitude and Appreciation!

    • sbranch says:

      I almost always paint to size, and paint right on the page. Sometimes I will use the art later on a calendar or something, and then I do change the size, but it is originally painted to whatever the size is where it’s going. Thank you so much Charlene for your sweet comment! Good luck with the stuffing! I hope he loves it!

      • Charlene H. (S.F.Valley) SoCal says:

        Thank you, Susan, for answering my painting question. You are so, so dear to share…your talent, your home, your recipes, your life stories, etc. I love every bit! ❤❤❤

  6. Marcia in Brazil says:

    Traditions are essential! We have a new tradition in our family. Whomever has a something special coming up (game, birthday, etc.) eats a dinner on a one of a kind red plate. The boys love it, and feel very important! :) Are you getting ready for Thanksgiving?

  7. Nancy says:

    Are you okay??? Five days (!!!) with no blog has me concerned! I’m going into withdrawal! ;-)

  8. mary spring says:

    …dear Susan…where are you ?!?…’just imagining that you are immersed in your beloved watercolors…working so hard and lovingly on “our” England diary….I remember you writing to share that you can’t wait to wake up in the mornings to immerse yourself in your work/play…love that..(reminds me of when I first started doing pottery..I know that magical feeling..)…at any rate, I went ahead and got three “cheap” loaves of bread for your Grandmother’s stuffing…so fun…’had to explain myself at the check-out…not used to buying the white stuff…LOL…anyway, couldn’t find sage not already ground up…so I need to go to the co-op …how much will I need ? …oh, my….this is rather lengthy…. we DO miss you…but will be patient…as always, with love and take care………

    • sbranch says:

      Thank you Mary, so sorry, I wish I could just do the blog!! It’s like my own little magazine, and I love it. I see you found out how much sage to get, so I’m not going to worry about you! xo

  9. mary spring says:

    ….uh oh…I just re-checked ” Autumn” and read to use about a half cup of sage for the stuffing recipe…thank you….( I’m “twirling” with anticipation for Thanksgiving…it’s making me dizzy !!!!!! )

  10. Deborah says:

    Oh Susan,
    I think this is one of my favorite posts that I’ve ever read and I am sitting here on a crisp, clear November morning remembering my own sweet Grammy and her rice pudding recipe. I have no doubt she and your Grandma are in each others company as I tap out this message to you. So excited about your new book — your words and paintings have become a tradition in my life.
    Your Friend,
    Deborah

  11. Rosinda says:

    Hello dear Susan,

    I am going to make your grandmother’s stuffing on Thursday for my first ever American Thanksgiving celebration. I live in Canada and we celebrated a few weeks ago, in October. My mother always makes the turkey and stuffing. So, this year, I decided to celebrate the American Thanksgiving as well, just for fun! Afterall, you can’t have too much of a good thing, can you? My bread is drying on three pans as of this morning. I couldn’t find any dried sage leaves, only ground. Do you think I could replace fresh sage with the dry? I look forward to your reply! Rosinda xo

    • sbranch says:

      We have enough to be thankful for, Rosinda, we could do two Thanksgivings, no problem! :-) Hmmm. I think you can use fresh, mince it well and use twice as much as you would the dried sage. As for ground, that would be Much stronger than the dried sage leaves. Have fun!

  12. Oh, I love the picture of you and your grandma! So special that you have her ring…makes one feel close to them, always. My grandma gave me a cameo pin when I was 14….I still adore it!

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