Every week on Monday morning , the Council and our invited guests weigh in at the Watcher’s Forum, short takes on a major issue of the day or just a look at culture and daily life. This week’s question:How does your family traditionally celebrate Thanksgiving?
The Independent Sentinel: We celebrate by having a meal with family and giving thanks.
I invite as many family and friends as possible for a Turkey dinner. No one shops or ever will. It is one of the nicest holidays.
We always thank God for all the blessings we have.
Virginia Right! : The Thanksgiving celebration in my family goes back a long ways. My first ancestor to celebrate the Holiday was my 10th Great-Grandfather Richard More when he was only 7 years old. Richard was one of four children who were legally the offspring Samuel More and Katherine More. Katherine’s father Jasper More had no male heirs and in order to keep his 1,000 acre estate in the family arranged for Katherine to marry her cousin Samuel More when she was 25 and he was 17. Samuel’s father Richard More was master of Linley Estate. The plan was to keep the holdings in the family through the arranged marriage.
Katherine, however, was in love with a man named Jacob Blakeway and ended up having 4 children and names her husband, Samuel More, as the father of all 4. Samuel More did not believe the children were his and accused Katherine of adultery. In order to keep the “bastard” children from inheriting his lands, the 4 children were abducted, transported to London and eventually forcibly placed on the Mayflower and sent to the Virginia Colony – only the Mayflower never made it to Virginia and wound up in Plymouth, MA. Richard was the 3rd born of the 4 children. All were under the age of 10 and only Richard survived the voyage and the first winter. Richard has a Wiki entry here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_More_%28Mayflower_passenger%29 and there is also a book about his saga called “The Mayflower Bastard” by Davis Lindsey that is quite a read.
So when it comes to a modern day Thanksgiving feast, one might expect a descendent of one of the Pilgrims that shared that harvest bounty with their Indian friends – accounts say there were 53 Pilgrims and 90 Indians – would go as authentic as possible. but the original Thanksgiving meal is really nowhere close to the modern fare. They probably ate water fowl, but there was Wild Turkey and there was almost certainly fish and seafood on the menu. And corn. Always corn.
In 1621 William Bradford wrote:
“They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, and to fit up their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength and had all things in good plenty. For as some were thus employed in affairs abroad, others were exercised in fishing, about cod and bass and other fish, of which they took good store, of which every family had their portion. All the summer there was no want; and now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees). And besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. Besides, they had about a peck of meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to that proportion. Which made many afterwards write so largely of their plenty here to their friends in England, which were not feigned but true reports.”
I have been the official turkey roaster in the family for at least 30 years. My Mom was not much of a cook and in my family, the men have been pretty active in the kitchen, especially on holidays.
Of course we all eat turkey now. And until recently I often made Oyster stuffing and giblet gravy. But these days, I am the only one that would eat these delicacies as the older generations that taught me to enjoy such things are gone now. But we always try to have seafood even if it is spiced shrimp served as an appetizer.
But a family tradition that started several generations back is in addition to turkey we have Smithfield ham. This is one of the most expensive hams money can buy. A 12 – 15 pound ham costs around $100 and it is an acquired taste. The ham must be soaked in water overnight, changing the water several times. And after a slice or two be prepared to drink copious amounts of water because the salt content is very high. But I like to piggy back a slice of ham on top of a slice of turkey with a spoon of Cranberry Relish, not the gelatinous Cranberry “Sauce”. Fresh cranberries, orange, pecans and other ingredients spun in a food processor make this delight special.
And we serve corn bread and corn pudding. And freshly made bread, stuffing, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes with cinnamon and marshmallows and lots of butter.
And deserts always feature my wife’s homemade Pecan Pie and Pumpkin Pie and usually a sweet potato pie, several cakes and lots of soft drinks and coffee.
And a big screen TV with constant football and there is usually beer and wine, but not a lot of that.
Add 30 to 40 family members, friends and boyfriends and girlfriends, cousins and neighbors as well as some droppers by and the mood is set.
And then there is the final “graze” before you leave to thin out the leftovers.
And the diets begin promptly the next morning!
