Last December, I participated in project reverb, a reflective writing challenge meant to close out the year and prepare for the new year. I’ll be participating again this year! Sign & join us!
One of the groups hosting reverb prompts decided to continue the reflection through the year and sends out a monthly prompt. The prompt for November for #reverb14 is as follows:
Let’s talk turkey | Do you even like Thanksgiving food? If you could make the menu, what would you have? What was the most memorable Thanksgiving? What was served?
There have been lots and lots of memorable Thanksgivings in my life. I don’t think you make it to my age without them. Nothing quite like the frozen turkey from Speak, but lots of funny little stories along the way. Like having dated a boy less than a month and being invited to the family Thanksgiving. When I walked through the door, his oldest sister, a doctor, who was lying on the couch, spread her legs wide and loudly sniffed at the air, saying, “It smells like…ROSES!!”
Or the years I spent the night before Thanksgiving at that same boyfriend’s mother’s, helping her prepare to feed all of the stray police officers in Reno. Her Thanksgiving dinners could host anywhere from 20-50…you just never knew who was going to show up. One of those years, we managed to clog the garbage disposal in her sink, sending water gushing out from underneath it and flooding the kitchen.
More recently, though, I’ve spent Thanksgivings with my family in Missouri. After I moved to Mississippi, instead of spending the holidays alone, I started heading up to Missouri to visit with my dance teacher bestie and spend Thanksgiving with my GrandSner. Occasionally GrandSner and I shared dinner with dance teacher bestie’s family, but recently we’ve ventured to GrandSner’s brother’s…which happens to be the old family homestead.
I feel like I need to qualify this next bit. When you grow up in southwest Missouri, the stereotype is that you’re a hillbilly. Lots of places don’t do much to help that picture out. The school I went to, the town were friends still live, has a mascot of a Houn Dawg. Yup. That’s spelled correctly. Houn Dawg. Yeehaw. Some of you may remember the television series The Beverly Hillbillies. That show? Set around the area where I grew up. (The hillbilly part – not the Beverly Hills part. Obviously)
As a kid, my Grandpas hunted. We fished. I don’t remember my Grandpas actually killing anything when they hunted, which is why I don’t remember eating wild game when I was a kid. I’m sure there is some irony in being from where I’m from and waiting until I was in my 30s to actually sample things like turtle and squirrel.
Turtle and squirrel. Yup, you read that right.
Two of my recent Thanksgivings have involved having turtle and squirrel for dinner. No turkey. Just turtle and squirrel and all the traditional sides.
Now, it’s not to say that it wasn’t *good* because it was. What I remember of it. You expect certain things for Thanksgiving dinner. Like a turkey. And when you’re not prepared for something like turtle (speared out of the pond by the Russian special forces emigre who was staying with GrandSner’s brother & his wife; he was practicing his scuba diving when he spotted it) or squirrel (I think pheasant was on the menu that year as well. I remember an admonishment to be careful of the shot that was still in the meat) it takes you by surprise and leaves you wondering what happened to the turkey.
I think I even asked if I needed to bring a turkey the next year.
While the menu for this year’s Thanksgiving won’t include anything more exotic than shrimp and crab cakes to go with the turkey and traditional fixings, it also won’t include that branch of the family…and that makes me sad.
It’s never really about the food; it’s always about the people who gather around the table.
That’s why I used to host a Thanksgiving feast for friends either the weekend before Thanksgiving or the weekend after. I don’t mind cooking, and while it can take a bit to coordinate space for all the sides on the stove-top and in the oven, to me it’s never really been a big deal to cook Thanksgiving dinner. Shove a bunch of butter under the turkey’s skin, put some aromatic herbs in the cavity, sprinkle that puppy with salt and pepper, gingerly place it on top of a latticed bed of sliced onions, sliced pears, and de-stringed celery (to make the world’s easiest and most flavorful gravy), and shove it in the oven for 3-5 hours depending on size.
Now…having said all of that, there is one thing I miss at Thanksgiving, and it’s the one thing I will never have again in my life. I used to help my grandma Alex make the dressing. All I remember about it was we baked a pan of cornbread that then got crumbled up and combined with a loaf of torn white bread, and a can of torn whomp biscuits. I can picture Grandma adding sage and tasting, but beyond that, I don’t remember much other than letting all those kinds of bread fall through my hands.
It’s been so long since I had it that I can’t remember what it actually tastes like. I can’t remember if it was good or if I liked it. I just remember how it was one of the few things Grandpa Alex…who served as a cook in the Army…stepped aside and let Grandma cook, and I remember that we all looked forward to it. I was probably 13 or 14 the last time I had it.
Getting very, very close to 25 years since the last time.
How can that possibly be? Where does the time go? And how did I never think to get that recipe?
Despite enjoying cooking Thanksgiving dinner and the time I get to spend with friends and family, I’m not really a big fan of Thanksgiving dinner. A piece of turkey, some mashed potatoes and gravy, some sweet potatoes and I’m good….and I don’t need a ton of it. It’s not like I need my “Thanksgiving pants” to make it through dinner.
What about you? How do you feel about Thanksgiving dinner? What is your favorite? And is there anything you miss?