Ah! on Thanksgiving day.…
When the care-wearied man seeks his mother once more,
And the worn matron smiles where the girl smiled before.
What moistens the lips and what brightens the eye?
What calls back the past, like the rich pumpkin pie? ~ ~John Greenleaf Whittier
Can you even imagine what the 102 Puritans were feeling inside , when they ventured from Plymouth, (a port off the coast of England,) to Holland and lastly to their new home across the Atlantic ocean? Talk about an extreme farewell? These courageous pilgrims, having had to say goodbye to a medley of cherished loved ones, traveled 65 days together in a Merchant ship called The Mayflower, in the brisk autumn season, over choppy, icy cold waters, HOPING to find freedom from the persecution they left behind. They finally arrived to dry land in the early 1600’s, (which today is the state of Massachusetts,) where they began their new lives, from scratch. What a remarkable day in history, and little did they know what their bravery and strenuous labor would bring forth to America many years later. Upon arriving to this new land, they quickly discovered that they were not alone. Their new neighbors were natives to this promising land, a tribe of Indians called the Abnaki’s. To the Pilgrims gladsome relief, these Indians were friendly and welcomed them with open arms and hearts. The Abnaki’s taught hem how to plant crops, build homes , hunt, fish in the rivers and basically became their new best friends… In celebrating their greatly appreciated freedom and newly acquired friendships, they decided to get together for a grandiose fete, sharing the bounty from their crops and enjoying a huge feast, commemorating the longest Thanksgiving Gala in the world! 🙂 For three wondrous days, they enjoyed delicious cuisine from the land and sea, gave thanks and praise to God for their full harvests, new home and friendships they hoped would be long lasting. It was not until George Washington, America’s first president, proclaimed Thanksgiving as a nation wide “Day of Thanks” in 1789, that it became one of Americas favored and celebrated holidays, thus we set the fourth Thursday aside every November and celebrate our abundance of blessings, family and friendships, giving thanks to God.
That is a short synopsis of the history of Thanksgiving in America. As I was researching and thinking about this beloved American holiday, I realized that so many of you, my readers from Romania, Sweden, Germany, Turkey, Great Britain, China, Japan, Brazil and France, (as well as many other wonderful countries,) do not have a ‘Thanksgiving Holiday,’ per say, but perhaps a day like it, where you share ambrosial, exquisite home cooking and celebrate with loved ones with grateful hearts. I can only imagine what delicious recipes are created world wide, and the wondrous traditions that come with your holidays. I think it would be a wonderful endeavor as well as “a lot of fun,” to spend time learning about all of your countries, (as well as others,) to know and understand what holidays you hold dear and how you celebrate. (The only country I have ever been to outside of the United States is Mexico, where my husband and I vacationed in Puerto Vallarta, a beautiful resort on the Pacific ocean’s Bahia de Banderas.) On my “bucket list,” (dream list,) 🙂 I have listed many other countries I’d like to visit… (Kit too.) 🙂
In celebrating this season of gratefulness and thanksgiving, I am impressed by what Melody Beattie quotes; “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.
It’s not important what ‘day’ we all choose in our medleys of faiths, traditions and countries, whats important is that we do indeed, have grateful hearts… (And celebrating with ambrosial, savory cuisine is an added plus!) (And yes, in America, Pumpkin pie , warm from our ovens is priceless… 🙂
This writing today is about our traditional American Thanksgiving holiday. I know everyone in our country, has their own traditions and way of celebrating this glorious and beloved Holiday. I wanted to share “ours,” with ample ideas for bedecking your home with warmth and festive decor for this divine gala, resplendent table settings, and of course superb recipes! I hope you enjoy this vignette!
“Thanksgiving Day is a jewel, to set in the hearts of honest men; but be careful that you do not take the day, and leave out the gratitude. ~E.P. Powell
“So once in every year we throng
Upon a day apart, To praise the Lord with feast and song
In thankfulness of heart.”
“Remember God’s bounty in the year. String the pearls of His favor. Hide the dark parts, except so far as they are breaking out in light! Give this one day to thanks, to joy, to gratitude! ” ~Henry Ward Beecher
“Our rural ancestors, with little blest,
Patient of labour when the end was rest,
Indulged the day that housed their annual grain,
With feasts, and off’rings, and a thankful strain.” ~Alexander Pope’s (original quote and writing.)