The Colossus of Rhodey: It’s all pretty basic: My sister usually has had the family over for the meal. It typically takes place around 4pm, and ends around 7pm. However, now that I am engaged to one who has a terrific family, this year we’ll head to her folks’ place at 1pm for their family meal, and then to my sister’s for my family’s 4pm meal.
JoshuaPundit : T’ Day will be a bit different this year because it collides with Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of Lights, which is actually highly appropriate, given what Hanukkah actually celebrates, the victory of a bunch of untrained farmers over the Seleucid Empire and one of the best professional armies of its time.
So the turkey will probably be served with stuff like matzoh ball soup and latkes, potato pancakes. Those are FUN to make once you get the hang of it and you can do anything you like with them..jalapeno, black bean, mushrooms, you name it.
I will probably barbecue the turkey in a ceramic Komodo barbecue, basically a stone fire pit with a movable draft on the bottom and a variable chimney, which leads to a very moist and tasty bird.I rub the herbs into the bird before hand, make sure it’s well lubricated, wrap it in foil and pour a little wine into the cavity. I also usually rub the bird with honey, which gives it a very slightly sweet flavor, tenderizes the meat and gives it a lovely brown color.
We’ll also probably attend a couple of Holiday parties and Chabad candle lightings over the eight days. Let me tell you, the sight of a bunch of Jewish children lighting those little Hanukkiah while the rebbes light the big menorah and everyone sings “Maoz Tzur” (AKA also known as “Rock of Ages” ,but not the one you’re probably thinking of) is pretty moving. Or as I remarked to one on the rabbis one Hanukkah, it’s like a giant upraised middle finger to our enemies (I used umm, slightly different terminology, I admit). We’ll still be here long after they’re a dusty memory. And that and G-d’s mercy and grace is definitely something to be thankful for,is it not?
Normal Thanksgiving fare at my house includes home made bread stuffing, (using leftover challah, the egg bread used on the Sabbath) squash, yams, homemade cranberry sauce a la’ Orange, and kasha (buckwheat kernels, sort of a russki version of bulgar,but a lot more strongly flavored) or potatoes of some kind. I make my own mushroom and giblet gravy.The wine is usually a nice Zinfandel, a merlot or a cab, maybe a nice cab variation like a Shiraz or barolo. (tip: if you’re drinking a nice red wine, think about opening it and letting it stand for 15-20 minutes before dinner so it will oxygenate. I think you’ll notice the difference)
We don’t use TV at my house, something my wife and I decided on when the kids were small, and none of us misses it now. So no football (heresy, I know!) or goofy T’day specials or parades. Just a nice warm family dinner.
Oh, and I’ve always avoided malls like the plague. 😉
Nice Deb: We go over to my sister’s house for a huge Thanksgiving feast with stuffed Turkey with all the trimmings. My side of the fam will be there, and I’ll bring our mother since I live closest to her. We all contribute something to the meal – I’ll bring homemade cranberry sauce, a veggie tray, something with pumpkin in it, and my delicious chex mix – recipe here.
My sister likes to turn her Christmas tree lights on Thanksgiving night, counting down the seconds to coincide with the time the televised Plaza lights in KC go on. Tres corny, I know – but it’s her thing.
I usually peruse the black Friday shopping ads, and have been crazy enough in years past to go out and fight the crowds (in a totally lazy, non-early bird sort of way.)
I stay clear of Black Friday shopping, these days. I’d rather stay home, put my Fall decor away, and make room for Christmas!
Here’s one of our durable Thanksgiving traditions. When we’re all seated at the table, starting with the youngest, and proceeding to the oldest, we each say what we’re thankful for. I remember doing this when I was the youngest person at the table. Now I’m the oldest.
May all of you have the happiest and most blessed of Thanksgivings.
Well, there you have it.
Make sure to tune in every Monday for the Watcher’s Forum. And remember, every Wednesday, the Council has its weekly contest with the members nominating two posts each, one written by themselves and one written by someone from outside the group for consideration by the whole Council. The votes are cast by the Council, and the results are posted on Friday morning.