Wednesday, November 27, 2013

'Twas the day before Thanksgiving ... family traditions

'Twas the day before Thanksgiving and all through the house
Lots of goodies were cooking (but not the mouse). 
The pies were all set on the counter to cool
While Ma in her apron was a holiday-cooking fool.
My sad attempt at putting a poetic spin on the holiday as I swirl around the house on Thanksgiving Eve ... LOL. Like many, I'm in the kitchen today prepping for tomorrow's big meal with family. My sister and I traditionally take on the cooking and baking, something we both enjoy, as we incorporate old favorites along with the occasional new dish.

We broke tradition last year when we roasted a chicken, a tradition that will continue this year. She's cooking the bird and adding her dishes. As for me, I make passed-down family favorites from aunts who are no longer with us: macaroni and cheese and chocolate pies. I've added to that Virginia Bread Pudding with caramel sauce, Thalhimer's Richmond Room Spoonbread, very veggie garden salad and dressing, steamed broccoli crowns, and "skinny" mashed potatoes (made with fat free chicken broth instead of butter and milk -- they're yummy).

Can you tell I like staying in touch with family and Southern traditions? Thalhimer's Richmond Room was a popular gathering place in its day when Thalhimer's and Miller & Rhoads were destination department stores in downtown Richmond. Virginia Bread Pudding is a nod to my husband's childhood when his mother used old bread to make dessert for her small brood so it's one part emotional memories for him and one part delicious dessert.

My Aunt Ola on my mother's side made the best baked mac and cheese so I began to use her recipe after going out on my own. It's a lot of cheese and many memories, a reminder of fun family dinners at her house when there were so many of us that we barely fit, and we had a children's table in the kitchen and a grown-up table in the dining room. I think I was in my 30s before ever graduating from the children's table which, sadly, meant the grown-ups were growing older and leaving us. There's many happy memories of those years at the children's table especially once I had my own children so we were sitting in there together.

The chocolate pies were always anticipated at holidays from my Aunt Ruth on my mother's side. These aren't pudding-from-a-box pies. These are -- pardon my cursing -- "stir-your-damn-arm-off" (as it was deemed by my sisters and me because it took forever to thicken and you couldn't leave it unattended or it would stick to the bottom and burn) real chocolate filling that was poured into a homemade crust. I fudge on the crust -- I don't like making it and really don't want to spend the time after being at the stove so long stirring -- and this year I made phyllo pastry crust for something new and a little -- emphasis on "little" -- healthier. It is a meringue-topped decadent chocolate fantasy so after Aunt Ruth passed away 16 years ago, I carried on the chocolate pie tradition.

That's what holidays are -- traditions carried on by families from generation to generation. My aunts were fantastic cooks from a large family and my sisters and I learned their tricks of the trade. One slice of pie or a serving of macaroni and cheese unlocks special memories, and tomorrow that will be going on all over America.

The food is delicious, the baking is fun, but the best part of Thanksgiving is being with family. Though my father passed away years ago leaving daughters who were 13, 20, and 22 at the time, another dad came into our lives when he married our mother, and so we are grateful to celebrate with the two of them who are now at the youthful ages of 86 and 87.

And to the military members who are stationed around the world and away from their families, a special thanks and prayers for them and their loved ones. We can never repay their dedication and service to our country which allows us the freedom to celebrate Thanksgiving in a peaceful land.

As I head back to the kitchen to finish food prep, here's wishing a Happy Thanksgiving with gratitude for our friends ... and to those who are traveling for the holiday, be safe out there.

1 comment:

Kerry Grinkmeyer said...

Christmas has always been a family celebration in the Grinkmeyer home, but as our children grew older we found that their interest in Christmas morning waned and the sparkle in their eyes was gone. The day after Thanksgiving, 1992, we introduced the Christmas Web in our home with the placement of Magic Wands into their socks that had for years been hung at the fireplace mantel. Attached to each Magic Wand was a piece of yarn (a 70 yard piece of yarn). When our two teen-aged children came down Christmas morning, they found that the yarn was wound through the house - around window latches, door knobs, chairs and doors. It ended in a closet or cabinet which held their special Christmas gift from one of Santa’s elves, an elf who had been looking out for them for the past year and knew of their desire for this special Christmas gift.
The Christmas Web continued as each of our children got married and as they had children. Each of our grandchildren have an Elf on the Shelf or Elf Magic elf who is now the elf that hides their special Christmas gift each year and leads them to it with their individual Magic Wand. We now have seven Magic Wands each with 70 yards of yarn winding through our house every Christmas morning, making getting a cup of coffee an acrobatic achievement before the winding hunt begins.
The Christmas Web has become a highly anticipated family tradition for our children, grandchildren and us. We hope it brings as much joy to your family as it has to ours.