Below is me detailing my recent trip to Mobile, Alabama.
Conversation for Thanksgiving prep started on Saturday. Ms. Ella says Monday is the day to start. She wants to get the pies and cakes out the way. Sweet potato pies and pecan pies. She makes a mental note that she has one son in particular that likes, no loves apple pie. He will ensure everyone has had a piece and take the rest home. If anyone hasn’t gotten a piece than too bad!
I enter the kitchen and I see the pecans in a bowl. “Prep for the pecan pie??” I ask Doug. He lets me know that Ms. Ella purchased the pecans pre-cracked, this is to remove the bitterness. She’s now letting them dry out for a few days prior to roasting.
The Kitcheniesta informs her followers that if your turkey is currently frozen as of Saturday, it should be removed for a proper thaw. I confirmed this with Doug, and he agrees, that if you want to season your turkey with brine etc this is definitely necessary.
In the midst of this conversation we conjure up what we’re having for lunch. Foosackly’s or should Doug thaw out chicken to fry? I spent $20 USD on food alone yesterday so I wasn’t particularly inclined to buy food again on only day one here in Mobile. So Doug thaws the chicken and fries it. I’m bout to have southern fried chicken. Yes. String beans or corn? Doug asks, I’m not sure what this is for so I just say corn. Ms. Ella reminds Doug to not forget the love – the butter and sugar. Whatever it is, I can’t wait until lunch.
Back to Thanksgiving, so we’re having two turkeys. Yes two! One fried and one smoked. Welcome to Thanksgiving in the South.
On Sunday, Ms. Ella and her youngest son (Doug) argue over whether ribs is on the menu for Thursday. Ms. Ella with the quickness informs Doug: “ohh noo, we having fried turkey, a smoked turkey, sausages and fried chicken. Won’t be no ribs.” She complains of people helping themselves to all five meat portions until their plates are filled to the brim. During this conversation we can hear the high school alumni carrying on up the street. This week is alumni week for Mobile. Doug’s dad went to an alumni party the night earlier, he’s in his 70s.
Back to Thursday’s dinner – don’t forget about the greens. Collard greens to be exact. Cleaning them and cooking them, Ms. Ella is keen on doing her greens and no one else’s. I love collard greens because they remind me of callalloo, a similar green cooked in the West Indies.
On Monday evening Doug’s brother Wayne confirms that Thanksgiving dinner will start at 12:30. He alluded that we’ll all be full from picking at the food prior to. I can’t admit that he’s wrong.
After going to the Oakleigh Complex and purchasing my must have Foosackly’s, Nakita, Doug, CJ and I return home to find Ms. Ella prepping her sweet potatoes for the candied yams. She had already peeled the sweet potatoes and was slicing them. She soaked them in a bowl of water prior to boiling. I realized that Southerners, or Americans in general refer to sweet potatoes as yams, I don’t because in the West Indies, there’s another starch vegetable that is less sweet that we refer to as yam.
Later that evening I smelt the sweet smell of sweet potatoes and nutmeg… Ms. Ella had her pot of Heaven boiling and offered Nakita and I to try some, yes please!
Tuesday morning, I make my way to the kitchen with CJ for his morning cereal. To my surprise (and happiness) Ms. Ella had THREE sweet potato pies in the oven baking. “Getting a head start on your pies?” I ask Ms. Ella, “Oh yes m’am, you know it.” She answered.
By Tuesday evening Ms. Ella had the sweet potato pies done but was unsatisfied with the smoothness of her pies due to a bad batch of sweet potatoes. Nevertheless, they tasted delicious. I had piece for snack and for breakfast Wednesday morning.
Doug’s older brother Kevin finished making the ham and Ms. Ella prepared her chicken stalk for her famous dressing (which I love). The broth consisted of chicken quarters which she wanted boiled until the meat was falling off the bone. She then begins cutting up her celery and onions, the cornbread had already finished baking.
Cornbread, celery, friend onions and chicken broth with a cream of chicken soup all mixed together. This sounds simple but I know there’s a secret touch that Ms. Ella has to this dressing recipe.
It’s the day before Thanksgiving, yes there’s lots of cooking but none of it can be touched until tomorrow. So what to eat? After having sweet potato pie for breakfast, my mind is set on Rodgers. Arguably the best barbecue in Mobile.
Nakita wanted Foosackly’s and Ms. Ella and Doug wanted seafood from Love’s. Doug made a stop at all 3 restaurants. While in Rodger’s Doug changes his mind about getting Love’s and succumbs to the smoke barbecue smell inside Rodger’s – a Mobile legend.
Thursday finally came and we wait patiently. Wayne begins frying his turkey in the yard outside and it smells delicious. He brings 3 sweet potato pies with him as well.
At 1:14pm we had just about had it with the waiting. Unfortunately the power went out while Wayne was frying the turkey and this delayed the eating. Thankfully Doug’s father, Mr. James came to say grace at about 1:45 and Ms. Ella wanted everyone to say what they’re thankful for. The consensus was family, life and God.
My plate looked like:
Whew. Welcome to Thanksgiving in the South.