The Colors of Thanksgiving

It may surprise you to know that we Americans are not the only people to enjoy a celebration dedicated to giving thanks. 

  • Long before Europeans arrived in North America, the Indigenous Peoples had celebrated the harvest with autumnal festivals.
  • Canada’s first Thanksgiving celebration happened in 1578, several decades before the one at Plymouth. Today, Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving on the second Monday in October each year.  
  • In Japan, citizens celebrate Kinro Kansha no Hi (Labor Thanksgiving Day) on November 23rd each year. On this national holiday, people are encouraged to focus on the value of hard work and community service. Children celebrate the day by making cards for local police, firefighters, and other community helpers. 
  • The German equivalent of Thanksgiving is Erntedankfest, which translates to “harvest festival of thanks”. 
  • Surprisingly, there are people in the the Dutch city of Leiden who celebrate Thanksgiving. Some of the Pilgrims leaving England traveled to North America on the Mayflower, but some stayed behind in Leiden. Today, the people of Leiden still celebrate their connection to the Mayflower’s passengers by having church services on the fourth Thursday of November.
  • Americans have spread the idea of Thanksgiving around the world to places like Norfolk Island in the Pacific Ocean, Grenada, Puerto Rico, and Liberia.

Step back a moment and think about the people on this list who are celebrating Thanksgiving; from the Netherlands ~ to Japan ~ to Liberia, they come in all colors. 

Now, look around you at nature.  During the Autumn months, everything slows down and the vibrant green colors of summer begin to change.  Days are shorter, temperatures drop, and the Earth blankets us with a quilt of reds, oranges, yellows, and browns.  These colors just feel cozy, don’t they?  

It is not a surprise that when we look at the traditional North American Thanksgiving feast spread out on the table, we see many of the same colors. First, there is the glistening brown turkey, dressing, and warm gravy. Surrounding them you may see dark green broccoli, warm orange butternut squash, yellow rutabaga, creamy mashed potatoes, and ruby red cranberry sauce.  When we eat what the Earth provides, we find that the colors of nature are reflected in our food.

I conclude that Thanksgiving is a holiday that reminds us to be the best version of ourselves; to look up from our devices, slow down, give thanks, show kindness, have gratitude, and breathe. Let us join together to give thanks for the beautiful colors around us…in the people, in nature’s colorful display, in the bounty of food. For the gifts of the Earth, give thanks. 

Photo of trees by Dennis Buchner on Unsplash

Photo of feast by Christopher Ryan on Unsplas

Photo of pumpkins by Joseph Gonzalez on Unsplash

Photo of turkey by Meelika Marzzarella on Unsplash

The Great Thanksgiving Debate…

“Debate? What debate”?, you ask. Cranberries~we need to talk about cranberries.  Cranberries are synonymous with Autumn and many people today associate cranberries with Thanksgiving. So let’s answer the question of whether or not cranberries were present at the first Thanksgiving feast.  

The answer is no. While the very tart cranberry may have been included in some Wampanoag dishes, there would have been no cranberry sauce at the first Thanksgiving.  Sugar would have been horribly expensive and scarce in the colonies in 1621. No evidence of anyone making or eating cranberry sauce can be found for at least the next half century. A recipe for cranberry sauce appears in the 1796 edition of The Art of Cookery by Amelia Simmons, the first known cookbook authored by an American. She wrote about cooking cranberries with sugar to make a “sweet sauce” that could be eaten with meat.

Now that we have addressed the history of cranberry sauce, we have to turn to the great divide: I love it vs. I hate it. How is it that this simple, round, red, shiny, unassuming fruit can be the cause of such controversy?  Are you part of team love it or team hate it?  Here are the facts. 

