Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Traditions

Tyler Florence used to have a show on Food Network where he would help people who were trying to recover a long, lost recipe. People would ask for help on recapturing Grandma’s Beef Stew or some other childhood favorite. Taking information about the person’s ethnic heritage, foods available in the location that they lived, and other family history, he’d come into a person’s home with two recipes. One would be a proximity–or best guess–on how the person’s grandmother might have made the dish and then he’d give his own take on how he likes to prepare the dish. I couldn’t find the show listed on the Food Network,  so I don’t think its still on the air. The closest I could find was something called “Rescue Chef.” Since it’s Thanksgiving week, I started thinking about “lost recipes” and other traditions that have gone by the wayside. My Aunt Jo always talked about her mother’s, (my Great Grandmother Anna Ruth Buchanan Sullivan’s) Ambrosia Salad. The recipe was so special that she even had a specific dish that it was put in. My Aunt Jo inherited the dish and when you entered her home, she’d point up to the top of her cabinets to the large ceramic bowl. I have never tasted my great grandmother’s Ambrosia Salad.

It makes me sad because it is a tradition that has been lost. Even though my mother just passed away this year, it won’t be the first Thanksgiving I’ve spent without her fantastic feast. For he last 15 or so years I have observed Thanksgiving with my in-laws who’s Greek heritage comes with its own host of traditions. I’ve gone at least 15 years without my mother’s Turkey stuffing. My husband’s family doesn’t serve stuffing. Instead they have a delicious rice alongside their beautiful roasted bird. Still, this year, because of the loss of my mother, I have been wondering if I’ve already lost the recipe of her stuffing. Stuffing was never a major dish at my mother’s Thanksgiving dinner, but it was always my favorite. In fact, the very first Thanksgiving I spent with my in-laws, I made my husband “swing by” my parents house afterward. I told my mother I was in culture-shock without her stuffing and she packed up a care-package for me. Stuffing was not in my husband’s traditions so he didn’t really get it. All the more for me. 
I see magazine covers touting “traditional” oyster stuffing, or cranberry raison stuffing or some other obscure concoction, but they all seem so foreign to me.

A roast turkey prepared for a traditional U.S....Image via WikipediaMy mother’s stuffing, was so simple it was almost a crime. Its not a recipe she would brag about–and she really could brag about being a great cook. Some of her recipes even won awards. This was just plain ol’ warm your tummy, stuffing. It was simply bread chunks, celery, broth and seasonings, baked until there was a crust on top. Easy, squeezie, lemon peazy. Still, what I wouldn’t give to have a bowl full of it now. 
My husband’s family has a Thanksgiving tradition that’s also slowly dying out. Right after the dinner most of the elderly would gather at one table and play nickle poker. They’d have their coffee and pumpkin pie while vying for the pot. In recent years, fewer and fewer people have gathered at the table. Most of the older folks have passed, and the younger ones want to see the latest and greatest video game being played. It will only be a few more years now when this tradition is no longer observed. 
There’s still hope for the younger ones. Even though my son had never had Thanksgiving dinner at my parents’, he has had my mother’s stuffing. True, I cooked it, but it was her recipe. I didn’t expect the reaction I got, so I only made a little of it. The tradition must be somewhere deep inside his DNA, cause he ate most of it and asked me to make it again the next night. Now, when ever I prepare turkey — once or twice a year — I make my mother’s stuffing. All this is my long-winded way of asking what other traditions have been forgotten?
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A Truly Golden Thanksgiving

Tomorrow will be a really special day! Yes, because it’s Thanksgiving but also because it will commemorate 50 years of marriage for my parents, Jim and Donna Heath.

Looking through my photo album I’m amazed at how young and innocent my parents looked. I can’t help but be astounded at how far we’ve come when I look back at the events that happened in 1957:

  • Russians launched Sputnik 2 (NOVEMBER 3, 1957);
  • An unknown singer named Patsy Cline wins on CBS’ Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts program with a rendition of the song “Walking After Midnight.”
  • The Top Ten Songs on the Radio: 1. “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On,” Jerry Lee Lewis; 2. “Jailhouse Rock,” Elvis Presley; 3. “Peggy Sue,” Buddy Holly; 4. “You Send Me,” Sam Cooke; 5. “Come Go With Me,” The Del-Vikings; 6. “School Day,” Chuck Berry; 7. “Lucille,” Little Richard; 8. “Little Darlin’,” The Diamonds; 9. “Blue Monday,” Fats Domino; 10. “Wake Up Little Susie,” The Everly Brothers;
  • The worst Tornado Outbreak ever recorded across US, at least 9 separate tornados hit the Louisana/Texas area;
  • Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps make their US television debut, performing “Lotta Loving” and “Dance to the Bop” on CBS’ Ed Sullivan Show
  • A very young Paul Simon & Art Garfunkel make their first TV appearance on ABC-TV’s “American Bandstand” (NOVEMBER 22, 1957)
  • Mickey Mantle wins AMERICAN League MVP (most valuable player) (NOVEMBER 22 1957)

After getting married my parents promptly began their life, not even taking the time to have a honeymoon. My Dad joined the military and after several moves, ended up in California. There, they reared a family of six kids. While we weren’t well off in the financial sense we were very blessed with lots of love for each other. My parents dedicated themselves to their children with Scouts, Little League, music lessons, camping trips, swimming lessons, school plays, fishing excursions, dancing festivals, school sports, all while working full time–all the usual activities that fill up a life time. And now, during a time where they should be living a quiet retired life, they are raising a second family with three rambunctious teen-aged boys! For some time, it has been a trend to blame our parents for all that’s wrong with us, but when I look back at our lives I have to admit that my parents not only did the best they could, they did a HECK of a lot.

I look at my brothers and sister and am so proud of how they turned out and, while we each have faced challenges, we’ve been able to meet them with determination and graciousness. All of which is due to my Mom’s and Dad’s parenting skills, who taught us that it is our differences that make us valuable and that no matter what happens we are family first.

Even though it’s been a very difficult year for all of us with the loss of both my grandmothers, both of my parents’ mothers, I realized I have a lot to be thankful for on this special day, starting first with my parents. So, tomorrow, when I say my prayers of thanksgiving, they will be at the top of my list!

Happy Thanksgiving Every One!

Love,
April

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