Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. It is the day we all eat until our bodies ache and simply cannot move. Then comes the nap. Consider it an award of your culinary accomplishments if everyone falls asleep a few hours after the meal.
When I was growing up we always went to my grandparents’s house for Thanksgiving. It was up an at ’em bright and early as we had an hour drive and we could not miss Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV. We would arrive between 8 & 9 am and the house was already filled with the wonderful smells of nana’s cooking. We had a large family, so she had been baking pies and breads, fudge, and all kinds of wonderful goodies for us to munch throughout the day. When we arrived she had always starting the stuffing, which as a kid I did not like to eat, but I always loved the smell of it. She made it the old fashioned way, giblets and all. My dad would help her prepare the turkey, which we always referred to as “Tom.” The turkey was always huge, so my dad had to hold on to it while she stuffed him to the brim with her wonderful stuffing. Then it was also dad’s job to put Tom in the oven as the sheer weight of the turkey was more than most of the women in our family could have managed. Nana would rub him down it butter and sprinkle sage and spices on him and then he would be hidden away in the oven and would emerge hours later looking like a golden masterpiece. As a child I didn’t really pay much attention to the work that went into the entire meal, but as I grew, Nana taught me a few secrets and allowed me into the inner sanctum of her kitchen to help. Between my dad (who is one of the best cooks I have ever met) and my Nana, I truly had the best cooking teachers in the world. They never measured anything unless it was for bread or pastry. Everything was done by taste and smell and approximate. I learned a dollop was about a heaping tablespoon, give or take and if the texture didn’t come out right add a little more of something. It was a bit of a learning curve at first, but it helps to be adaptable in the kitchen.
There was always enough food for an army. Every kind of vegetable you can imagine, every kind of pie you can imagine. There was pickles, olives and peanuts. There was bread pudding, chocolate pudding, and tapioca pudding. We had mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes. Squash, Corn, Peas, Green Bean Casserole, Carrots, Beets, Turnips, boiled onions and beet greens and turnip greens. We had apple pie, blueberry pie, mincemeat pie, pumpkin pie, cherry pie, lemon merangne pie, and chocolate cream pie. There was peach cobbler and apple crisp. There was fresh real whipped cream. It was heavenly. In the end everyone left with huge bags of leftovers that would feed their families for a week.
I remember going to the local High School Football Turkey day game between Deering and Portland High School. It was the annual grudge match and we always had fun cheering for Deering High as my mom and her brother and sisters all graduated from Deering.
I also remember the year I graduated to the “adult” table. That was a right of passage for me. And then there was the year of the food fight! My mother’s sister and brother got into a little spat at the dinner table and stuff started flying. Needless to say, Gramps put a stop to that pretty quickly as someone hit him with a carrot or something! In our family when Gramps barked, everyone listened. It was just the way it was.
We would all gather around the piano and sing Christmas Carols and it was just a joyous and festive day. It was a day to be Thankful. A day spent with family and friends. Good food and good times. Great memories.
Times past, Gramps and Nana have left this world and the family has developed their own traditions and gatherings. I now live far from my childhood home and family. So I had to make my own traditions and adapt them to a small group of people instead of the army that was our family. I still have a little bit of Nana with me every year. She crochet me an apron which I wear every Thanksgiving in her honor. Dad taught me how to make my own Tom Turkey as well as many other goodies. I have adapted recipes to add my own touch or flair to them. You can do the same. It is quite easy once you get started. I’ve listed some of my favorites in the Thanksgiving Feast. Feel free to make them your own. You can make a wonderful Thanksgiving whether it is just you and your other half or you do as we do and invite friends who don’t have family around. Love is the most important ingredient in the recipe for a Happy Thanksgiving. It is actually the main ingredient for a happy life, not only on Thanksgiving, but everyday. I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving and is able to be thankful for something in their life, even if it is only life itself.