It is that time of year again. The time of year when you reflect upon your family traditions, how they started, and why you do them. My family, both immediate and extended, has a lot of traditions. Some we still do, and others we are slowly moving away from as we all get older.
My mom was a really good cook. She also loved to bake. I share her love of baking, but I will be the first to admit that although I can cook, I do not really enjoy it. I do, however, like to eat and Thanksgiving is one of my favorite meals of the year. Because of this, I have taken over most of the cooking and baking for Thanksgiving. It is a long story, but here we go.
My parents passed away while I was still in high school. Needless to say, holidays were not quite the same after that. I was child number five, so my oldest sister is almost twelve years older than I am. I do not really remember the first few Thanksgivings after they died. I do remember however, when I decided I had to be the cook. It was a combination of two things. First of all my oldest sister is a terrible cook! (Sorry Lois). I am really not sure how this happened as my mom taught the rest of us how to cook. It took only one time of eating Thanksgiving at my in-laws to decide I just had to cook myself. It wasn’t really that it was bad, it was just different.
I make Thanksgiving like my mom, with a few additions, or new recipes. I use a large (25 plus pound) frozen turkey, for two reasons. One reason is that I had a friend who worked in a warehouse for a grocery store. He told me that “fresh” turkeys actually sit in the warehouse for several days before they are sent to the store. I am sure this is not true for every store, but it was true for the one he worked for. The other reason is that the year I decided to buy a fresh turkey from a neighbor of my brothers, it was still warm when I picked it up. Yes, it was really fresh, but it was a little too much for me.
As far as stuffing (or dressing) goes, I use my mom’s recipe that was published in The American Woman’s Cook Book that I am sure she got as a wedding present in the forties. It was originally published in 1938. Somewhere in my house I have my mom’s actual copy, which is well worn. I also have the copy that I use, which my sister found for me new in the seventies. The best part of the cookbook, besides the fact that my mom had written in it the exact way she had customized the recipe, is what is on the opposing page. Take a look. I can still remember the day I pointed out the recipe to my girls. Having only seen possum as road kill, it came as quite a shock to them. In case you are interested, the book also contains a recipe for roasted (and stuffed) squirrel that I would be glad to share.
I also bake the rolls from scratch for Thanksgiving, as there is nothing better than homemade bread. This year my oldest daughter will be doing this, as I will be working. The recipe we use rises for 90 minutes, then 30 before you ever make them into rolls, and let them rise again. I will still be baking the pies. My grandma used to be in charge of the pumpkin pie, and I have inherited her pie pan. It is 11 ¾ by 1 ½ and was made by Bake King. I could not find when it was made, but I was born in the late 50’s and it has been around my entire life. It is getting pretty worn, but it still holds a large pumpkin pie, and that is all that matters. I also bake Marionberry pie, as that is what my immediate family likes. To round this out I make cranberry sauce from real cranberries (which is really easy, by the way), and a delicious sweet potato recipe that I got from my former boss, and we are ready to take our part of the dinner and go.
Years ago I had Thanksgiving at my own house. It was way too
much work. Since then most of my extended family and my husband’s mother have
been going to my oldest sister’s house. She still can’t cook, so she is just in
charge of the mashed potatoes, relish plate and vegetables. Note to Lois,
frozen vegetables are preferred by all over canned. Also, corn is not a vegetable;
it is a starch, which we already have plenty of. She also makes the gravy,
which I can never figure out why she knows how to make. Last year we changed
this up and moved to my niece’s house,
as she has a little person. Our dinner time is always fluid, as no matter what time I put the turkey in the oven, and how long it says it is supposed to cook, it never listens. It is always done too early or too late. Never fails. Whichever happens, I just call when the turkey is done, we put everything into the car, and they start boiling the potatoes. I have a fabulous turkey pan that is covered and huge. The original one I had was my mother-in-laws from long ago, but somehow my magical husband bought me the exact same one so I could have my own.
Other family members bring different side dishes and appetizers, and all in all we have way too much food. There are usually at least sixteen of us there, sometimes more as other family members or extended family join us. It is a long day of too much food, a lot of family, and football. It is the best!
What are your Thanksgiving traditions? Please share them with us on our blog.