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HOLLENBECK: Tradition continues: Thanksgiving is approaching, so bring on the corn

November 1, 2011

It’s fast approaching the time of year when I cook.
I should clarify the statement.
We do eat at our household. We always have and more than likely we always will, but most of the time I “fix” things. I reserve cooking for people like my late mother; the Courier’s Pat Stuckey, who can cater meals to feed army-sized settings at the same time she’s doing six other things; Gail Nickerson, our Grits & Grace lady; and others who know what they’re doing when they walk into the kitchen.
I can identify a spatula in a utensil lineup, but when you get into more complicated gadgets, I’m at a loss.
For Thanksgiving, though, I actually prepare some things from scratch, as the saying goes.
There’s a possibility that I might actually enjoy cooking if there were lots of time to devote to it, rather than rushing in, throwing stuff together and counting on success. But that’s my life as I’ve experienced it for several decades and it probably won’t be changing.
In spite of being a non-cook on a regular basis, for several years I prepared the whole Thanksgiving meal unassisted. However, my grown children have taken pity on me in recent years and served as hosts, leaving only a little responsibility to me.
One year I was told I didn’t have to do anything at all, but it caused hurt feelings when I didn’t show up with the green bean casserole my daughter has to have or she pouts, or the corn casserole that granddaughter Molly wants.
I ran across the corn casserole recipe the other day and stuck it on the refrigerator, so I’m prepared this year. I’ve made the green bean casserole so many times that I’ve long since done away with an actual recipe.
Mary Bloomquist, the Courier’s classified matriarch, knows in advance that I’ll be making the Three Corn Casserole and asked me if she needed to find it for me.
It’s terrible when people know you as well as you know yourself. But Mary does recall the times when I couldn’t find the recipe and couldn’t recall any of the ingredients, except of course the corn.
Guess it would be hard to make corn casserole without its namesake.
Mary Walden of Haskell started me on the corn trail, as it were. She submitted the recipe for a cooking contest several years ago and it was included in the Courier holiday cookbook.
I knew when I first looked at it that it was something I could handle. If a recipe has only a few ingredients and the instructions are brief, I can consider it. If it’s one that takes up half a news column, I pass right on by it. I don’t have that kind of time to devote to anything that’s going to be history in a matter of minutes.
So far, every time I’ve prepared that dish, it’s turned out well. My spouse especially likes it and, as I said previously, it’s a favorite for granddaughter Molly.
It’s always a challenge for me to find instructions to make any dish. If I used my cookbooks more often, it probably would be less difficult, but I “yam what I yam,” as Popeye would say. It took me years to locate my mother’s dressing recipe, but when I finally found it, I stuck it on the refrigerator, where it remained for years. That alleviated a lot of angst.
Jack Harrison, a former Courier editor, once capsuled my cooking style in this manner: “Lynda’s recipe collection is really a road map. You start at Kentucky Fried Chicken and go up Military Road to the Dairy Queen and then on up to Minute Man ... (The names of the eateries reveal the comment was made a lot of years ago, but the pattern still holds.)
Talking about corn dishes calls to mind the memory of another Courier alum, Don Dailey. We were planning a Thanksgiving potluck at the Courier and a signup sheet was posted for people to list what they planned to bring.
Don was aghast when he saw that no one had listed corn.
“You can’t have Thanksgiving without the corn!” he exclaimed. “Remember, the Indians taught the Pilgrims how to grow corn. This is practically sacrilegious.”
He brought a corn dish so our celebration could be legal in his eyes.
I rarely think about Thanksgiving and corn that I don’t have a fleeting thought of Don, wherever he is.
By the way, in case anyone’s interested, the Three Corn Casserole derives its name from its three main ingredients — all of a corn variety, of course. It includes a can of whole kernel corn (drained), a can of creamed-style corn and a box of Jiffy corn muffin mix. You mix those together, along with 1/8 cup of softened butter or margarine, a cup of sour cream and one egg. Put the mixture into a greased 2-quart casserole dish and bake at 350 degrees for an hour or until brown on top. Then, voila! Three Corn Casserole is there to enjoy.
The preparation time takes less than five minutes, which I think is enough time to devote to any culinary creation.
Sharing the above gives me such a domestic glow that I almost want to put on an apron.

Lynda Hollenbeck is senior editor of the Courier.
lyndahol@yahoo.com

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