Monday, November 22, 2010

Bacon Bloody Marys? We Have To -- It's Tradition.

A few days ago, Darling Daughter opined, “Thanksgiving is my favorite.”

“It’s not the turkey so much,” she continued, “It’s all the other stuff.  You know. The oyster roast at Grandpa’s and the orange juice at MaMama’s. The Christmas music you make us listen to.  All those decorations in Grandpa’s yard, and all those ice cream sandwiches in MaMama’s freezer.  And you know we’ll go to the Pig* at least three times.  And maybe even Bi-Lo.  Ooooooh.  And Krispy Kreme.”

Every family has traditions.  These, I guess, are ours.  Nothing extraordinary.  Nothing to do with turkeys or stuffing or football or Plymouth Rock.  Just us.  Just tradition.

We've all got 'em.  For me, Thanksgiving wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without Black Friday shopping with my sister, where our first doorbuster is predictably Starbucks. 

It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without my Gingered Orange Cranberry Sauce.  My dad’s way-too-perfect holiday display.  My mom’s kind-beyond-reality bathroom scales.  And at some point, Bacon Bloody Marys.

At this time of year, traditions dictate what we eat, what we wear, where we go, what we do.

Traditions can change, of course.  When I was in college, nachos and bloody marys at my Dad’s were an essential part of Christmas morning. Nowadays, my own kids awaken to the aroma of Sausage Bread – although tradition seemingly mandates that they each eat only a few crumbs.  A number of years back, we were also subjected to the “one-gift-at-a-time” unwrapping tradition, which I’m here to tell you, does not, in fact, make a child pause and appreciate what others are receiving, but instead, makes him or her count the very days to his or her next birthday.

And although traditions can change, I’m old enough to know that you can’t force the change.  Surely mine isn’t the only family that’s tried – unsuccessfully -- to enforce the “Let’s all write down what we’re thankful for” bit? 

We don’t choose tradition.  It chooses us.  Which is why, it would seem, Bi-Lo is part of DD’s tradition.

A huge part of my own holiday tradition is cooking.  I began baking breads (banana, pumpkin, zucchini) a few weeks back.  Spiced pecans and Crispix mix and chocolate toffee crackers will soon be spilling out of the pantry.

And since overnight company is also part of the Chez Wiles holiday tradition, I’ll also be making this comforting, familiar Cheese Grits and Sausage casserole, to serve with biscuits and scrambled eggs.

Of course, if tradition holds true, one of the kids will say they’d rather have Frosted Flakes.

Behold – the birth of yet another tradition.

* Piggly Wiggly, a Lowcountry grocery store chain. and America's first true self-service grocery store.

Cheese Grits and Sausage
I make this breakfast side dish during the holidays and when we have company, because it's easily assembled the night before. 

4 cups water
1 cup quick (not instant) grits
3 cups (12 ounces) grated sharp cheddar cheese, divided
1/4 cup milk
2 T butter
2 t Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

2 eggs, beaten
1 lb. breakfast sausage, cooked and crumbled (I prefer Neese's)

Bring water to a boil in large saucepan. Add grits, bring to a boil and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat and add 2 cups grated cheese, milk, butter, Worcestershire, eggs and Tabasco. Spoon half the mixture into a greased 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Top with crumbled sausage. Spoon remaining grits over sausage. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.  Cover with aluminum foil and chill overnight (or at least 8 hours).

In the morning, remove from refrigerator and allow to stand 30 minutes, before baking, covered at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 10 minutes, or until molten hot all the way through.

Good with scrambled eggs and biscuits.  Or instead of Frosted Flakes.

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