As I have gotten older and my Thanksgiving roll has shifted, I am finding myself more pumped for the holidays. As a kid Thanksgiving was definitely not my favorite holiday. My grandma, mom and aunt would be up before the sun, stuffing a bird and shoving it into the oven to cook all day. While they ran around like the bird they just stuffed, I had two options; Go watch a muted football game (my grandpa’s hearing was so bad we had to get him huge head phones to avoid becoming hearing impaired ourselves), or see what the boys were doing. Since I was a damper on their parade, I usually settled for catching up on Days of Our Lives or The Young and The Restless in my grandparents bed. I had no idea what I was watching but since these were “the days of our lives” I didn’t want to miss anything.
At a whopping 2 o’clock my uncle would carve the turkey and my family would “ooooo” and “ahhhh” at the bird, like it was a magical slice of heaven sent down from the God’s. We would pray over the delicious spread and go around the table saying what we were thankful for. After twenty minutes, and feeling like my little belly would burst at any moment it was over. The kitchen was cleaned, dessert and turkey sandwiches happened, and Thanksgiving was over.
Fast forward years later and it was my turn to cook Thanksgiving. I had a little family of my own to cook for and my parent’s and brother were headed over the mountain to grandma’s house. I had the family recipe’s spread all over the counter, a fat bird thawing in my kitchen sink, and the sun was shining bright (I don’t do early morning’s). As I am preparing my turkey, I notice the bird has little bags stuffed in it, “What the hell?” I call my mom and ask her why my turkey has bags in it, she starts laughing and puts me on speaker phone for all to hear, and tells me I have to remove the gut’s. Why they would nicely package the guts was nothing shy of blasphemy. I chuckled right along with my mother, grandma, and aunt, and told them I was not putting my arm inside the belly of the beast waiting in my sink. After much convincing (why couldn’t we just have ham and sides?), I put on my big girl pants and did it. I pull out the bags and feeling pretty satisfied, put them on the counter. As I am about to hang up the phone, I hear my grandma say; “Did you forget the neck Nic?” THE WHAT?! I start to pull it out and scream, it just kept coming, a slimy, meaty piece of neck. I threw it in the trash and danced around my kitchen, wondering what else the bird had in it. My family on the other end of the phone could not contain their laughter. Feeling like this bird and I were connected on a much deeper level, I understood the “oooo” and “ahhh’s” that went with the Turkey. I slathered her up with butter and herbs, slapped her on the behind for good luck and shoved her in the oven.
What else could go wrong? Besides using WAY to many bread crumbs on the cheesy potatoes, I was finding it impossible to finish all of the sides in one oven. How did they do it? I was taking the yams out and throwing the green beans in, taking the beans out and throwing the yams back in to re-heat and repeat. FINALLY I got it, or gave up and called it. Besides scraping off a layer of breadcrumbs, dinner was delicious and I was ready to sit down with a bottle of wine. After I washed every plate, pot, pan, and piece of silverware I owned, I made a mental note to buy fancy paper plates and silverware for every holiday here on out.
Now, even years later, I am keeping the tradition alive. I passed the turkey cooking to my other half, bought fancy plates, and I make the ham and all of the sides with love. Menu preparing, grocery store extravaganzas, and up before the sun to make sure dinner is ready early, and my guests are fed, with bursting belly’s after our meal.
Since I have been doing my own Thanksgiving I have started a new tradition. I open my home to anyone who does not have a place to go, make way to much food, and spend the evening eating turkey sandwiches and pie, mapping out our attack for Black Friday madness. Every year gets better. This year I have a little niece and the family is all over the place. For Christmas last year we all came together and stayed in one house for my grandmas last Christmas. It was a piece of my childhood, every one being under roof for two weeks, cooking and doing everything grandma wanted. Luckily for us she just wanted her family, good food and Christmas lights. This year is a little sad for us as we begin new traditions, with new babies and our own little families. I will be cooking for friends, family and any other misfit looking for a hot meal. Some things will always stick and I will always take a quiet moment to be thankful for muted football games, the days of our lives and turkey necks with my family.
What are you thankful for?
(My Uncle sent me this “unedited” photo of my kid self)