In 2019, Instacart,  in coordination with Harris Poll, conducted an  online survey of 2000 Americans. Respondents were asked to talk about their feelings about foods on the table at Thanksgiving. The least popular item was, you guessed it, cranberry sauce.  Almost half of the 2000 participants described canned cranberry sauce as “disgusting”

Now, I am not a fan of canned cranberry sauce, but I am not holding that jiggly gelatin in the can against all cranberries.  I buy fresh cranberries and have the joy of making my own cranberry sauce on the stove.  First of all, it is so easy!  Here’s the recipe:  a bag of cranberries, a cup of water, and a cup of sugar.  Bring it to a boil and simmer.  Here’s the fun part; as the water heats up around and within the cranberries they expands and the cranberries pop!  It sounds similar to popcorn! When my son was little, he would beg to help make the cranberry sauce.  He is in his forties now and still brings the homemade cranberry sauce to our family Thanksgiving table.  So, if you haven’t, I suggest you give it a try.  It tastes so good (you can make it as sweet (add more sugar or honey), tart (add lemon rind an juice)as you like), or spicy (add cinnamon, orange juice) and it becomes a lasting family memory.

Now, part two of the GREAT DEBATE: if we agree that there will be cranberry sauce on the Thanksgiving table, will it be whole fruit or jellied?  My family is firmly dug in on the whole fruit side of the issue and my husband’s family will only eat the jellied version.  As you have probably guessed, I end up with not one, but two serving dishes of cranberry sauce, one for each.

In addition to really enjoying the way the tang of cranberry sauce cuts the richness of the Thanksgiving bounty, it just looks so pretty on the table. I love the beauty of the table. The rich browns of potatoes, turkey, dressing, golden colors of squash or sweet potatoes, greens of hearty vegetables, and then there is that pretty pop of red cranberry nestled in among all the warm colors of Autumn on the table. 

There are plenty of reasons to love Thanksgiving. This holiday is about so much more than the food, and I never ignore the fact that I am richly blessed by the people sitting at the table with me. Whether or not there is cranberry sauce on your Thanksgiving table, I am sending out warm wishes for a holiday filled with family, friends, food, and fun.  Go gather memories and hold them close to your heart.

Thank you for the photo: melissa-di-rocco-qorye5pnuAk-unsplash.jpg

Turkey Leftovers

I hate wasting food, don’t you?  To me, throwing away food is just awful.  To start with, I might as well just take my hard-earned paycheck and put it in the garbage disposal along with the shriveled tomato, wilted lettuce, or moldy cucumbers.

I remember hearing my mother say that I had to eat everything on my plate because there were children in the world who were starving.  This typically invoked a response from me that included some well-known preteen eyeball rolling.  But, like so many other things in my life, as an adult, I view things differently and have to admit that I agree. How dare I waste food when there are mothers all over the world watching their children waste away from starvation?

If I lived alone, I would live life as a vegetarian; it really bothers me that animals have to perish in order for me to eat a meal.  I resolve my emotional conflict over this issue by making absolutely certain that I never waste meat. Before I purchase meat, I have a plan in place for how I will use it all.

Thanksgiving turkey is a perfect example. Like everyone, we eat leftovers. I always have a menu planner on my iPad and once the turkey is consumed my planner has a

img_0353lot of turkey items lined up. We make hot leftover turkey plates, hot or cold turkey sandwiches, turkey salad, and finally turkey soup. The turkey soup is important to me because I eke out every bit of nourishment from the turkey.

Today is turkey soup day and it makes me happy to make this big pot of comfort food for my family.  Paired with a fresh, warm loaf of homemade bread, nothing seems better.  This afternoon as I simmered the turkey with carrots, onions, celery, and a bundle of fresh herbs, I took a moment to feel thankfulness and gratitude for my ability to provide nourishing food for my family.

So, for me and my family, the true message of Thanksgiving is not wasted, nor is any turkey.  And so, I say, “For the creatures of this Earth, I give thanks.”

The Saga of Tater!

Like a lot of people, my school experience resembled a roller coaster ride…it was filled with happy highs and not-so-happy lows. All these moments normally remain safely tucked away in my memory bank. 

For some reason, the approach of Thanksgiving this year unlocked a long forgotten incident from my elementary school, and it floated to the surface. In 1953 my dad was in the military and we were living in Virginia for a few months.

