Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Thanksgiving Memories, Traditions and Recipes - .01

"At Thanksgiving, we celebrate the simple fact of our continued existence, and we do it simply. There are no elaborate or religious ceremonies on this day. Each family, in its own way, performs rituals of its own device. Some play football in the morning, watch the famous parade on television, sneak a taste of turkey from the roasting bird. The casualness of the holiday, its simplicity, emulates neither the high drama of Christmas nor the eerie theatricality of Halloween, but contents itself with small and simple acts that reinforce the mere joy of being alive. We pray, we drink and we eat.  At the end of the day as uncles doze in front of late games, folks sneak out back to smoke, dishes are gathered up and washed with ceremony, and the dusk falls, the grayness of the early winter night makes the fire in the grate seem brighter, and the chill in the air makes the house seem warmer.  The trees, robbed of their leaves, display the loveliness of a world stripped to its simple essence, a hard world, but beautiful. Thanksgiving is only what it claims to be about, giving thanks that we are all together, in hope."

from The Dance of Time
by Michael Judge
I happened upon this little book recently, at the Internet Archives, but I am enjoying it so much I am thinking it deserves a permanent spot in my library.  The author's writing is almost poetic, as he describes the origins of the calendar and the rituals and traditions that existed before time was spliced and segregated to regulate our busy lives. I was searching for some seasonal poems and quotes for my winter day book.  It's hard to believe it's already time to make up a new one, as December will soon be here. But it was in that quest that happened upon this little gem of a book!  You can be sure that the passage above will make the cut for my Autumn day book next year, regardless of the form it takes!

I thought the passage fitting, as I want to share some of my Thanksgiving memories with you over the coming days, as well as outline the foods and traditions that we share together as a family. As the passage states, Thanksgiving is the simplest of holidays, and as I grow older, it has, I believe, become the sweetest of holidays for those very reasons.

My memories of the Thanksgivings of my childhood are surrounded by family. As I recall, we almost always spent Thanksgiving day with my mother's family, though I will admit that I do remember that this was a source of tension between my mom and dad almost every year. As my memory serves, I do believe that we spent the day with my dad's family a few years, and even though we always visited both sides of the family on holidays, I think my mom usually won out when it came to whose side of the family we visited first.  Maybe we had our meal with my mom's family and dessert with my dads or visa versa? But at any rate, I was surrounded by family on both sides every holiday and I have wonderful memories of those years, though sadly, no pictures! My mom was not really the picture taking sort and if other family members documented the occasion, I've never seen them. 

One of my memories of Thanksgiving in particular is that my mom always made "dressing", which in our home meant that it was not baked in the turkey, but made as a side dish.  If you baked it in the turkey (which my mom never did and I never have), it was called "stuffing".  What I do recall is that every year mom made her own and took it to my grandmother's house, because according to her, my grandmother always put too much sage in hers. All of this mattered little to me, however, as I didn't care for dressing at all, though I do recall that along side my mother's, my grandmother's offering looked a bit green.

These days I've grown a bit more fond of "dressing", though it is still not my favorite and if were just me I could live without it. But there are other opinionated members of the family who feel that it just wouldn't be Thanksgiving without it, and I guess on some level, I have to agree.  And so to accommodate for personal preference, every year I look for what appears to be the best recipe, but I'll be honest, most years I rely on Pepperidge Farm, though I have been known to doctor it up a bit.  But this year, way back in June I happened upon a recipe that I think I might try this year, actually I combining two recipes, and we'll see how it goes.

Cornbread Stuffing with Bacon and Sage
from The Food Charlatan 

The only exception I would make, is that I am considering adding a pound of cubed butternut squash to the mix and some dried cranberries. I saw that in another recipe, and the combination of the two of these recipes combined just makes my mouth water. I should seriously do a test run before Thanksgiving, and I'm still trying to figure out what meal I could fix between now and then that would work well if I added it as a side dish.  I also don't want to ruin Thanksgiving, and by that I mean, our menu, which has been the same for decades, is only served once a year.   Too bad I can't figure out how to make a single serving?  Or could I????  That would required some serious measurement modifications!

That being said, if you have a tried and true recipe for dressing/stuffing, help a girl out and pass it along!  This is the only part of our menu that I struggle with, probably because, as I mentioned, I don't really care for it to begin with!  But I'd love to change that by finding a great recipe!

And now duty the day are calling!  I hope you'll join me again over the next few weeks as I share more of my Thanksgiving memories, traditions and recipes with you!  And I'd love to hear some of yours as well, especially your recipes! My family would balk if I changed our traditional menu, but I'm always up for a few new additions!

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Anonymous said...

The stuffing.... my MIL has spent each Thanksgiving with us since we've been married (coming up to 35 years) and she is in charge of the stuffing. It is so NOT good~ rather mushy and bland. However, I dare not suggest a change. So she makes it (with the help of the younger children) and we all have a "taste" of it on our dinner plates. Thus, I have no stuffing recipe to suggest. I will say, the one you have linked looks right up my alley, and the modifications you suggested sound just perfect to me!


Kimberly Lottman said...

We dared not suggest changes to my grandmother's dressing, either, so I completely understand! I did always wonder what my grandmother thought about my mom bringing her own, and I never heard her mention it. :)