Today, being the third Thursday in November, 2010, is the day of Thanksgiving in America. My husband, Joe, will have the kitchen all to himself for our feast. I’ll help out when needed but today is his day.
Joe will be dicing up onions and celery, lots of it, for his stuffing. He’ll be up to his wrists in dried bread crumbs we purchased at our local grocery store. In the years past, every flat surface in the kitchen would be filled with rows and rows of white bread drying out, seven loaves to be exact. This ritual would begin on Tuesday night before we went to bed. Wednesday morning the slices of bread would be turned over to continue the drying process. Throughout the day the bread would be tested for dryness by holding a piece and depressing it with his fingers. If he did not feel any moisture that slice would be dropped in a paper bag.
He has, also, layered the oven racks with the bread slices and left them on a low heat to dry out in the oven. Joe says this takes longer because he can’t get as much in the oven as he could just laying it all out.
Our first Thanksgiving was “pie-less”. I hovered, watching over his shoulder the whole time he was preparing the feast. My constant worry was that if he screwed this up I’d have to fix it and I’ve not had any experience with making the traditional feast. By the time he was done the oven was cram packed with delicious smells emanating from it and no room to bake any pies. For 20 years, and more before me, Joe has labored in the kitchen making our Thanksgiving dinner. He does Christmas and New Years also.
In 2007 we spent the holiday in Colorado at one of our daughter’s homes. Joe and Loreli worked side by side.
In 2008 we spent the holiday in Colorado, once again, with our other daughter, Tiffany, after the birth of Joe’s first grandchild.
In 2009 we spent the holiday in Arizona with Carissa as she and Joe prepared the feast.
Each one of our girls chopped up about eight onions with Joe’s attentive help. Tears running down their faces from the onions. A few minutes of complaint when Joe thought more chopped onions were necessary. Four bunches of celery were next on the chopping block as he showed them how to select the stalks for the stuffing and those to be slathered with his “Celery Stuffing” that all in our family love.
I have learned that the day we, as American’s, celebrate Thanksgiving has not always been the third
Thursday of November. Truly, it was not even the much taught about Plymouth Landing peoples that first set foot in America in 1621. The Plymouth people celebrated an autumn harvest festival and not every year as has been taught in our schools. These celebrations were proclaimed from time to time.
From “The Elks Magazine” issue of November 2010, I gleaned the following information.
The next known celebration of thanksgiving was in Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1631 when a long overdue ship arrived bearing supplies after it was thought to have sank and been lost at sea.
The New England Colonies celebrated Thanksgiving, sometimes in November and sometimes in December until the late eighteenth century. The dates differed each year while each colony declared their day of celebration.
During the Revolutionary War from 1777 to 1783 the Continental Congress declared a national day of thanksgiving to be held in December. According to the article, George Washington proclaimed Thursday, November 25, 1789 to be the first Thanksgiving Day. He would go on to proclaim one more day of thanksgiving during his presidency. After that, it pretty much was up to the colonies when they would celebrate thanksgiving again.
Before the Civil War, President James Madison designated a day in April to celebrate peace with England in 1815. Outside of the New England Colonies thanksgiving was not celebrated because many of the nations leaders thought proclamations of thanksgiving were counter to the separation of church and state.
For many years a young woman, named Sara Josepha Hale, committed herself to establishing a national day of thanksgiving. For nearly forty years she waged a one-woman campaign by writing letters to governors, ministers, newspaper editors, and every US president. She experienced some success in her endeavors. It was the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863, with the country bitterly divided, when she was making in roads to her cause. Finally on October 3, 1863 President Lincoln issued the proclamation making the third Thursday in November a national Thanksgiving Day.
So, on this Thanksgiving day of 2010 with our children spread out far and wide, we are thankful that each one of them have taken up the tradition taught to them by Joe. From their earliest childhood memories “Dad” in the kitchen lovingly laboring over an abundant feast. “Phantom Of The Opera” or “Cats” filling the house with music while the delicious smells reach into every crook and cranny bringing choruses of “is it ready yet?”
Joe’s feast of the senses would make the table groan from the weight and children scurry to their chairs. Laughter would ring out, plates would be passed for slices of turkey. Then piled high with mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and a vegetable. Playful fights would break out when someone took the last piece of stuffed celery.
On this Thanksgiving Day, Joe is in the kitchen once again. The “Phantom Of The Opera” playing as he chops and dices. Up to his wrists in bread crumbs, eggs, seasoning, and the chopped onions and celery. Cranberry sauce from scratch was prepared yesterday and is cooling in the little refrigerator that works. His jello salads share space with his 110 and 220 film and a few bottles of beer. Celery sticks are chilling in water that were prepared yesterday, another bowl holds the golden delicious celery stuffing I helped him make yesterday by separating a dozen eggs. The yolks were cooked in a double boiler along with vinegar and sugar until they were done to his perfection. As the yolks cooled he shredded Colby cheese to go in the cooling egg yolks to sort of melt and blend in. More cheese will be added after the entire mixture has totally cooled so pieces of cheese stick out all over the place when slathered on a celery stick. Sweet and tart, crunchy and sublime is what we all enjoy about his stuffed celery.
On this day of Thanksgiving, let us all be thankful for the men and women that labor in a hot kitchen to prepare the entire feast. And special thanks go to those that make it easier by bringing a much favored dish to the table from their kitchens to be lustily enjoyed as we stuff ourselves into a stupor with friends and family to begin the holiday season that is upon us.
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. May your homes be full of laughter and love.