I went to a small K-12 school situated in a mostly rural area. The entire school had fewer than 100 students with one teacher per grade level. On this particular day, our play yard was blessed with beautiful, clear blue Autumn skies and a scattering of trees wearing golden, scarlet, and bronze crowns.

The Head Master had let the teachers know that the students were to assemble in the play yard at a pre-determined time that morning. We were lined up and led to the yard in a flurry of excitement. This was an unusual event and cause for lots of whispered speculation.

Picture this…

There in the center of the play yard behind the painted hopscotch grid stood the Head Master and a T-U-R-K-E-Y! Yes, a living, breathing, gobbling turkey named Tater! If this were to happen today, I expect parents would be up in arms that the children were traumatized, but sure enough, the Head Master challenged us to come up with a plan to save Tater from his fate as Thanksgiving dinner.

Now, Head Master neglected to tell us that Tater was a beloved pet, so I remember frantically trying to come up with an idea. Blank! My mind was a total blank! I think I ended up writing that they should eat extra potatoes and vegetables. Lame, I know, but in spite of my less-than-stellar suggestion, that day was special. The students across all grade levels had banded together with common purpose. Student engagement was at an all-time high and collaboration was everywhere. I don’t remember my teacher’s name or the Head Master’s name, but the turkey’s name was Tater!

He was named Tater because his family would eat nothing but potatoes before they would ever eat him! So, Tater had a happy ending, and so does this post. I memorialized this moment and Tater with my persuasive writing activity: Save Tater the Turkey.

Tofu anyone? LOL!

So, here’s to Happy Teaching, Happy Memories, and Happy Thanksgiving!

In my Father’s Footsteps

From Generation to Generation:

My father loved to cook. I remember him standing in the kitchen over a hot stove with a cold beer in hand. He spent many an evening pouring over his collection of cookbooks and foodie magazines looking for new recipes to try. And try them he would. Today my parents have passed away and I am living in their home and each time I walk out into the kitchen I can see him standing there chopping, dicing, or stirring. I miss him. 

My father invited my son to join him in the kitchen. They stood side by side while performing culinary tricks and today that passion for cooking has been passed along to a new generation of chefs. I find great pleasure in watching him stand in his kitchen looking so much like my dad. Not only does he like to cook, but he’s very good at it! 

One of the things I like to do occasionally is pull out one of my father’s recipes and recreate it. We all sit around enjoying the food and our precious memories. Here is one of his favorites. I made it recently, and it is just delicious.  Here in Coastal Georgia we have access to wonderful wild caught local shrimp. Give it a try!
Shrimp with Tequila Dipping Sauce
Shrimp:
Lay 1-2 pounds of medium to large shrimp out on a roasting pan. Coat with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven at 350 degrees until the shrimp have just turned pink. Watch them carefully. If you overcook them, they get tough. Cool them and arrange them on a platter. You may peel them for your guests or leave them in the shell. If you peel them, leave them in the shell until just before you serve them so they won’t dry out.

Dipping sauce:

1 large whole egg

1 large egg yolk

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup vegetable oil (canola is good)

1 7 oz. jar of pimentos, drained

¼ cup tequila

¼ cup bottled chili sauce

1 dash of Worcestershire sauce

1 dash of bitters

1 dash of hot sauce

In your Vitamix, blender, or food processor with the steel blade, blend the egg and the extra egg yolk, mustard, vinegar, and salt. With motor running, add oil in a slow stream. It is important to pour slowly so the mixture emulsifies and thickens, almost like a mayonnaise. Add pimentos, tequila, chili sauce, Worcestershire sauce, bitters, and hot sauce. Blend until well combined. Chill until ready to serve. 
Put the sauce in a bowl and top with a pretty sprig of parsley and a few lemon wedges. Surround the bowl of sauce with the shrimp. Your guests will love it! 

In Loving Memory

Manley Woodward Clark

1913 – 1997

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