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There are some things in this life that ought not to change from year to year, lest you mess with the course of human events and the trajectory of planetary alignments. And one of those things is Thanksgiving Day.

Now, before I trigger a barrage of Yankee-fied mail, let me state for the record that I begrudgingly admit the first such holiday was held well north of the Mason-Dixon Line. But, bless their hearts, they couldn't help this fact. I'm confident, had they known about bacon grease and SEC football, they too would have ventured southerly.

There are certain things that must happen on the fourth Thursday in November for me to call it Thanksgiving Day. There has to be turkey. Yes, I know, I don't much care for turkey the rest of the year either, but I'm convinced that God himself considered an 11th commandment: "Thou shalt serve turkey on Thanksgiving because that's why I created it." I guess he thought it unnecessary to point out the obvious.

I need green beans cooked in bacon so long they just give up. A plate full of mustard-based deviled eggs speckled with paprika. Sweet potatoes that -- because they're not sweet enough in their own right -- are smothered in molasses or Karo syrup and blanketed in marshmallows to rival desserts.

I need to hear a blessing said earnestly, preferably from a gray-haired sinner in overalls who whistles it humbly through false teeth. I need to wash it down with a glass of sweet tea from an old blue Mason jar, and get the meal ate and dishes washed before kickoff.

And I need a pan full of piping hot, green-from-so-much-sage, cornbread dressing.

Yes, I said dressing. With the influx of folks from other regions into Northwest Arkansas, I find myself hearing the word "stuffing" with greater frequency. Once it becomes clear we're not talking about the contents of bed pillows and teddy bears, I'm told we're talking about the same thing. We are most assuredly not.

I've looked in the grocery store at those plastic bags of stale cubes of light bread with a seasoning packet glued to the inside and red boxes of something claiming to be made on the stovetop, and I don't recognize these items as food on any given day, much less a holiday.

For my four decades that I can personally recall, and for the prior five or six I've learned from stories told in the kitchens of my youth, I know that dressing starts with cornbread made from scratch in skillets a night or two beforehand. I know it's then crumbled with onions and celery and love with no recipe in sight, mixed by hands that are then rinsed and wiped on aprons. I know it's never shoved into the innards of a bird because we prefer not to invite Sam and Ella to our supper table.

Stuffing. You know, it is truly astounding we've had only one war between us. If dressing could've been had by all, we might have even avoided that one.

NAN Our Town on 11/24/2016

Print Headline: Fourth Thursday in November

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