Preparing for a Feast

The big question this week is are you ready for Thanksgiving? Yes, I’m ready for Thanksgiving! But I’m still working on the menu and creeping up on the big day with preparations along and along. I know what folks mean when they ask the question. They want to know if I’ve killed a turkey or smoked a ham; they want to know if I’ve baked pumpkin pies yet; and have I picked the greens and dug up the sweet potatoes and creamed the corn. Truth is, I’m fairly ill prepared judging by standards of long ago. But among the many things I’m thanking God for are grocery stores nearby, electric ovens, mixers, microwaves, a refrigerator and, most of all, a family to cook for!

Another thing I’m thankful for is the actual time of preparation. Isn’t it fun! The anticipation is almost as good as the real thing.

That moment when you sit down at the loaded table is certainly special, when everyone shares one thank you and you hold hands for the blessing, when a small person pipes up with “When are we going to eat?” and the man of the house begins carving and the first joke breaks the moment of reverence…that’s what it’s all about. But…wait….

There’s the squirreling away of the very best nuts for the pecan pies, the cutting of the pumpkin and freezing in measured batches for pies, the jelly making, the studying of recipes, the decisions, baking homemade rolls to keep in the freezer, along with pumpkin bread and cranberry bread. And then the last week’s preparations.

Last night Charles and I had a cozy time in the kitchen making cornbread for dressing and sautéing onions in butter. Still recovering from shoulder surgery, I asked him to help since the cornbread simply wouldn’t be as good if not baked in the iron pan, too heavy for me right now. It seemed like a sacrilege to pull out hot cornbread and not even eat any but about the time he dragged it out of the oven his phone rang and he had to dash off to save a snake-bitten dog. The bread was cold and not quite so tempting when he got back about 9:30. This morning I had fun crumbling the cornbread into fine crumbs.

My mother would be shocked to see me buying bags of turnip and mustard greens already washed and chopped. But I hope she would be pleased that at least I’m going to cook a big pot of greens. She would also be disappointed that I’m not putting a big piece of pork or at least bacon grease in the greens for seasoning. But they’ll be healthier for us and quite delicious cooked with a handful of chicken bouillon cubes. I used to help my mother washing the greens, leaf by leaf, rinsing about three times to be sure all bugs and grit were gone. She had far more patience than I do!

My mother-in-law was known at family gatherings for her generous, beautiful dish of creamed corn. I’ve watched her grating the corn laboriously, ear by ear, and freezing it in preparation for Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc. When she became unable to cream the corn herself she’d buy frozen sleeves of it and most folks didn’t know the difference when her dish appeared on the table. It was always empty when dinner was over. So I’m buying the corn to prepare as nearly like hers as possible.

Thanksgiving Day would not be complete without preparation of a big fruit salad, fresh if possible. Mamma’s was always laced with mayonnaise, a robust gorgeous salad of mostly apples and oranges, raisins and nuts, sometimes with coconut grated on top. I like to put red grape halves in the salad and sometimes I add canned peaches and pears diced. A can of crushed pineapple gives the salad substance without mayonnaise and the pineapple keeps the apples (and bananas if you use them) from changing color. The fruit salad is the most fun when about three of us at least take part in making it. The occasion always germinates hilarious stories and comments. Probably the laughter makes the salad better!

 

 

I  love to make pumpkin and pecan pies, two or three of each. A few years back Charles began cutting the pumpkin up for me, then I mash it and prepare it. It never occurred to me that it might be unusual to make pumpkin pie from fresh pumpkin until a year or two ago when someone asked me “Just how do you use a real pumpkin for pies?” I do not normally puree the pumpkin so it’s not as smooth as the canned pumpkin you buy. I mash it within a lick of destruction with a potato masher so that it’s smooth but with a little texture. The smell of pies baking is heavenly, especially if you use plenty of nutmeg.

Am I ready for Thanksgiving? My heart is. But there’s still preparation to go. And the best part is the children coming home, and the rest of the weekend–shopping with my daughter-in-law, “doing” a 47th birthday with our son, playing with the kids, setting up the nativity scene in our front yard. I love the sound of a basketball bouncing in our driveway, and the whir of bicycle wheels making turns around our circle. I can’t wait!

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!

“Enter into his gates with thanksgiving and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.” Psalm 100:4

 

 

 

 

 

 

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