Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving, Family, Food, and Days Gone By

Part of the Council Clan at the Big House

With Thanksgiving coming up, my thoughts turn to the holidays of the past. It was a big, big day in our home where I lived with my parents and my younger sister, Gay. Big sister June and her husband Stan, and their little girls arrived the evening before Turkey day. When we heard their car drive up, it was celebration time. "They're here. June and Stan are here!"

Mother had been busy all week sprucing up the house and buying extra groceries. The twenty pound turkey had been thawing for three days.

Wednesday night my brothers, their wives and children came. The noise level rose and became a cacophony of sounds with the greetings, hugs, laughter and nine kids running in and out of the back door of the farm house. November weather in south Georgia is perfect for playing outside. The sticky summer humidity dissipates. Evenings turn crisp and cool.

On Thanksgiving day, Mother woke early to start cooking the turkey and the cornbread dressing for a noon day meal. We girls set the tables and filled glasses with ice for the sweet tea everyone drank except Daddy. His place was set with a huge cup of coffee.

We set two tables -- one for adults and one for the children. Mother made oyster dressing in her old yellow casserole dish, deep and large as a roaster, but she also made a smaller pan of dressing without oysters just for me. That was the kind of mother she was.

We piled our plates with turkey, giblet gravy and dressing, sweet potato souffle with nuts and marshmallows, jellied cranberry sauce, green beans, Lima beans, salads of all kinds and rolls or biscuits.

Three or four different desserts lined the buffet. Mother made sure we had chocolate -- chocolate pie or chocolate cake. Someone usually brought pecan pie or lemon pie. Mother also made a delicious banana pudding.

No one worried about his waistline that day. We sat around the dining table which had been stretched to its limits with two wide leaves, and we talked all afternoon. Occasionally one of us got up and helped ourselves to more dessert. We caught up on all the news from all the families.

Daddy withdrew along with some of the brothers to sit before the TV and pull for his favorite football team.

On Friday after Thanksgiving, we didn't head for the stores to shop. Mother and Stan pulled out all the spices, candied fruit and pecans and began the ritual of making the annual fruitcakes. No one else was allowed to help, and therefore, now that Mother and Stan are gone, no one knows the recipe. Once the cakes began cooking in Mother's large pressure cooker, the aroma of Christmas permeated our house. Mother's recipe required bourbon, and she and Stan poured some for the cake and a sip or two for themselves. She claimed the bourbon was the ingredient that kept the cakes moist. I think it kept the cooks happy, too.

When done, and cooled, the cakes were wrapped and stored in the cupboard. Once a week for the next month, Mother unwrapped the cakes and poured a little more bourbon over them; and wrapped them again. They would not be eaten until we gathered for Christmas dinner when Stan, June and the girls would be home again.

On Sunday, at the end of the long Thanksgiving weekend, June and her family drove away and the party was over. The only remnant left of Thanksgiving was the bare turkey carcass. Quiet settled on the house like a somber spirit. Mother, missing her oldest daughter already, sat down in her favorite chair, no doubt tired from constant cooking and dish washing.

I sensed Mother's sadness, and I felt a little sorrow also. Perhaps she knew what I didn't know at the time, but I've learned. Those family holidays together were more precious than I, so young at the time, could ever imagine. But she knew. And now I know.


Sam Hoffer said...

Glenda, what a wonderful rememberance of Thanksgivings past. Hard to recall when we didn't worry about our waistlines or the day after shopping. I miss those days.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

Glenda said...

Sam, have you ever seen a recipe for fruit cake that uses a pressure cooker? I remember mother set two pans on racks inside a large pressure cooker. That is etched in my memory and I've never seen a recipe for cooking it that way.

Gay said...

Yes, those days were precious. I don't have many memories from our youth, but those holidays are forever stamped into my mind.
As you know, I loved every minute of those early years. Wish they could have stayed the same, but then life moves on, doesn't it? We are blessed to be close enough to make new memories that are just as dear.

tipper said...

Just beautiful Glenda! Truly precious memories that have lingered and now you've shared them with me-and they've touched my soul too.

Sam Hoffer said...

Glenda, for the pressure cooker fruit cake, google the website miss vickie or pressure cooker fruitcake. I found one she calls Southern Style Fruit Cake. See if it's what you are looking for. Let me know how it turns out if you try it.

Glenda said...

Thanks, Tipper for reading and commenting on my Thanksgiving memories.I appreciate your reading my work.

Thank you, Sam. I never thought of googling the pressure cooker fruitcake recipe. I'll do it.

Glenda said...

Thanks, Gay, for commenting and reminding me that we are so blessed to be able to make new memories every day.
Love you little sister,