This may look like a plate of mostly unappetizing golden mush to you, or really,
anyone with standard powers of observation. Which is fair enough.
But to me, this is a tasty memory of my daughters' early childhood years
and my journey of mothering.
Our story began this past post-Thanksgiving weekend with a plate full of leftover turkey and a family who was tired of eating it.
Well, technically, it goes back to a plate of leftover turkey from a Thanksgiving back in the 1990s and an old school Better Homes and Garden recipe. You know, the recipes that were printed side by side and front to back so that the page could be ripped out of the magazine, cut in two, and added to your standard BH&G binder-style cookbook. I tried a lot of those recipes back in the day, and one for a turkey tortilla casserole became a standard device for using up leftover turkey and a part of our family post-Thanksgiving traditions. For a time, anyway.
Note the five hole locations provided along the right margin of the page.
This way you can properly punch them for ease of loading into your cookbook binder.
Over the years, this dish fell from favor, and honestly, I forgot all about it. Until yesterday as I was flipping through a treasure trove of old recipes, looking for a different old-time favorite for using up leftover turkey. I never did find that one, which involved spaghetti pasta and a creamy Worcestershire sauce. But my husband looked over my shoulder and asked if I still had the recipe for the leftover turkey recipe with ripped tortillas. Now that is a truly distinctive ingredient and in a flash, I knew the one he meant. An instant later, the nostalgic page was in front of me, and our destiny was cast.
What a classic twentieth century meal. Featuring the aforementioned leftover turkey and ripped corn tortillas, this casserole features just a few bits of vegetables - onion, celery, green chiles - oodles of cheese, and a sauce of Campbell's cream of chicken soup. Such meals have mostly fallen out of favor in the new whole foods millennium but that just adds to the festive feel.
So on Saturday evening, I whipped up a nostalgic batch of this casserole. And with my very first bite, I saw four little blonde girls squeezed in around the table, silverware flashing as they hungrily ate, bites interspersed with squeals and laughter and the usual bedlam. I remember the old blue wallpaper on the dining room walls, their striped dresses and tights and little Mary Janes, crooked pony tails and bright pink cheeks.
Though these are the kind of memories that often stir up a sense of loss in a mature mother's heart, by no means did they make me sad.
Tasting this dish again reminds me of the thousands of dinners I've cooked for my family, the hundreds of recipes I've tried, and the dozens of turkeys whose leftovers I have used up.
Tasting this dish makes me feel like a warrior and a survivor.
Tasting this dish reminds me that I am - and have been for a really long time - a proper mom.
Tasting this dish makes me proud.
And in the end, I am amazed to think of all that came from a plate of leftover turkey.