A Seed of Hope For Thanksgiving

L.A. Strucke

It was exactly what I needed.

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This year Thanksgiving will be a difficult time for many people. Many people are separated from the people they love because of the pandemic. It’s hard to enjoy a holiday celebration when your friends and family are so far away. Many people are alone and will have to cook up a feast just for themselves. They'll be missing everyone, and feeling disconnected.

One way to bring families closer during difficult times is by sharing recipes that have been passed down through generations. Whenever I think of my family, our stuffed mushroom recipe comes to mind. Everyone in my family has their own version of the recipe. It’s a family tradition to feature them on our table every year. Everyone loves these savory delights, smothered in Parmesan cheese and garlic that simply melt in your mouth.

One Thanksgiving stands out in my mind. That year November in the northeast was freezing. The night before Thanksgiving, I was in a warm kitchen, busy seasoning the turkey, chopping sweet potatoes, and preparing the rest of the side dishes for dinner the next day. The evening flew by and I realized I hadn’t started making the stuffed mushrooms.

It was getting late, and I was exhausted, but I was determined to finish what I started.

I pulled some lovely, large white mushrooms out of the refrigerator. Next, I grabbed some fresh green onions to chop. I retrieved fresh grated Parmesan cheese, and breadcrumbs, garlic, and butter. Then I reached in the refrigerator for fresh parsley and it wasn’t there. My heart sank. I had forgotten to buy the parsley. It was after 11 pm the night before Thanksgiving. The grocery stores were closed. What was I going to do? The fresh parsley added a lot of flavor and color to the dish. Dried parsley would not be the same.

At this point, I was too tired to be running around searching for anything that could by some miracle still be open that late at night.

Disappointed, I sat down at the kitchen table and put my head in my hands. I’d tried so hard that year to prepare. A week in advance, I'd planned out the entire Thanksgiving meal for my daughter, her fiancé, and an old friend so that things would run smoothly. I hadn't seen her in a while and wanted everything to be perfect. And everything had been going great until now.

I rose to my feet and rummaged through the spice cabinet to see if we had any dried parsley. That was another disappointment. Of course, we had everything but the one ingredient I needed. Isn't that always the way? All I wanted was to feed everyone some delicious food, and make a good impression on my daughter's fiancé,

Then a thought flashed in my mind.

Look in the garden.

That’s impossible, I thought. It was the northeast at the end of November. The growing season was over. In early Spring I’d planted some parsley seeds, but the plants would be long dead and gone by now. I’d picked my last tomato a few weeks ago and there had been a frost. There was just no way anything could still be alive.

But the thought persisted. Look in the garden.

I grabbed my heavy jacket to wear and put on some sneakers and headed outside to the yard in the dark. It was exactly as I thought it would be.

All my tomato plants were long gone, my cilantro had vanished, and my basil and pepper plants were dead. I wasn’t surprised, because it was almost December, and this was to be expected. There was nothing left. I turned around to head back into the house, but I kept feeling like I should keep looking.

With my hope lost, I headed over to a spot near the fence, where I had planted the parsley in early spring and looked down. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Everything else in the garden was dead, except for some lush, beautiful, bright green Italian parsley. I did a double-take and shook my head in disbelief. The only ingredient I still needed for my stuffed mushroom recipe was still there growing in the garden. It was perfect. What were the odds that they were the only plants still growing in the garden? I could not believe my luck. I picked a generous handful and brought the parsley into the kitchen. It was gorgeous and fresh.

It was time to get this recipe going again. I washed the parsley, chopped it up, and prepared the stuffing with renewed enthusiasm. By midnight I had finished stuffing the mushrooms.

On Thanksgiving Day, things were hectic. I ran around in an apron, rushing through all my last-minute tasks, while my daughter and I worked frantically to get our feast on the table. The timing of the finished dishes wasn’t perfect, but no one cared.

As I looked around the bountiful family table, at the turkey, sweet potatoes, salad, broccoli, and cauliflower that had all turned out well, I was so grateful. Everyone was in a great mood and enjoying the food. The mushrooms were delicious and a huge hit with the crowd.

I had a lot to be thankful for that day, but most of all for the mysterious appearance of parsley, just when it was needed.

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Photo Credit: L.A. Strucke

Our Family Stuffed Mushroom Recipe

1 1/2 pounds medium white mushrooms
1/4 cup chopped onion or green onions
1 whole stick butter (1/4 cup)
3 cloves garlic, minced
One 6 oz can of crab meat
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup parmesan or romano cheese, grated
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon dry basil
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Chop ends off mushrooms. Wash them. Gently remove stems from mushrooms and chop them finely. Place the mushroom caps on a greased baking pan.

Melt the stick of butter in a saute pan over low to medium heat. Add chopped mushroom stems, chopped onions, and chopped garlic and saute for 5 minutes or until softened. Stir in crab meat until mixed in. Stir in the rest of the ingredients and turn off the heat.

Wait until the mixture cools a little and stuff all the mushroom caps on the tray. Bake filled side up at 350 degrees for 25–30 minutes or until hot.

You may not be able to eat with your family in person this year, but you can always prepare your family's special recipes and have a video call with the people you love. Happy Thanksgiving all - stay safe and healthy.

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