Thanksgiving made easy

My hope is that your Thanksgiving, the one you’re having or the one you’ve just enjoyed, was, well, enjoyable. No, delightful. Caloric, but not catastrophically so. And familial, certainly, for what can one be more thankful than family? Blood kin or crafted through matrimony, or from friendship, family is the stuff of any holiday.

Alas, 2013 brought the first Thanksgiving in longer than three decades that my beloved and I were apart. Her parents, now in their 80s, couldn’t abide the trip from Georgia to Arkansas, so they bade all who wished to join them at their Florida coastal getaway. A fair enough idea, since it’s been months since we’ve seen them, but leaving Arkansas would leave our two adult offspring and their spouses and the three grands unattended during Thanksgiving, and we can’t have that. So, I remained behind.

But — what about the dressing? Two of them, actually: M’Amie’s famous cornbread dressing and the second version, with sausage? Wouldn’t be a cold-weather holiday without them. What to do?

No worry, there would be dressing aplenty — both varieties — at our daughter’s home, where everyone save M’Amie would gather in her absence. Our daughter, I knew, had no appetite for competing with M’Amie’s dressing, either variety. Wouldn’t attempt it. As I told M’Amie.

“I’ll do everything, well, almost everything, in advance,” as she told me. “All you’ll have to do is mix it. It’ll be easy.” She thought for a moment.” Even you can do it.”

I could even gather the ingredients, some of them, which Beloved texted me the following day. Verbatim:

10 cans broth

Onion 2


8 pkgs cornbread mix

(4 sweet cornbread, 4 buttermilk Martha White)

All Ready Pie crust

Pumpkin pie filling in can


Brown sugar light

regular sugar small

1 cup chopped pecans

Sweet potatoes 4

Small flour all purpose


Which, upon my arrival at the supermarket, led to an exchange of text messages. Verbatim:

Did you get list?

Yes. @ store now.

Which led to:

What kind broth?

Sorry— chicken

One minute later:

What onion?


In another two minutes I had found the pecans but none were “chopped.” So:

Pecan chips? Halves? Pieces?


She had an immediate follow-up:

Can you add chili powder?

yes add to chili to taste

cute, real cute


One what?

One chili powder

yes one

Two minutes and several aisles later:

Chili powder can or envelope?



Libby what, who?

pie filing

There are two l’s in filling

(No response to that).

1 small can Libby?

how many oz?

small is 15 oz

that’s it

Ten minutes or so have passed. Even I can do this.

Is pie crust frozen or what?

No — over by biscuits in long red box

I supposed that meant cold. So, to the cooler. Over by the biscuits.

Unroll & bake?


Two to package?


Store brand is cheaper by a buck-20

NO! Pillsbury

And since I was at the cold stuff…

Dozen eggs large?


Then, immediately:

no…get 18. no 2 dzn

u mean no get 2 dzn, get 18?

no get 24, 18 enuf

Then, working my way backward, to the “Baking Needs” aisle. And…

Martha White kidnapped

you sure?

Martha this Martha that but no Martha buttermilk

no mind I get later

So she did. And then spent the day before her departure for a warmer latitude cooking up the stuff that all I had to do was mix up. It would be easy.

At the conclusion of her labors she sat at her laptop and fired off a long list of instructions for making it easy. The most important were the ones at the end:


Have [our daughter] read this and make sure you’re doing correctly!

Call me if you have any questions.

You can do this! I love you.

It was easy, our daughter told me. Even I could have done it.

Steve Barnes is a native of Pine Bluff and host of Arkansas Week on AETN.