“Thanksgiving dinners take eighteen hours to prepare. They are consumed in twelve minutes. Half-times take twelve minutes.” This is not coincidence. ~Erma Bombeck
“Thanksgiving is the holiday of peace, the celebration of work and the simple life… a true folk-festival that speaks the poetry of the turn of the seasons, the beauty of seed time and harvest, the ripe product of the year – and the deep, deep connection of all these things with God. ” ~Ray Stannard Baker (David Grayson)
“Heap high the board with plenteous cheer and gather to the feast, And toast the sturdy Pilgrim band whose courage never ceased.” ~Alice W. Brotherton
“Thanksgiving was never meant to be shut up in a single day.” ~Robert Caspar Lintner
“Give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way.” ~Native American Saying
Welcome to a traditional family Thanksgiving Gala! Growing up in my family, from the moment we opened our eyes to that magical time where we entered into slumber land, it was a glorious day of delicious cuisine, festive drinks, laughter, love, fun, sharing and loosening out belts about 5:00 PM, trying to make room for a piece of Pumpkin pie! 🙂 Upon awakening, my siblings and I were already, busily planning what we would be doing with our “free time” before the extravaganza would begin, with all of our company arriving around 2:00 PM. My mom’s biggest task at hand was making magic…She was going to change turkey #1 into turkey # 2. 🙂
Because of the days resplendent menu, our first meal of the day was served early. My mom graciously treated us to a hearty, ambrosial breakfast of blueberry pancakes, eggs over easy, freshly cooked bacon and in season fruit, hoping to fill us up, so we would “stay out of her kitchen,” while she was busily conjuring up our Thanksgiving feast. We took our coffee into the living room and enjoyed staying in our P.J.”s ‘as long as we could,’ after all, it was our day off, and a beloved holiday at that!
My father kept an eminently baronial fire kindling all day long in our brick hearths…not only did the dancing, golden flames fill our hearts and souls with nostalgic memories of Thanksgivings past, but it kept our bodies warm and was fabulously conducive to getting lost in long chats with family members…Second, third, even fourth pots of aromatic chicory or French roast coffee were freshly brewed as my six siblings, dad and I had so much to catch up on, (our ears tickling with some of the great stories going on amongst our Brobdingnagian family.) It was heaven! Being that we lived in sunny Southern California, sometimes a few of my siblings and I would drive up to Balboa island and walk around the quaint islet , making sure to get our vigorous exercise in before the big turkey feast.
My sister and I always offered to help my mom in the kitchen, and she would, (after a little coaxing,) say “yes,” with the agreed upon rule that “the Turkey was HERS!” 🙂 We’d sit at her little Kitchen nook table, filling crisp, stalks of celery with all types of savory creme cheese spreads, arranging creative designs of black and green olives amongst a tray of cranberry sauce, sweet and tart pickles, and plump, sugary, spiced peaches. We got so excited when it was time to set the table as my mom would bring out “her finest” of everything… vintage white linen tablecloths, her grandmothers antiquated Haviland rose china, Waterford and Fostoria sparkling crystal, along with her elegant and pristine, freshly polished silver. Her table-scape was fit for royalty… Accented with an enchanting and inspiring, autumn centerpiece, along with a potpourri of taper candles, that when lit, were mesmerizing to our souls.
Our biggest decision of the day, after our excursion of exercise, was what to wear? Formal attire to feel festive for the big event or casual , relaxed and kick back apparel, knowing we would eat ‘way to much food’ and want plenty of “waistline” room. 🙂
“Formal is delightfully festive.” “Relaxed is so much easier.” 🙂
As our own family of nine, grew in size, (girlfriends, boyfriends, wives, all the little ones, along with my Aunt and Uncle and two cousins from New Orleans, ) my mom would set two tables for our Thanksgiving meal along with casual dining in our cozy and ‘always inviting,’ living room. Those are the Thanksgivings I remember the most as to me, there is nothing in the world that compares to a “full house”, brimming over with the sights and sounds of everyone you hold most dear in life. 🙂 We always had a choice of three different activities within the house, (while waiting to sit down and dine.) Watching The Wizard of Oz as we’d cuddle up with all of our nieces and nephews upon my parents King size bed, feeling like a little kid again ourselves, (covering our eyes with the daunting flying monkeys and frighteningly wicked witch on her broomstick.) Secondly, A buoyant football game on TV with all the guys, talking about politics and the latest new car on the market, or joining in a “girly” conversation with all of the “women” in our family, huddled together in the toasty kitchen with my mom as she was adding her signature finishing touches to our regale… It was magical, warm and sensationally festive.
