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Remembrance of Thanksgivings Past

Though my parents were immigrants to the U.S., we embraced the Thanksgiving Holiday, complete with all the traditional Thanksgiving foods: cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, and, of course, turkey, stuffing, and gravy.

 

A day or so before Thanksgiving, the turkey, if frozen, came out of the freezer and went to soak in some cold water in the sink to thaw. But Thanksgiving morning, the preparations began in earnest. Bright and early in the morning, probably as early as some children get up on Christmas day, I would bound out of bed because I had an important job to do. My job was to toast and cube the many loaves of store-bought bread that would go into the stuffing. The toaster came off the counter and onto the kitchen table to be better able to access it. I sat at the table, happily toasting and cubing amidst the bustle of other activities. On top of the stove, onions and celery were being fried in butter for the stuffing. The turkey was washed, inside and out, and the neck, the liver, but not the kidneys nor the heart, went into a pot with some vegetables and water for the turkey stock. The sweet potatoes were washed.
Finally, mid-morning, everything was ready to be assembled. Toast cubes were mixed with onions and celery in an enormous bowl with generous amounts of poultry seasoning. When everything was mixed, we all got small bowls of this stuffing for our breakfasts. Then the stuffing of the bird commenced. Thread and needle were prepared. Someone would stand the turkey up while someone else packed the stuffing into main cavity. Slices of apple were positioned at the opening. And then skin was overlapped and stitched with needle and thread. The bird was flipped over and more stuffing was put into the other end. More thread was used to tie the legs together, a roasting pan was lined with aluminum foil, and the bird went into the pan, covered with more aluminum foil, and finally put in the oven. At some point, sweet potatoes were positioned around the roasting pan.

 

Then there was the waiting, during which the china was taken out of storage boxes and the table was set. After hours of cooking, the turkey was finally removed from the oven and the frantic last-minute making of the gravy using the stock and the all-important drippings from the roasting pan took place. Around the table, dishes were piled high with slices of jellied cranberry sauce from a can, baked sweet potatoes cut in half, turkey slices, mountains of stuffing, and hot gravy poured over it all.


Now, preparations proceed at a more leisurely pace, since dinner is often late in the afternoon. Marriage brought another tradition into my family preparations: my husband makes pies, both a pumpkin pie and a pecan pie, usually baked the night before.Fresh cranberry relish replaces the canned jellied cranberry sauce. The dressing includes kale from our garden. We are now vegetarians, so there is no turkey to stuff, but a celebratory roast from Field Roast to bake. Gravy is made with vegetable stock. Sweet potatoes are still baked, but sometimes wild rice with mushrooms is added to the menu. Something green, usually a salad, is included.


Family gathers. Festivities begin.

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