“So much is taste, smell, and texture.”

For generations our grandmas, aunts, and moms have shared valuable lessons in cooking with us.

My aunt swears by the venerable, mystery-shrouded black magic of the Thanksgiving recipes scratched down on tattered yellow paper from our favorite womanly wizards of the kitchen. She worships these recipes.

I showed up to Thanksgiving a few hours early at my aunt’s house to renew my childhood memories of the celebrated, age-old, sacred meal and watch the lore unfold. She worships these recipes and moments. And so do I.

As preparation began, my wizardress of an aunt only briefly glanced at the ancient spell book to concoct our turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and casseroles. She ignored the fine-print and quietly murmured incantations over her sorcery. I could only think how elevated the level of respect that we all have for these magical spells that stir up these ancient, spell-binding enchantments…and yet, she neglected the majority of these recipes. I asked why we herald these recipes so much yet don’t strictly follow the tried and true records for success. She responded, “We use them as a guide. So much is taste, smell, and texture. I don’t claim to be a good cook.” Immediately she splattered sautéed onions on the tablecloth, “Shit! I just made a mess.”

Damn straight. Life is messy. And we have a sacred guide lined out for us: well-recorded history, family stories, dramatic failures, unlikely successes, and hysterical legends. The hope is not to repeat the same story over. We embrace differences and react and pivot as deviations come up. We look to our idols as a recipe, a guide, but we mix things up because, “So much is taste, smell, and texture.”

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