The original recipe card Betsy Wharton’s mother, Dolly, used for chicken stuffing every Thanksgiving. (Betsy Wharton/for Peninsula Daily News).

PENINSULA KITCHEN: Use today as day of post-Thanksgiving reflection

THANKSGIVING SUNDAY, A reflection on this traditional American feast.

I grew up the descendant of pilgrims where Thanksgiving always included the story of Native Americans who taught us newcomers wearing impractical hats to grow corn, thereby saving us from starvation.

At the harvest, they broke bread together and gave thanks.

Whether this story is historical or mythical, at heart, it’s a story about self-reliance and the generosity of neighbors.

Family tradition

My family’s tradition always included turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, sauerkraut, cranberries and a choice of apple or pumpkin pie for dessert.

All of the guests and all of the food would be laid out on the table and then we would bow our heads.

My father said grace and asked us all to silently consider our blessings.

This year, I am especially grateful for the people in our community.

We aren’t perfect and never will be, but here are two things that I love the most.

For one, people out here in the rain shadow generally take an active pride in their self-reliance.

We fish, hunt, farm and bake bread. We use chain saws and post hole diggers.

There are a lot of people who are ready and able to roll up their sleeves when a job needs to be done, not because it’s trendy; it’s just who we are.

Tremendous generosity

The other thing that inspires me about our community is the tremendous generosity between neighbors.

Just today, I heard a story about a single grandmother with arthritic hands raising a 17-year-old foster kid with a history of prenatal meth use.

“He gets upset sometimes and I can’t always get him to calm down. So I go into my bedroom and I lock the door,” said this curly haired 5-foot-1 grandma wearing a red-and-green Christmas cat sweatshirt.

“In the bedroom, I call my neighbor and he comes right over.”

The neighbor, who happened to be standing there, continued the story: “He’s a great kid. But his brain is like a filing cabinet where all the file folders are out of place. When he gets too much going on in his head, I just help him get his file folders back in order.”

Neighbors helping neighbors.

I hear these stories all the time around here, especially when it comes to helping children.

I am in awe of the generosity in this community.

The recipe that follows is my mother’s mother’s Thanksgiving stuffing recipe.

It is an easy and reliably delicious recipe.

My mother’s family came from Baltimore, where her parents struggled through the depression years, couch surfing when money was scarce and my mother was one of the most kind and neighborly people I have ever met.

This stuffing is comfort food: buttery, moist and savory.

Hopefully, it will make you feel right at home.

Dolly’s chicken stuffing

Enough for a 5 pound chicken

1 cup celery, stalks and leaves

1 large onion

½ cup parsley (if desired)

½ cup melted butter

¾ tablespoons leaf thyme

¼ teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

8 cups breadcrumbs (two slices usually equals 1 cup torn breadcrumbs)

Chop celery, onion and parsley (if desired) together until fine.

Add to melted butter. Cook for 10 minutes over low heat.

Take from fire and add leaf thyme, salt and pepper.

Pour this mixture over the breadcrumbs. Add a few spoons of hot water or broth to moisten if needed. Do not make soggy.

Roast in a sealed dish or foil packet outside of the turkey for 25 minutes at 350 degrees.

My mother always stuffed this mixture inside the raw turkey.

It is currently recommended that you cook the stuffing outside the turkey.

Ensure that moisture cannot escape while roasting to avoid dry stuffing.

Use any kind of bread you like. My mother used store brand white bread and it was delicious.

I always sneak in something with more whole wheat and other grains, whichever you prefer.

________

Betsy Wharton is a Port Angeles Farmers Market vendor, Washington State University Extension food preservation information assistant and a registered nurse at First Step Family Support Center. More about her pickling enterprise can be found at www.Clallam CanningCompany.com.

The original recipe card Betsy Wharton’s mother, Dolly, used for chicken stuffing every Thanksgiving. (Betsy Wharton/for Peninsula Daily News).

Betsy Wharton/for Peninsula Daily News The original recipe card Betsy Wharton’s maternal grandmother, Dolly, used for chicken stuffing every Thanksgiving.

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