Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving flashbacks




Happy Thanksgiving! This is hands-down my favorite US holiday. It hasn't always been my favorite holiday -- when I was a kid, it ranked #5 after Christmas, Halloween, Easter, and Independence Day - so this is a relatively recent thing.

When I was growing up, Thanksgiving was relatively low-key at my house. Meaning: we didn't have huge numbers of family or friends over. It was usually just the four of us, sometimes with my maternal grandparents, or a special uncle and aunt. Mom would always cook the traditional turkey meal, sometimes along with low-country Carolina food - fresh fish and shrimp (which would be deep-fried Calabash-style) and roasted oysters (fresh from the beach, shells caked with salty mud -- Dad would have to spray them with the garden hose before Mom would let them in the house!) We'd take long walks on the farm, watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and football (I was a Dallas Cowboys fan back then), and sometimes we'd get the shotguns out and do some target shooting. I was particularly adept with the .12 gauge, even though my shoulder would always be blue for two days afterward. :-)

Flashforward thirty-some years. I'm all grown up, and living five hundred miles away. I'd like to go "home" for Thanksgiving, but it doesn't make much sense, given the distance and given the proximity of this holiday to Christmas, when I'll make the trek anyway. For the past several years, I've cooked the Thanksgiving meal all by myself, and served anywhere from three to nine people. In terms of my cooking, last year was probably the best so far. The Indiana free-range turkey was perfectly roasted and the sides were all amazing. We spent the day eating, watching the National Dog Show, and playing Rock Band on the Wii. It was a very simple but totally cool day.

This year on a whim, I decided not to cook. Instead, we drove down to Story, Indiana - in Brown County - and had a late afternoon meal. We'd never been there before, so the trip in itself was an adventure (we saw dozens of deer grazing in the recently-harvested corn fields). The Story Inn - "inconveniently located since 1851" - is an institution in south central Indiana. For one thing, it's supposedly haunted by The Blue Lady. We didn't see her, but the iPhone's Ghost Radar was going crazy when we were dining in the Old Mill room.

The food was, um, not as great as my cooking, but pretty darn good. We started out with some fresh-out-of-the-oven sourdough bread and freshly made honey butter, followed by a cup of butternut squash soup topped with bacon. There were three entrees to choose from: 1) roasted Indiana turkey; 2) maple-glazed ham; or 3) prime rib. I got the turkey, Sandy got the ham, and her Mom got the prime rib. (Sandy won this round. Not that the turkey or prime rib were bad but the ham was AWESOME.) For sides, we got turkey stuffing, mashed golden potatoes and gravy, green beans, yams, and cranberry sauce. And then there was dessert. Again, we had a choice . . . and again we each chose something different between pumpkin pie, apple caramel pie, and pecan pie. AGAIN, Sandy chose the best - the apple caramel pie was to die for. We were so full, we practically needed someone to take us out in a wheelbarrow.

It was a good day . . . and another nice Thanksgiving. But it's not the food that makes it my favorite holiday. It's a combination of historical significance and the realization I have so much to be thankful for. I'm glad we have a Thanksgiving holiday. When you really think about it, we should be giving thanks everyday. Let's try it.