After the last guest arrived, and had a chance to get a drink, and mingle with everyone, dinner was served…. Each of us had already decided where we would steal a seat… Some of us preferred sitting at the little kids table, some the formal dining table and others in the living room, in front of the roaring fire, though the foot ball game was turned off, (well, at least on pause, ) 🙂 replaced by the last day of my fathers symphony music, melodically flowing down the stairs from his study, (filling our home with a cheerful and gladsome ambiance,) as the next day marked the beginning of a diverse and lively array of Christmas tunes for the next six weeks! 🙂 My father always prayed a beautiful, heart felt prayer at grace, and as we grew older, there was an open invitation for anyone else to add to his prayer of gratitude. It was so quiet, you could hear a ‘pun drop’, (as Arthur Baer would say,) except if someone added a bit of humor to their thanksgiving prayer, (most likely, one of my brothers,) 🙂 which caused the rooms to echo with laughter.
Our Menu for our fete? (not counting the appetizers put out in each room, which I won’t elaborate on, as the dinner itself is going to make my mouth water as I begin to write about it. 🙂 )
Roasted turkey, (a butterball I might add, always cooked to perfection,) filled to overflowing with homemade cornbread stuffing, giblet gravy, steamed seasoned rice, cranberry sauce, buttery, fresh mashed potatoes, the ever popular green bean casserole, hot steamy rolls, a relish tray of diverse olives, stuffed celery and spiced peaches, tomato aspic, my Aunt Lou’s treasured sweet potato souffle, (yes the one with yummy melted marshmallows on top,) plenty of hot chicory coffee, ( so delicious with freshly whipped cream,) fine chardonnays for those who drank and sparkling cider for those who did not. I know there are plenty of quotes and stories told about how it takes hours and hours to prepare for the Thanksgiving feast and yet, the meal only lasts 20 minutes! 🙂 Not so in our family, as we would sit and talk , even after the plates had been cleared, sipping our wine or coffee, waiting for our stomachs to make room for some pie… Pies? I forgot about the pies…We definitely had our choices…Pumpkin pie, mincemeat with hard sauce, (my dads favorite,) pecan pie a la mode and at times a chocolate fudge layered yellow cake… If you can believe it, some of my brothers actually had a little of each… 🙂
Before we knew it, the gloaming hour had graced us with it’s enchanting presence, with the fire light still aglow, our stomachs completely satisfied, and the football game over, slowly our home emptied out. After my sister and I cleaned up the kitchen, (giving my mom some time off her feet,) a few of us, still charged up with energy, would pick a movie to go and see…I will always remember one year, we chose Saturday Night Fever with John Travolta…By the time we arrived to the theater, (and yes, can you believe it, we still got buttered popcorn,) the only seats left were in the front row… (I would not recommend sitting that close to the screen to even my least favorite person 🙂 ) John Travolta had the longest legs I had ever seen, from my distorted view… 🙂 The music was absolutely fabulous though! 🙂 (I was ‘discoing-out’ in my seat…) 🙂
As I laid my head down on my pillow, totally exhausted, eminently happy and thankful for such a wondrous family, great food and a warm and cozy home to live in, I would fall asleep saying my prayers to the Lord… (NO, I was not envisioning a turkey and cheese omelet for breakfast the next morning…) I was dreaming of the Christmas season beginning the next day and how the 4 weeks ahead, would be the happiest of the year… 🙂
That is my version of how I grew up and experienced a traditional Thanksgiving day, though I know that there are many more wonderful traditions and scrumptious recipes that American households share together on this renowned holiday.
