"Thanksgivings Gone By"
I'm not sure I could distinguish one Thanksgiving from another growing up. They were superbly scripted, and that script was run year after year. Here are some of the major points:
- Stuffing Preparation. The weekend before Thanksgiving, mom would buy three loaves of Sunbeam Bread. They would be put onto baking sheets and toasted in the oven. We would all sit with a big bowl in the center of the table, breaking up the toasted bread for the stuffing.
This was not "dressing" which would be cooked outside the bird - oh no - this was STUFFING.
- Turkey Preparation. The night before Thanksgiving, the turkey would be washed and rinsed and salted, and the stuffing would be inserted. Both ends. Then - mom would pull out her waxed string and the turkey needle and stitch Mr. Turkey back together. He would then sit in a pan overnight on a table in our "back room" until he hit the oven early the next day. How we never succumbed to food poisoning - I'll never know.
- Thanksgiving Morning. Mom would start cooking at about the crack of dawn. She made countless side dishes - and they all came off a four burner gas stove with a rather small oven. There would be pots and pans all over the kitchen with root vegetables peeled and cut and soaking in water. The rest of the family had one standing order from her: "GET OUT OF MY KITCHEN AND STAY OUT!"
We'd watch the Macy's Parade and stay clear of that kitchen.
- Smawk a Beet. So... being Swedish American means that we had some of the Swedish words in our grasp - but since an actual Swede hadn't said those words the way they should be pronounced in over 50 years at our house, they were a bit mangled. "SMAWK A BEET" my father would yell from the kitchen when the turkey had come out of the oven and everyone was invited to "TASTE A BIT). Using Google Translate - I'm amazed that this was amazingly close to the true Swedish of "Smak a bita". (A future WOW story will talk about more bad translations....)
- Timing. My mother was an absolute master at timing the pieces of a meal. God only knows how she did it with all those dishes, but she orchestrated that meal like as if she were conducting the Boston Philharmonic.
- Mom's Rules. Mom had a "thing" about food temperature. She always said: "Hot foods - Hot. Cold foods - Cold." God Bless Anyone who served her something that was supposed to be hot - and it was room temperature. This rule is then naturally followed by: "When dinner is ready - it is served." Mom may not have had the last word on a lot of things at our house - but she had the last word on these two rules.
When dinner was ready - everyone sat at the table - immediately. If anyone wasn't there (late, overslept, whatever) they got cold food. Period. No apologies from my mom. You know the rules - everyone knows the rules. Your food is cold - tough luck. Invariably one of the extended families would be late... Mom would say - "Make yourselves a plate..." but there would be no heat applied to that food.
- The Family Fight. The instigator of the annual Thanksgiving Family Fight was the same person every year. Said instigator would say something crass or complain in such a way that my mom would get get angry and walk away from the table. Silence would prevail for a while until the conversation picked up again - usually right where it had left off. DING. ROUND TWO! Everything the same except the volume of the discussion would get raised. I seriously don't remember a Thanksgiving that didn't have the Family Fight... Huh... It looked like a Rockwell painting there for a while....
- Naps and a Walk. We would eventually nap while a football game played on the TV. Dad would blame it on the Tryptophan in the turkey. When we woke up - my father would take everyone on the annual walk. Sometimes in the woods, usually up to the church in town. Why the church? I have no clue. I guess that was the length of walk he liked to take.
However you spend your Thanksgiving, I pray that it finds you happy and safe. 2020 has been a tough year, but there's a light at the end of this tunnel - and I don't think it's an oncoming train.
Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!