Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving at Mariandy's


Yesterday was Thanksgiving in the United States. This holiday is unique to the Western hemisphere, mostly the U.S. (Canada celebrated their Thanksgiving in October). According to our history books, the first Thanksgiving in 1621 was a celebration shared by early settlers and local natives in Plymouth Colony (Massachusetts). The food at that celebration was native to the area. This is why we now typically include foods like cranberries, squash, and turkey in our traditional Thanksgiving meal - although I'm not sure that turkey was part of the original meal.

When I was growing up on a farm in North Carolina, we had a more localized Thanksgiving meal. Sure, there was turkey, but it wasn't unusual for us to have steamed oysters (fresh from the coast) or stewed venison if my Granddad or one of my cousins had recently been hunting. We always had sweet potatoes in the form of a casserole (with lots of brown sugar and marshmallows on top) or "pudding" or pie. We preferred pecan pie to pumpkin pie. I'm sorry to say that I don't remember my Mom making fresh cranberry sauce, and I think what we had (if we had any) was from a can. It was good, though.

Just before we ate, we'd all take turns naming things we were thankful for. My parents would name our family, our house, and our health. My gratefulness was more selfish and revolved around getting good grades in school, or new toys or clothes, and Carolina beating State in basketball. This became a sort of joke with my sister and I and I remember once she said she was thankful for Wonder Woman, hair spray, and leg warmers.

After the big meal (which was always in the middle of the day), we'd sit around for a while watching football, then go for walks in the woods or get the rifles out and do some target shooting. I learned how to shoot at the age of 9 and was quite the sharpshooter. In fact, I was often the one who "brought home the turkey" as I always won a turkey challenge at the annual Barker Ten Mile Turkey Shoot. (No, you don't shoot at turkeys - you shoot at a target.)

In the 1990s, when my parents moved to the beach, we ditched the turkey for a "Low Country" Thanksgiving meal. My Mom would get some oysters, shrimp, and clams from the local seafood market. You couldn't get any fresher, because most of the stuff was caught the same day as it was sold. She'd clean the shrimp and throw them in a big stew pot with the clams, corn on the cob, potatoes, some seasonings, water, and maybe a few other things - and bring it all to a boil. Meanwhile, my Dad would take care of the oysters, which would be served separately. Mom would make a broccoli salad and at least one sweet potato dish, and along with the usual pecan pie that would be our Thanksgiving meal. 

I decided to return to a traditional meal when I set up my house in Indiana. For several years now, I've taken the entire week of Thanksgiving off work in order to prepare the Thanksgiving Day meal. That's right, folks, we go all out in this house - and nearly everything is homemade "from scratch." I started cooking Monday night. First, I cooked the cranberry sauce. On Tuesday, I went to my favorite grocery stores up North (Whole Foods and Fresh Market) to get the last of our needed items. On Wednesday, I made the pumpkin pie and a loaf of pumpkin bread with creme cheese icing, and did as much prep work for Thursday as possible. Yesterday, I rubbed our Indiana free range turkey with some spices, then roasted it in the oven. While the turkey cooked, I made a green bean casserole, some cranberry pecan stuffing, a homemade French vinaigrette salad dressing, and an amazing hot cranberry drink. Just prior to the meal, I made my soon-to-be famous roasted garlic mashed Yukon gold potatoes, and prepared the salad. 

Up above is a photo showing some of the things I made. :-)

The meal was finally ready at around 5:30PM and was enjoyed by four people. The turkey was perfect - brown on the outside, tender and juicy on the inside. The pumpkin pie was a big hit - I'll have to put my recipe for that on my Food for Thought blog. 

We have new Thanksgiving traditions now. We cook, we watch the National Dog Show, and we eat. We also play with our new tech toys. I will always remember Thanksgiving 2008 because I spent my cooking "downtime" playing guitar and drums on Rock Band. (The "from us/to us" Christmas present this year, a Nintendo Wii and Rock Band, arrived  early so we went ahead and set it up.) I'll have to do a separate entry on Rock Band sometime, because I think I may have found a new addiction.

But we also take time to think about all the things we're thankful for. This year, I don't have to look real far. I'm thankful for my family, my friends, my animal children, my job, my home, and for all the places I have seen and experiences I have had this year. 

I'm also thankful that someone else does the dishes. And that now, I can take the next few days and RELAX!