Now, being married, having my own family, and living on the east coast, (with all our family on the west coast or mid west,) our Thanksgivings have changed a little bit…I still set a festive table with enchanting candlelight and prepare the same traditional menu as my mom, (with a few changes of course.) 🙂 No rice, (that’s way to many carbs with the two potato dishes and rolls,) 🙂 I make my own gravy as I do not like the giblets…( though Graham drools over them), I invite Kit into the kitchen and he is a big help, (I can’t get Graham to leave the kitchen,) its cozy though! There is no tomato aspic in this house…(sorry dad…never acquired the taste,) and we stick to one pie, ( Kit’s specialty,) pumpkin pie, as we know how left overs are to tempting and we do try to watch our waistlines. 🙂 New to my families tradition, we have the best homemade recipe for Eggnog from Kits dad…that topped with whipped cream is absolutely superb. When we have friends over, I try to send them home with some kind of homemade token of our day together and Kit and I don’t have the energy to go out to a movie after our big feast, (we are usually asleep by 8:30 PM,) but sometimes we light a bonfire in our back yard and allow the dancing flames to entertain us while we mull over the wondrous day we’ve had. We still watch a little football, a favorite movie or two, play some Josh Grobin or Andrea Bocelli, (maybe a couple of Christmas carols,) 🙂 light a potpourri of candles as we do not have a dreamy fireplace, (some day!) and we make a few phone calls to family to wish then a blessed day! Whether just Graham, Kit and I or a friend or two over, our house is entrancingly quiet and our day of festivity is serene and blissfully happy, as we celebrate with convivial spirit and choice cuisine, giving thanks to the Lord for all of His grace, love, bounty and blessings to our lives. It really is one of our favorite holidays… Especially thanking the Lord for each other, our cozy family of three…
If you decide to host this beloved holiday in your home, creating a picturesque and engaging ambiance for this special gathering is not only fun, but will make your guests feel pampered, cozy, welcomed and so “at home,” they will want to stay forever! Here are are a few festive ideas to festoon your home with for your holiday.
The first impression of your home is your front yard, porch and front door. It alone sparks the excitement of the gathering when ‘dressed for the occasion.’ I love this simple, yet very elegant, inviting homemade wreath!
If you have a fireplace, absolutely keep a roaring, enrapturing fire going all day! TO bring added warmth and festivity, add some autumn gourds, colorful fruits, garlands and red candles… This beautiful and kaleidoscopic ‘ touch of nature” display is heartening and pleasing to both the eyes and soul alike. 🙂
Create a cozy flavor and atmosphere in your living room for this festive affair…use rich fall colored pillows and throws, light an autumn scented candle or two, display a beautiful bouquet of fresh flowers and put out some Hors d’oeuvres with ample mugs of hot mulled cider. They are all small details that add up, to make your guests feel at home and pampered.
Some more cozy touches… an abundance of motley throw pillows, fresh flowers, a warm, rich autumn hued accent rug with a homemade quilt accenting the couch, creating a congenial invitation to sit, relax, kick your shoes off and enjoy!
If your crowd is a big one this year, extend the eating space by opening up your kitchen nook… this is where my mom created “the children’s table” where believe me, many adults made sure they had a ” seat saved.” 🙂
If the weather is conducive, your faithful and cozy porch is also a place to set up for more ambrosial dining! (A perfect and dulcet nook to sneak off to, as you and your close sibling catch up on all the latest news.)
If your gala is formal, and again, the weather permits, create an elegant patina on your porch with white linens tablecloths, sparkling crystal and your antiquated. timeless silver…Remember to have space heaters if it is a bit chilly and bedeck your tables with a medley of elfin candles. This verandah would make for a perfect , thanksgiving dinner.
Since you already KNOW that your guests will be in and out of the kitchen, whether to chat with the cook, gather to help prepare, or sneak a bite of that delicious sage sausage stuffing, hot out of the oven, festoon your kitchen with beckoning and captivating , autumn decor!
For me, the dining room table, can never be to festive, for any occasion… This hostess has gone all out with her gorgeous, vintage candelabras, elaborate taper candles, fall foliage centerpiece and prestigious, fine china and crystal. This table is prepared for royalty and each guest will feel an abundance of convivial warmth and spirit.
If you choose to not have the standard array of thanksgiving pies, you can always bake a few delectable confections and place them on your dining room side board table atop a three tiered cake stand, accompanied by an array of fetching candles. Not only is this display tempting, enticing and beautiful, but your guests will be reminded to save room for the particular sweet treat they have their eye on. 🙂
You can never be “to creative” with your Tableaux centerpiece. Whatever you choose to design and bring forth, will be a mood-setter for your guests dining experience. This artful and garish centerpiece is charming, festive and would undoubtedly be the talk of the table!
After your palates are completely satisfied, if you have an outside fire pit or are able to build one yourself, it is quite a treat to bundle up around the roaring fire, tell a few stories and end the blithesome holiday with a bonfire.
