Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

Big families, big turkeys, big memories

Here’s the thing about Thanksgiving. If you grow up with a sizable extended family, you figure it’s just expected to have a huge deal with more food than anyone can eat, lots of kids running underfoot, lots of adults shooing kids outside to play, and too many cooks in the kitchen. You also learn to pretend that you’re busy, because if you’re not, you will quickly be assigned some unwanted job. Like setting the table.

Trust me on this. I grew up in one of those semi-large families, with a set of grandparents, four children and spouses, 20 grandchildren with an age range of at least 20 years. This meant that eventually, the 20 grandchildren expanded to include some significant others.

Thanksgiving rotated between the three homes in our immediate area — my grandparents’ farm, an aunt and uncle’s farm, and our house. But then…as always happens, those 20 kids grow up, get married, and often move out of the vicinity. Sadly, the grandparents die, as do some of the aunts and uncles.

I’d kind of forgotten about this until my husband mentioned something about how many people would be at the Thanksgiving dinner our daughter is attending with her significant other’s family. I felt a momentary pang of sadness for those big childhood gatherings.

That feeling came back briefly today as I drove down the long lane toward my cousin’s farm — the farm on which he grew up and on which still stands the big white two-story house where many of our Thanksgiving dinners took place. photo(9)

 

 

 

 

 

As a kid, I remember my stomach getting that nervous, excited feeling as we turned down that lane….a loooong stretch that seemed to take forever to cover. Excitement at seeing cousins I hadn’t seen in awhile, eagerness to explore rooms in the big house. There was plenty of space to play, to hide from the boys, and the coolest laundry chute. The best smells floated out from the kitchen to the rest of the house, where tables were set up in every available space.

Today when I drove down the lane, there were none of the pigs I remembered. Instead, there were cows and sheep happily grazing on grass.

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And in the red barn at the end of the lane was a much younger version of my cousin — one of his sons — happy to hand me my turkey. At only 10 pounds, it’s tiny in comparison to the ones I remember feeding our big family.

But that’s okay. This turkey technically isn’t for Thanksgiving dinner and there won’t be 30-plus family members to feed. But when it starts roasting and the house begins to absorb that rich, mouth-watering smell, the memories will come roaring back. And that’s okay, too. Because that’s what memories are for.

And this is one time I won’t have to argue over who gets the drumsticks. And the wishbone? That’s mine.

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Creating a gingerbread village: No kits allowed

We have the Brothers Grimm to thank for the popularity of gingerbread houses. Anyone who has read “Hansel and Gretel” remembers how hungry the two were after wandering for several days without food. When they came upon a gingerbread house in the middle of the forest, they began eating the roof of the house. How could they resist the scrumptious confection?
Making a gingerbread house always seemed daunting, despite the many kits available. But with my 11-year-old niece coming for a visit over Thanksgiving, I decided it was time to give it a try. Since I’ve never been much of a conformist, I passed on the fancy kits.

Instead, our local elementary school cook provided us with empty milk cartons. She even bleached them before dropping them off…yet another advantage of living in a small town. They turned out to be the perfect size.

We stocked up on all the essentials — gumdrops, miniature M&Ms, chocolate chips, colored sprinkles, tiny candy canes, peppermints, graham crackers, red hots, etc.

After the turkey and other Thanksgiving foods had been cleared away, we made a huge bowl of powdered sugar icing sans butter, we set about creating our own little gingerbread village. Perfection? Not at all, but creative and unique. Most importantly, the over-40 artists had as much fun as the 11-year-old. And probably ate as much candy.IMG_0313[1]

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