An American Thanksgiving

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

September 1863 letter from editor Sarah Joseph...

Image via Wikipedia

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.

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About Message In A Fold

I am an over the road truck driver in Drive-Away Transport part of the year, and the sole bookkeeper of this operation the other part of the year. I do a lot of whining until I can get in my craft room and play with paper and glue. View all posts by Message In A Fold

9 responses to “An American Thanksgiving

  • gardenpinks

    What a lot of history I have learnt from your piece Leslie. I hadn’t realised that Thanksgiving, as a tradition, is a fairly recent tradition. Like you I always thought it dated back from the Plymouth Brethren but then after reading what you had written it makes sense that it wsn’t a national tradition because USA wasn’t USA until, again, relatively recently.
    We don’t have a Thanksgiving holiday here in the UK; many of the ‘old’ or pagan festivities were hijacked by the church so quite a few of the ‘old’ festivals have tended to fall off the calendar unless they appear on the church calendar but we have never celebrated a Thanksgiving as you would know it.
    The closest to it would be the harvest festival and once upon a time this was celebrated in rural areas by the farm labourers and a meal of sorts provided by the gentry to give thanks for getting in the harvest safely with a small service of prayer at the local church. The gentry would supply drink as well as food and the labourers would supply the music. All that has now gone and it has become a predominantly church affair, although many schools have their own harvest festivals whereby the children take dry goods, fruit, vegetables and tinned goods to school and decorate the hall, sing harvest hymns and then the food is either sent to places for the homeless, boxed up and given to the old folk in a village or donated to an old folks home.
    Many of the small churches are also decorated with fruit, vegetables, hops and wheatsheaves with the edible parts donated to homeless shelters.
    On a funny note – the ladies bloomers of long ago, do you know what I mean by bloomers? They are very long (down to the knee in some cases and some were edged with lace) well they were known as ‘harvest festivals’ because all was safely gathered in 🙂
    Hope Joe did you proud and you had a grand feast with your neighbours and friends.
    Love and hugs
    Lynn xx

    • Message In A Fold

      Your country is so rich in history and traditions. As your churches have done, so have ours. All the pagan holidays have been morphed into a spiritual celebration of one form or another.

      Your school children actively working to help their communities is something lacking here. We read about it every now and then. Terrible that it makes the news when a child feels strongly enough about a cause that they blow the adults out of the water with what they can do. Children getting involved in bringing tinned food and dry goods to aid in food drives for the people in need is a very admirable endeavor, indeed.

      I suppose it became quite a costly affair for the gentry to supply the food and drink at harvest festivals. I do know that a lot of people worked on the lands, sort of like our “share croppers”. As long as the crops were profitable the families had shelter, when the crops were not profitable – either through the vagaries of weather or bad husbandry of resources – our share croppers had to find somewhere else to live. Most of our crop lands are owned by doctors, lawyers, and many foreigners now. There is not much land that actually belongs to the original homesteaders from long ago. Corporations run the agriculture now days. I suppose your country has its share of this.

      We have not had our feast yet. The turkey is cooking away in our laundry room. In a huge electric cooker that sits atop the dryer. The stuffing will be put in the oven in a few minutes, pies are done, and our neighbors will begin arriving in about an hour. Time enough to get the potatoes cooked and mashed and the gravy piping hot to be put on the table once they arrive and get settled.

      I had to chuckle at your reference to “ladies bloomers” and the lore that went with them 🙂 Aren’t you glad we don’t have to wear clothes like that anymore? Ack, ack, ack. Being squeezed by a girdle or a corset is not my idea of living 🙂
      Love you – Leslie

  • Indira

    Happy thanksgiving Leslie, I hope you and your family have a wonderful day. Thanks for share with us a little bit of history. Take care,

    Indira

  • aspot2stamp

    Leslie you always have such informitive posts and I always learn something new.Joe’s stuffing preperation sounds like My Moms when I was a kid . I always got to help layout the bread and then tear it into pieces very fond memories. Soes Joe use alot of black perrer and rubbed sage ? The more pepper the better was my Moms motto so I like the spicy stuffing. Phantom of the Opera Yeah I love the soundtrack and have it on my laptop to listen to while I craft. I love Angel of music and think of me . Wow another common thread lol The stuffed celery sounds interesting too We just have plain stalks on the veggie tray. We are almost finished with the leftovers and I’m rady to get back to regular food. I am going to do Lasagna up for Chriatmas this year easy to cook and little clean up for me.
    Take care.
    Much love and hugs,
    Shelly

    • Message In A Fold

      Shelly, how did your Thanksgiving feast turn out? I sure hope everyone in your family is finally well. Poor Brian. Last one to fall to the flu and the poor guy got hit pretty hard by it.

