What are your plans this Thanksgiving? Are you planning the big feast, trying to figure out how to prep the turkey mascot which this holiday revolves around. Are you in charge of the pumpkin pie for a friends gathering? Maybe you are like me, every year experimenting with new side dishes, only to be reminded by your husband to stick with the basics that you finally mastered.
Each year I debate whether to actually bake the traditional apple and pumpkin pies, as my mother ,Ellen, would have done, or buy them from Fresh Market and claim them as my own ( just kidding). Since my mothers passing in 2008, I have been in the pursuit of the perfect “ Ellen Thanksgiving”. Growing up, I was always her “sous chef“, learning the recipes handed down through our generations. My grandmother passed the torch to my Aunt Patti who then passed it to my mother. As if in the Thanksgiving Olympics, the torch is now in my possession, and I continue to strive for gold.
Every Thanksgiving I recall brought a different gathering of friends and family around our table. Some were regulars; some were new friends or family from out of state, or people who had no family nearby. The result was always the same. The sight of happy faces glazed over and stomachs having reached max capacity due to unavoidable over indulgence. Those faces of content pleased my mother. Many times my mother heard this comment “ It was the best Thanksgiving meal we ever had“. The turkey and gravy rivaling their grandmothers. Though you were sworn to secrecy that “memaw” could never hear of this.
Cooking for my husband or having friends come for dinner, I feel that same satisfaction when someone tells me how they stuffed themselves to the brim because it was so tasty. My aspirations to be like her some how makes her feel closer to me .
My mom used an old beat-up, loved roasting pan that her mother always made the turkeys in . Mom said by using the pan, it felt like her moms presence was near, still helping with the feast. One year, a friend gave her a brand name , large roasting pan in appreciation of the lovely meal she made. Mom was grateful for their gift, but could never bring herself to use it. So, like my mother ,I too continue to use the beat-up old family roasting pan.
I may try new dishes every year, but every year it’s the tried -and- true dishes we enjoy the most, the comfort foods we’ve eaten with loved ones now past . Just like a scent, taste can bring back memories. Tradition reminds us of where we come from. Every family has its own “recipe” for tradition that is special to them. For me, its waking up early to start prepping the mascot as the Macys day parade is in full swing. Its my grandmothers roasting pan that symbolizes family brought together year after year to celebrate being thankful for one another.
We look forward to slowing life down for just a moment to celebrate those times with family and friends . Holidays have a way of bringing those that have passed closer to us once again.
And for that, I am thankful!