It was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving 2007. The weather a cool 29 degrees and the sky overcast in the small western Wisconsin city where I live, thirty minutes from downtown St. Paul, Minnesota. It was a busy day for me beginning with taking Thor, our beloved 12-year-old Brittany spaniel mutt, to the vet for his annual checkup. Thor got his rabies shot, blood drawn, stool and urine samples taken. It was an appointment not unlike we humans—except he didn’t have anything shoved up his butt! Lucky dog.
When arriving back home, it was time to prepare the grocery list for the next day’s feast with the regular items and trimmings: turkey, dressing, veggies, and a few spirits. Just prior to heading out for the store, it began to snow—small flakes at first, then larger flakes. The day seemed perfect.
“Over the river and through the wood, to Grandmother’s house we go. The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh, o’er the drifted snow.”
Grandmother. What a warm name that is. My thoughts turn toward my mother-in-law and how wonderful she was as a grandmother… warm, inviting, loving, accepting. Also with dinner preparations looming, I was reminded of my favorite story of Edna.
My husband, Mark, and I were finally able to host a family dinner for our three children--Katrina, six; Kyle, four; and Aaron one—and with Mark’s parents, Al and Edna. I was so proud to show off my culinary skills for my mother-in-law. However, they were short-lived.
“What are doing?” Edna asked, looking around me. She couldn’t look over my shoulder because I am almost six feet tall and she was five-foot-nothing.
“Getting ready to make the gravy,” I answered while getting the flour, cup and lid set out on the counter.
“What do you do with the cup?”
“I put the flour and water in it.”
“You don’t use cornstarch?”
“No, I use flour,” as I put a couple heaping spoonfuls into the cup. I then took the cup over to the sink and added warm water.
“You don’t use cold water?” my sweet mother-in-law asked.
“No, I use warm water.” I put the lid on and begin to shake the cup.
“You don’t use a wire whip?”
“No, someone told me the easy way to mix flour and water was to put it in something that has a tight lid and shake it up until smooth.”
“Hmmmm,” was the last she muttered during this conversation.
By the next time I made dinner showing off my culinary skills with my mother-in-law in attendance, I used cornstarch, cold water, and a wire whip. I finally passed the test.
Years went by and my dear, sweet Edna passed away unexpectedly one cold day early in October of 1991. Thanksgiving was spent at one Mark’s brother, Rick, who lived in northeast Wisconsin, about an hour north of Wausau.
Rick’s wife Teri was ready to make the gravy. She took down the flour from the shelf.
“You don’t use cornstarch?” I asked.
Teri turned toward me, giving a most puzzled look. She went back to the business of making the gravy, putting a few teaspoons of flour into a small bowl. She then went to the sink to add water.
“Oh, you use warm water?”
Now Teri was more than a little curious as to why I was asking these questions, but still said nothing. She grabbed a fork to stir the reuse.
“You don’t use a wire whip?”
By this time, Teri could no longer hold her tongue. “Why are you asking me these questions?”
“Because Edna is standing next to me watching as you prepare the gravy as I once, too, had prepared gravy.”
We laughed until we cried. Edna was with us that day, in spirit. It was the first Thanksgiving of many without this woman who loved her children and grandchildren. She especially loved her daughters-in-law—what woman wouldn’t, after raising seven boys!
I think of Edna every time I make gravy using my wire whip.
Do you have any funny stories to share?
Have a great day everyone, and