Thanksgiving Tales

Originally posted November 25, 2009

Well, tomorrow morning, like millions of others here in the U.S., the Texas Gal and I – joined by my mother – will head off for Thanksgiving. In our case, we’ll be going to my sister’s home in the Twin Cities suburb of Maple Grove for turkey dinner with all the trimmings. Our contribution will be a plate of deviled eggs, a dish that’s become a holiday tradition for us since the Texas Gal first brought them along in 2000.

We missed Thanksgiving at my sister’s last year due to some health issues. And the plan to return there got me thinking about the various places I’ve celebrated Thanksgiving over the years.

For years – until I was out of  college, I think – we gathered at my grandparents’ home, first on their farm outside the small town of Lamberton, Minnesota, and then at their home in Lamberton itself. Sometime in the mid-1970s, after Grandma passed on, the Thanksgiving celebration shifted to my parents’ home here in St. Cloud. And after about twenty years there, the annual feast shifted venues again, and my sister and brother-in-law have hosted Thanksgiving since then.

Besides last year’s celebration, I can recall two other Thanksgivings that have found me in different places. In 1980, I think it was, the woman who was then my wife had the idea of hosting Thanksgiving in a restored 1860s cabin owned by friends of hers. We prepared the food in our own home and then moved the entire feast about two miles to the cabin. The food was fine, but the cabin was uncomfortably cold despite the presence of a fireplace. It was an interesting experiment, but I’d rather flip it: I’d be interested in using Nineteenth Century recipes and work from a modern kitchen.

The other Thanksgiving that found me in another place was during the time I spent in Denmark. The Danes don’t celebrate the holiday, of course, but my ladyfriend – another American – and I decided to cook a traditional American Thanksgiving meal for my Danish family and a few other students, both American and Danish.

There was no turkey for sale in Fredericia, so we made do with a couple of chickens. Potatoes were easy enough, as was flour for the gravy. Green beans amandine went well enough after a tussle with the Danish language. Not knowing where the nutcracker was, I looked up the word in my Danish/English dictionary and called my Danish mother at her office. Danish uses some sounds that are, well, foreign to English, so it took some time before she understood that I was trying to say nøddeknækker.

Beyond the linguistic difficulties, the main challenge of the day was the pumpkin pie. We could find neither canned pumpkin nor a fresh pumpkin in Fredericia. Luckily, my ladyfriend had made pumpkin pie from scratch with her mother, and she assured me that an orange winter squash would meet our needs. We cleaned it, cut it up and cooked it with the appropriate seasonings and then baked it in a homemade shell. As dinner came to a close that evening, our Danish guests were a bit puzzled by the pie, but our American guests marveled at how close we’d come to the Thanksgiving dessert they’d all had for years.

That may have been my most memorable Thanksgiving ever. Does that mean it was the best? Well, no. As the fourth Thursday of November comes along year after year, each Thanksgiving somehow seems better than the one before it . . . as long as I share that table with my loved ones, especially the Texas Gal.

A Six-Pack of Thanks
“Now Be Thankful” by Fairport Convention, Island WIP 6089 [1970]
“Thank You” by Led Zeppelin from Led Zeppelin II [1969]
“I Thank You” by Mongo Santamaria from All Strung Out [1969]
“Thank You For The Promises” by Gordon Lightfoot from Shadows [1982]
‘Thanks to You” by Jesse Winchester from Humour Me [1988]
“Be Thankful for What You Got (Pt. 1)” by William DeVaughn, Roxbury 0236 [1974]

Of these six, only the Fairport Convention tune really seems to fully address the sentiments of the holiday. The others generally work with only their titles; their content has at best only a glancing connection to the day. But that’s good enough for me.

The Texas Gal and I wish you a joyful Thanksgiving. May you all have many reasons to be thankful.

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