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Thursday, 27 November 2008

Mom's Thanksgiving

By Susan Gulliford of Hillsborough NJ Journal

[NOTE: This was written for last year's Thanksgiving just after my mother died.]

My mother wasn’t born in this country, but she sure knew how to put on an all-American traditional Thanksgiving.

Her preparations started in October when she took the bus into Newark to shop for the nuts and dried fruits she needed for her steamed puddings and fruitcakes. Her fruitcakes were in demand. By the time the holidays came around they had been wrapped in cheesecloth for weeks and basted with whiskey or brandy so many times that the fumes could clear your sinuses and you probably should have been at least 21 years old to enjoy a slice.

A week or two before the big day, Mom started her cranberry relish, clamping the metal hand-cranked food grinder with the long handle around a clean dishtowel onto the kitchen table where she fed in the fresh cranberries and the cut-up oranges and just the right amount of sugar and some spices.

Sometimes the children – and later the grandchildren – were allowed to carefully turn the handle or even, if you were old enough, to slowly feed in the ingredients.

Home baked cookies were stored in tins that were saved all year just for this occasion. Anytime in November, if you were sent down the cellar to “fetch the tins,” you knew exactly what she wanted.

She produced hand-made pies – apple, pumpkin, and mincemeat – all with perfectly crimped edges on their golden, flaky crusts. I never developed a taste for mincemeat or the ability to crimp piecrusts.

Starting late Thanksgiving eve, using a small 1940s stove, she managed to complete the entire dinner by one o’clock Thanksgiving afternoon. Everything was finished cooking at the same time – another ability I did not inherit.

My parents were 19-year-old newlyweds when they spent their first Thanksgiving together. Last year my father spent Thanksgiving visiting my mother at the nursing home and after celebrating seventy-two Thanksgivings together, he will spend this Thanksgiving without her.

We can’t find her recipes. Of course, we can probably find the right kind of whiskey or brandy and offer a toast to Mom, her fruitcakes and steamed puddings, and her dedication to Thanksgiving: “Cheers!”

Our house, especially our kitchen, is quiet tonight as tomorrow we will be the guests at a niece’s Thanksgiving dinner and not the hosts.

This was originally to be a one-year intermission during some construction at our house, but I have the feeling that the earth has shifted slightly, we have crossed the generational divide and Thanksgiving dinner is not coming back to our house.

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


What a lovely tribute to your mother! How is your father?

We seem to have crossed that divide as well, and I, for one, am not one bit sorry!

After 68 Thanksgivings together, this year Mother came to our house without him, except in spirit. Instead of sitting at the head of the table, I sat in Dad's seat beside her.

She told the children about the skill of getting a large meal on the table-such as we were enjoying-with everything hot that was suppose to be hot and cold that was suppose to be cold. This was an obvious bonding point between she and my wife.

I told them about my mother and grandmother making pies with a perfect flaky crust. I told them how mincemeat pies were the last to be eaten because, though good, they weren't most folks favorite.

So many of our lives are lived on different curves of the same road. Thanks for your story.

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