Lastly, when my guests leave, I have always enjoyed giving them some kind of homemade trinket to take home as a memory of our holiday spent together… These gifts are not only beautiful to display but you know they are going to taste delicious. 🙂
Whatever country you live in, or whatever your day of thankfulness is, I wish for it to be a day, blessed with peace, delicious food, wondrous camaraderie and a day of heart felt gratitude…
I want to share a few of my traditional recipes with you in closing….My homemade sage sausage stuffing and sweet potato souffle, as well as simple ways to make your gravy, turkey and pumpkin pie. (All very popular in our household! ) Enjoy!
Sweet Potato souffle.
YOU WILL NEED:
4 large sweet potatoes, 1/2 stick of butter,1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 3 TBSP maple syrup, 2 eggs beaten, 1/2 cup half and half, 1 TBSP vanilla, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1 package chopped pecans, 1 bag miniature marshmallows, 1/4 tsp allspice, (a dash of cinnamon if you like.) 🙂
Preheat your oven to 350
Either microwave or boil your sweet potatoes until cooked, let cool a little, then mash with 1/2 stick of soft butter. Add your beaten eggs, spices, both sugars, maple syrup, pecans and vanilla. Spoon into an 8 inch greased pan, bake for 30 minutes. Take casserole out of oven, top with marshmallows and place back in oven for 5 minutes, allowing the marshmallow to melt and get just a bit toasty,(lightly browned.) This recipe is always a hit at any occasion!
Sage sausage stuffing.
YOU WILL NEED:
1 pound Jimmy Dean sage breakfast sausage, 1 onion finely chopped, 2 stalks celery finely chopped, 1 package Pepperidge farm season bread crumbs, (cornbread preferred but the original is fine as well,) 2 & 1/2 cups chicken broth, 1/2 stick of butter, ground black pepper, (I add a touch of Tabasco sauce for spiciness.) 🙂
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Crumble and cook your sausage over medium low heat ’til cooked. Drain and set aside.
In 3 quart sauce pan, add your butter, chicken broth, pepper, chopped onion and celery and cook on medium heat, stirring often and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low, cover and allow to cook for five minutes. (You want your vegetables to be tender.) When cooked, remove from heat and add your bread crumbs, and sausage, mix well, place in casserole dish and bake for 30 minutes. (Can be made the day before if you like.)
For our dinner, I only bake half of my stuffing for a delicious side dish. I set the other half aside to stuff my turkey…it not only flavors the turkey with savory spices and an abundance of superb flavor but it is very moist, and gives your guest two choices of stuffing to have with their turkey. ( The stuffing from inside the turkey is my husbands very favorite side dish.) 🙂
Susan’s turkey gravy.
For my gravy, I do not use the turkey giblets :) I bake our turkey in an oven cooking bag, saving all the juices from the turkey at the bottom of the bag…In a large sauce pan, I mix 1/2 stick of softened butter with 2-3 Tablespoons of flour and make a rue…over low heat as the butter melts with the flour, I slowly add the juices of the turkey as I continue to whisk my gravy. (From then on out , its eying the texture of your gravy…if you want it thicker, add more flour, constantly whisking, if a thinner consistency is desired, add more of your turkey juice or chicken broth. It’s “simply marvelous”, as Billy Crystal would say, over your mashed potatoes and rice.
For my turkey, I always bake it in a oven bag, (found at the grocers…) it comes out so tender and juicy! Directions for the baking time of your particular turkey is inside the box . All I do is defrost my turkey, clean it out and fill it with the unbaked portion of stuffing, rub it with softened butter and use fresh ground pepper to season, place it in the bag, tie it and bake.) I wish I could tell you what to do with the giblets… 🙂 (Some of you may love them.)
And lastly, you can’t beat the recipe for pumpkin pie on Libbey’s pumpkin pie filling in the can. I buy Pillsbury pre-made pie crust in the refrigerator section at the grocer and line my pie pan, and create the pumpkin pie filling, according to the cans directions. Fill the pie shell and bake as directed. (Actually, Kit does all this as he is the pie maker in our family. 🙂 (Served with freshly, sweetened whipped cream, this dessert is mouthwatering and always envelops our hearts with cozy, nostalgic memories of holidays past.) Pumpkin pie just does that! 🙂
All this delicious food is making me wish that Thanksgiving was today! 🙂
PHOTOGRAPHS: In placing your computer mouse upon any of the photos or graphics, it will display where the picture originated from.