Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thinking about Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is one of those sadly overlooked holidays.

Take my neighbor, for example. She put her Hallowen decorations up - including a lighted, inflatable Jack-O-Lantern-Scare-Crow-on-a-Harley (fact) proudly standing guard on her front lawn. She is one of 'those' people; perhaps she didn't celebrate Halloween as a kid and is making up for it now, tenfold? When I was growing up, Halloween - erm, Reformation Day - was the one night annually that we, ignoring our usual alert and vigilant crime-detterance, intentionally left our porch lights off, shut ourselves into the living room and watched 'Martin Luther' (1953).

The day after Halloween is when many people traditionally turn to Thanksgiving: planning a menu and figuring out what side of the family you will grin and bear for the day, thinking of cinnamon rolls and coffee while watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade and that lovely feeling as you realize Christmas is just around the corner. No. Not my neighbor. November 1st, I come home from work (and it's dark around 6:15pm since Daylight Savings has kicked in): her house is aglow with flickering, colorful Christmas lights, her cactus draped in a white strand, her roofline twittering in full-color, her porch festooned in strands of snowflakes. She completely skipped Thanksgiving! Who does that?

When I was a kid, Thanksgiving was a good holiday in my house. No sadly-disappointed expectations of gifts (even when we get what we want, it's not quite as electrifying as imagined; I blame Hollywood!), no decorations to tear down and if it didn't snow, you really didn't care. The food is the centerpiece on Thanksgiving. Maybe this is partially to blame for my food addiction, even now. Mom's spread was over the top and more delicious than words can convey. Hers is the best Thanksgiving meal I have ever had. What is sad though is that I haven't had it in 6 years. I really miss it.

I really miss my mom's great cooking. Her turkey and homemade turkey gravy - lots of it (I hate going to people's houses and there is one boatful of gravy for like, 10 people. Doesn't each person get their own boatful of gravy? Btw, I love that boat and gravy are friends here...mmm). Her cornbread dressing with celery and sage and lots of garlic; her wild rice dressing with mushrooms, green bean casserole (after many years, she updated the delicious traditional green bean casserole with fresh beans and carmelized onions), sweet potato casserole, jello salad (not like any jello salad you have ever had so don't judge!), corn casserole and most years canned cranberries (apparently, the comparative qualities of canned vs homemade is a topic of debate). There is something magical though about a slice of gelatinous cranberry 'sauce' on a turkey sandwich with mayo the day after Thanksgiving. Homemade is lovely, but it just doesn't compare.

I miss the warm kitchen on Thanksgiving morning and knowing mom was up early, at least for a few minutes, to put the massive bird in the oven. I miss the din of the parade and then football in the TV room, our simple table and mom's French Countryside dishes (I love how the raised sides held in our huge platefuls of food - some plates are just too flat for Thanksgiving feasting!). My dad is a piemaking pro and he would always make his famous (yes, famous) Lemon Meringue and Coconut Cream Pies. They were divine. I remember in the old house we would put them in the laundry room on top of the drier, one in a vintage Tupperware pie carrier and the other covered in a lime green plastic bowl; it was cooler in there during the winter months and kept the pies but without being too cold in the fridge (you have to respect the meringue!). Dad's homemade crust and flour on the countertop, mom's Frugal Gourmet apron, our very old carving knive buzzing over the brown turkey (all of us vying for the crunchiest pieces of skin!), casserole dishes everywhere. Good times.

However bizarre my little family is, there will never ever be a Thanksgiving that will compare until I can eat my mom's Thanksgiving dinner again.

I'm thankful this year for my good husband, our new home, our health, and the small things.

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