Posts Tagged ‘Thanksgiving’

I think I’m in love with Thanksgiving. Seriously, I do. Probably because somehow since birth, I’ve gotten incredibly lucky and every year I’ve escaped (sometimes narrowly) the role of playing holiday hostess and have been able to simply bask in the aroma of someone else’s cooking.

After my husband and I got married, we always had the good fortune of spending Thanksgiving Day at my dad’s house with my siblings and their children. Then after his passing, we began spending the holiday at my sister-in-law and brother-in-law’s house, a day spattered with relatives from across the spectrum: in-laws, cousins, great-uncle, great-cousins, friend-in-laws, granddogs…you name it, they were all there. Ron and I have never had to go far and that’s made the day blissfully relaxing.

But when I was a kid, we usually traveled to my grandma’s house which was fun because there was always lots of family and a mountain of food. As a child I had sort of an “expectation” for Thanksgiving. Today television viewers are bombarded with commercials touting Black Friday deals and grocery bargains, but back in the 1970’s when I was a kid, it was a completely different story.

Some of you may remember those weeks preceding the holiday when we were treated to television advertisements heralding succulent roasted Thankgiving turkeys – specifically Butterball turkeys. The ads portrayed a smiling family gathered around the dining room table as Grandma, adorned in a ruffled apron, single-handedly presented a hulking browned turkey to her family on an oversized silver platter. Then the man of the family (either a beaming father or grandfather) gracefully sliced off perfect portions of the bird’s breast and placed the servings individually on each family member’s plate.

As a child, I would sit in front of the TV set dreaming about this perfect family dinner (well, mostly the turkey). I was always jubilant each November when the six of us piled into the Monoco station wagon on a Wednesday evening to make the hundred-mile journey to Grandma’s house for our Thanksgiving celebration.

Before I awoke on Thanksgiving morning, Grandma would peel endless bags of potatoes and bake quick bread. My mom’s yearly contribution to the dinner was a her specialty: a wriggling can of gelled cranberry sauce that she slurped onto cutting board with one swift shake, meticulously sliced into too-perfect round disks, and arranged on a glass plate.

I was 8 years old and vividly recall walking into the kitchen where my aunt and mom were assisting my grandma with the dinner preparations. I remember standing in the middle of the room, scanning and sniffing while turning in a slow deliberate circle.

Where the heck was the turkey?

“Mom…?” I asked in a hushed voice, probably two or three times before she broke her gaze from slicing the cranberry circles to look at me. “Where’s the turkey?”  I asked nervously.

She glanced over at Grandma who was digging for something in the freezer drawer before saying, “We’re not having turkey. Grandma’s frying chicken.” My eyes must have been the size of large eggs because I could clearly see my mom’s panic when she witnessed the horror on my face. She knew how for weeks I had been glued to the Butterball television commercials. She knew was going to blow a gasket.

“Whaaaaatt????!! No TURKEY?!”  I said with my hands clasped together, eyes wide in dismay.

My mom leaned over to me and whispered sternly, teeth tightly clenched, “Grandma’s making chicken. We’ll have turkey another time.”

I was stunned. Shocked. Crushed. And pretty darned mad when I finally noticed the electric pan near the stove was filled with your average Hy-Vee fryer chicken.

My mother sharply “Shhhh’d” me with a tight arm squeeze and “reminded” me to be thankful. Then, she pointed toward the dining room which meant I should keep quiet and join my sisters and cousins setting the table.

When we finally sat down and dinner was placed on the table (which I pretty much expected to be served from the colonel’s red and white cardboard bucket), I stuck to the mashed potatoes and gravy, some corn, and a few cloverleaf rolls slathered in butter. If I wasn’t getting turkey, I decided I was going to be on a poultry strike. But then I looked across the table and thank goodness, along with the Thanksgiving chicken, my grandma also decided to serve Easter ham.

Isn’t it interesting the stuff we remember from holidays of our past?  When I mentioned to my siblings my chicken memories of yesteryear, they didn’t remember a thing. I think this is what psychologists call dissociative amnesia – extreme memory loss caused by a traumatic experience. But sometimes, isn’t it the weird stuff that memories are made of?

It scares me a little bit when I think about the recollections my kids will take from this house when they finally have families of their own. But, just in case, I’m thinking about frying up a little bit of Thanksgiving chicken just to make sure they have something to reminisce about in years to come.

Do you have Thanksgiving memories that you’ve never forgotten? Does your family have any food traditions for the day that are considered “out of the norm?”

Please comment and share!

Heard on NPR
Nationally Syndicated WNYC



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