      I’m so sick of turkey and stuffing. Joe made two types of stuffing this year. One had fresh herbs of rosemary, thyme, sage, and mushrooms. Not bad, the texture was a lot different than his usual. His usual is loaded with rubbed sage and pepper. Of the two I liked his regular one better. Guess the “fresh” herbs were not powerful enough like the dried herbs seem to be.

      Lasagna for Christmas…yummy!!! We will have turkey, stuffing, and the whole shebang all over again. Just when I finally use up the last of the turkey and stuffing it is time to do it all over again. Hey, Joe’s cooking it and I don’t have to so I won’t complain too much 😉

      Phantom of the Opera….loaded with memories there. If you have not seen the performance…..I recommend it. There is a complete horror story that goes along with this – not the stage performance but the one done at home by this Drama Queen. Our second Christmas together Joe got tickets as my Christmas present to the Phantom when it came to Denver (we lived in Colorado then). I didn’t want to go and the horror show commenced when I saw my gift from Joe. We went, me making life miserable for Joe on the hour long drive. Once at the theater I still groused. When the performance was over with I was begging for forgiveness for the next month. I still tell him I’m sorry to this day for my bad behavior 18 years ago this Christmas 😦

      We’ve seen it in Utah when we lived there. Had to drive 215 miles to Salt Lake City to see it, and we’ve seen it here in Oklahoma City too. It is well worth going to. Opens up the whole CD in a way you could not imagine. Crafting time would be delayed as your mind flits pictures of the Opera Diva sounding like a frog and looking like she is choking, the chandelier coming down from the ceiling over the audience and resting on the stage, the Masquerade song comes to life with the vivid costumes and the ginormous stairway the actors stand on, oh and the boat ride on the stage lit with candle lights and low lying fog as the Phantom takes Christine down below the Opera House. You and Brian would enjoy the performance.

      I so hope you guys are all well and you are getting some crafting done.
      Love to you all – Leslie

  • Shelly

    Hi Leslie
    Did my previous post show up to you? Hope you are well.
    Love and hugs,
    Shelly

    • Message In A Fold

      Sorry Shelly. I’ve been up to my “arse in alligators” here. When Joe is home I don’t get anything done!!! Even getting up at 5:00 a.m. while he sleeps in for a couple hours doesn’t help. He left yesterday so I am trying to get back to my routines.

      Now I can catch up on everyone’s blogs this morning before I get back to my work routine. Quiet reigns here once again 🙂
      Love you – Leslie

  • Shelly

    All’s well Leslie 🙂 I had just had a post that didn’t show up on Lynn’s blog while being signed into mine and thought maybe I’d done something wrong. Thanksgiving went well with all that was happening and we didn’t have to eat turkey and ham for more than 3 days as I cooked less this year than usual to avoid this 😉 . Brian is like you long ago dosen’t think he’d like the opera But I think he would and I know that I would 🙂 I feel in the zone crafting to my beloved music which is lets say not always Brians cup of tea. I like the fast beat of drums the electric guitar’s whammy bar ect. He is more of a slow rock kinda guy styx,journey more tame kinds of songs. Now I like those kind but tend to be more varied then he is. So true that opposites do attract and I am thankful for that How dull would life be if not. Take care I’m off to check the other posts and maybe work on my Christmas cards. Not very far along ….Sad to say.
    Love and hugs,
    Shelly

    • Message In A Fold

      I have some Native American music I listen to when I’m home. Joe absolutely HATES it. It is mostly all drums, and I love the pulse of it. The flutes are haunting and can get a bit high pitched which drives Joe bonkers. The music settles me and jangles Joe. So glad to hear that all is well in your home and getting back to normal. That is much to be thankful for 😉

      Stay well and hope you get more time to work on your Christmas cards.
      Love you – Leslie

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