Cooking up Thanksgiving memories old and new

The last word about dads on Father's Day

Now that another turkey has been reduced to its carcass and the
good silver is clean and tucked away until next time, we find
ourselves with a little breather between Thanksgiving and the
onslaught of the holiday shopping rush.
Now that another turkey has been reduced to its carcass and the good silver is clean and tucked away until next time, we find ourselves with a little breather between Thanksgiving and the onslaught of the holiday shopping rush. Well, unless you deliberately subject yourself to “Black Friday” and its ubiquitous crowds, but that’s your problem!

What I mostly like to do post-Thanksgiving is reflect on this favorite family holiday we so recently celebrated. Recipes that worked and those that didn’t. Imaginative new ideas about the centerpiece for the dining room table. News that was shared by family members gathered ’round the table for the traditional Thanksgiving feast.

Typically, I’ll collect another favorite memory or two that (given my advancing age) I hope to remember at future Thanksgivings. I tuck these remembrances away in my brain like treasured souvenirs to enjoy in years to come because it seems sometimes that extra good things happen on Thanksgiving.

Seven years ago, for example, Daughter No. 1 phoned from Arizona to wish us a Happy Thanksgiving and to, oh yes, tell us that the young man who is now Son-in-law No. 1 had just proposed – on bended knee.

Then there are the irreplaceable memories from years gone by. Peopled with family members no longer with us only make the remembrances sweeter. My favorite childhood memory occurred the Thanksgiving of my ninth year.

There was a time when I was a little girl my mother taught me to be comfortable around a stove, which must be why I’ve always loved to cook. Standing on the step stool my mother pushed over to our big, black iron stove (yes, dating myself here), I learned the art of cooking simple soups and stews. In the old cast iron skillet she used every day, she even taught me the proper method of frying bacon. I remember the hot, popping grease and how I tried to dodge it, nevertheless experiencing the unpleasant surprise of little pinpricks of heat on my hand as the rendering bacon released its flavorful fat into the pan.

The food prep industry was changing big time back in the ’50s with “sleek” new stoves arriving on the scene. And in November that year of my ninth Thanksgiving, my mother decided she had prepared her last holiday feast on the old iron dinosaur that occupied a good portion of one wall in our kitchen.

The day before Thanksgiving a sparkling white Tappan range arrived at our house. Like most stoves back then, it was enormous. With three gas burners and a “deep well” set into a rear burner cavity, a built-in Dutch oven if you will, it seemed ultra modern. On each side of the oven were metal cabinets for storing potholders and cooling racks. One side even had a pullout rack for dishtowels, drying them quickly in the warmth radiating from the gas oven. Below the oven resided a broiler and on top, a built-in light bathed the stovetop in glowing luminescence.

Installing the new stove were my dad, my uncle and my grandpa. After somehow dragging it up a flight of steps from the back porch, they pushed and tugged the heavy stove, finally maneuvering the appliance into place. The three main men in my life worked up a sweat in the warm kitchen while outside a light snow fell.

Suddenly I noticed my grandpa seemed to be in some distress. On his hands and knees at the back of the stove, squeezed into the corner next to the wall, he was struggling. Fortunately I was too young to fret about such things as heart attacks and the like or I’d have panicked for sure.

“Allen!” my grandpa finally hollered to my uncle. “I’ve got my dad-gummed head stuck!” The men quickly extracted my embarrassed grandfather; fortunately their work was done because nobody was able to stop laughing.

The next day, on a snowy Thanksgiving morning with kitchen windows fogged with steam, my mother industriously set her new appliance to work. Fresh cranberries popped on the stove, potatoes boiled in the deep well and fragrant candied sweet potatoes were cooling on the counter. And that afternoon, with the whole family watching, my mother pulled from her new gas range the most beautiful, golden turkey I can ever recall.

Once again, this holiday was momentous at our house. Our new grandson, Charlie, experienced his first Thanksgiving. And it was this year our little granddaughters, Gracie and Emily, moved with their parents here to the South Valley. So, for right now, we’re all living in the same town for the very first time. I am thankful indeed.

And I wonder … can new memories of Thanksgiving compete with treasured remembrances that occurred so many years ago, viewed now through the honey-colored lens of time? Oh, yes. They most certainly can.

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