I love Thanksgiving; the smell of cooking turkey filling the house, setting up the tables in preparation for the guests to descend upon my mom’s house. Great grandma and Granddaddy would hold court as all of the grand-kids would gather around to hear stories of their world travels. When I think about fond memories, Thanksgiving always comes to mind. It is a time that extended family gets together, each person responsible for a different dish.
Early Thursday morning my mom would get up and prepare stuffing for the turkey, cutting the onions, softening the butter, and mixing the corn bread; finally stuffing the turkey and placing it into the oven. As each of us wake up we would quickly eat breakfast and then set about getting the house ready for our guests later in the afternoon for an early dinner. I always enjoyed the wonderful smell of a Turkey cooking as it wafted through the house. It was always a comforting.
The November mornings in Southern California are always cool but never too cold so that the air has crispness to it, inviting you to dress in your fall sweaters and corduroy pants. After breakfast each child set about their assigned tasks of getting out the folding table, digging to the back of the linen closet to find the table cloths and setting up card tables and folding chairs. Cleaning everything up and then assembling the tables; resulting in a crazy inconsistent pattern of big and little chairs to accommodate the large crowd. The best part of thanksgiving in Southern California is that by afternoon it is warm and that meant we could often sit outside on the back patio to enjoy the fresh air was we ate.
We would hold thanksgiving as a potluck style meal where the host family provided the main dishes and each invitee brought a dish: rolls, drinks, salads, dessert or other interesting creation. It was the experimental dishes that added the interest to our yearly event. Over the years and the marriages and divorces certain dishes materialized as the signature or required dishes for thanksgiving. Three dishes really stand out in my memories, both good and bad.
First was the discovery of cheesy onions. Now I am not certain the history of who discovered them but boy did they become a requirement. Cheesy onions were the small pearl onions were the small pearl and small boiling onions steamed and then mixed into a cream of mushroom soup and sharp cheddar cheese sauce. I still remember the first year I gained responsibility for this dish, learning that the onions had to be cooked prior to putting them into the cheese sauce, boy the family had a laugh that day as I had to strain out the onions and cook them quickly.
We had Pineapple smash which came by way of my uncle’s second wife and while she didn’t stay, the recipe did and it was certain to show each year. I never really like this dish much so it hasn’t made it into my thanksgiving meals.
The one most famous of the family lore was the beet salad from my auntie Margie, the crazy creative aunt. I remember her superb talent in sewing and creating items that sold well at local crafting villages. However, that same talent and creativity extended to her selection of what to bring for her dish to Thanksgiving. And the most interesting was the Beet Salad; though it did end up being the least painful of here concoctions. We all claimed to like it to prevent something even stranger showing up the next year. I am not certain the recipe but I will share that from the red canned string beets and some form of white sauced emerged the salad; it was only missing something blue to make it the ultimate patriotic dish for 4th of July.
Wishing everyone the best for Thanksgiving