"What we're really talking about is a wonderful day set aside on the fourth Thursday of November when no one diets. I mean, why else would they call it Thanksgiving? "
"There is one day that is ours. There is one day when all we Americans who are not self-made go back to the old home to eat biscuits and marvel how much nearer to the porch the old pump looks than it used to. Thanksgiving Day is the one day that is purely American. "
"Thanksgiving is the holiday of peace, the celebration of work and the simple life... a true folk-festival that speaks the poetry of the turn of the seasons, the beauty of seed time and harvest, the ripe product of the year - and the deep, deep connection of all these things with God. "
~Ray Stannard Baker
Happy Thanksgiving! When I was a child Thanksgiving was when all the families came to our house. Daddy and the boys would be cooking a hog on a pit and The house would be filled to the brim on the night before Thanksgiving. Uncle RC and Aunt Martha always came to spend the night. She would sit around with Mama and talk and they would be knitting or crocheting some new pattern. Mama would put as many stitches in Aunt Martha's as she would her own because she had to keep on getting it straightened out for Aunt Martha. The men would be outside doing things to get the hog ready for the pit.
Daddy would have had Jimmy and Frank digging the pit by his specifications for the past two days . It had to be the right size to get all of the hog on at once. It had to be deep enough to keep the coals underneath close enough to cook but far enough away to cook slow. The wood would have been gathered from the woods. Fallen limbs and sticks first and then some small oak trees to get the good coals from. Now days most people use a barrel with a rack in it and a hole in the side to scoop coals but Daddy always had a fire going under the wash pot and would scoop his coals from around the fire. He would bend over then and scatter the coals under the pit with his flat shovel. The pit would have an opening on each end just for that purpose.
Trudy always helped Daddy make his mops. He would make a few and then use them all night to mop the meat as it cooked. I never knew exactly what was in his mop water. Salt and pepper and vinegar I think. We all had jobs to do. Each of us had something important that Daddy or mama assigned us. No one had to remind us either. We did our little jobs what ever they might be. All night Wednesday night we would be busy with getting everything ready for Thanksgiving. The boys stayed out in the yard with the men. I once was allowed to sit out there myself. I had to keep the fire going for a while. The men didn't talk about things that I thought were interesting. They talked about working and farming. Depending on what man had stopped by they might venture on over to hunting or fishing. I was always kinda glad when Daddy sent me back inside to help the ladies.
One Thanksgiving I have very fond memories of is the year that Grandma Black let me help her make the Lemon and Chocolate pies. She pretty much stood by and let me bake them. I even made the meringue. She would sometimes spend the night on Thanksgiving even too.. Falling asleep in the chair.. But most of the time she would have someone drive her home around midnight. She always brought pies for Thanksgiving dinner. Every once in a while she would also bring a cake that I always thought tasted like ants must taste. It was a spice and nut cake. Needless to say I hated that cake.
Mama, besides entertaining any Ladies that might be there, besides Aunt Martha, would also have a lot of stuff to do. Daddy made his own hash and Mama had to get all the stuff ready for it too. Daddy cooked the Hog Heads in the wash pot outside but Mama had to peal and cook all the potatoes and everything else that he would need to make his hash. She would also have to cook enough green beans and peas and dressing and rice and gravy, potato salad and candied yams and butter beans to feed Pharaohs army. Plus bake a turkey just in case someone would rather have turkey. Macaroni pie had to be cooked and peach cobbler. We didn't serve our guest any old box of dressing mix either. All the bread had to be baked, both biscuits and cornbread, celery had to be chopped and onions too. Eggs had to boiled and pealed for the potato salad and the plate after plate of deviled eggs. I can see those plates even now. White with a gold trim, hollowed out spaces where each egg nestled into it's own space. Cranberry sauce had glass dishes long and narrow to fit the can almost perfectly once it was sliced and spread out just so.
Daddy would have the meat covered with flattened boxes and every so often he turned and mopped the meat. I tried very hard to be out there when he turned everything. If he saw a small piece of skin or meat hanging, he would always offer you a sample. When the meat began to get close to done, we would all be out there trying to get a sample. Daddy would usually declare it done just after daylight. Then would begin the cutting up of the meat and the making of the hash and his special bar-b-cue sauce. Daddy always chose just one person to help by stirring what he put in the pot. Many of us think we know the recipe. Of all the sauces I have tasted, Tricia's comes the closest to Daddy's. Daddy used to say that we weren't holding our mouth right when we made it. I don't know what his secret was. I never ever saw him measure anything and I know he didn't have the recipe wrote down.
Thanksgiving Day our house and yard would fill up from early morning to late night. Mama and Daddy would cook breakfast for a crowd plus us and we were already a crowd. Grandma Morris would come not long after breakfast bring her Pound cake and fruit cake and tins with the best divinity fudge and chocolate fudge too. She would usually bring her knitting and I often wondered if Mama was glad that Grandma had arrived to take over the entertaining part of the Thanksgiving job that was my mama's. Uncle RC and Aunt Martha's grown children might come or Uncle Robert might come. Uncle Lewis , Aunt Christine and their family almost always came for Thanksgiving. It was a family feast. But it was a friendly feast too. People came and ate and sat around all over the house and yard enjoying the day. And enjoying the food. And I really believe enjoying the company. Aunt Lucy would always come. She always brought some food to add to the table. When I was very small I even remember one Thanksgiving that all of Daddy's family was there. We played football in the field and we had almost a whole team by ourselves. Uncle Royce and Uncle Bubba's kids made a team together but we beat them.
Thanksgiving Day has always been an important day to me. I loved it as a child. I once got married on Thanksgiving day, but that too has passed away. That was the first Thanksgiving we didn't have the family feast. Later I hated Thanksgiving day. I refused to celebrate it and would always cook spaghetti on that day. I would tell Dave we should go fishing. Just being contrary you see. My kids didn't care about Thanksgiving; They had friends to see and places to be. Last year Dave and I were busy getting me home from the hospital on Thanksgiving day. Thankful that I had survived. Grateful just to be back in out own bed. I am sure we ate something that day. Morphine has made me forget what though. Tomorrow I plan to cook a turkey, and dressing with Giblet gravy. Green bean casserole, candied yams, and maybe even in the spirit of old days, a peach cobbler. I have a regular feast planned out. I know Dave and I will enjoy it. Who knows I might even get him to play me a game of tag football.. But tomorrow I will be celebrating Thanksgiving. For I do indeed have a lot to be Thankful for. Have a great day and a Happy Thanksgiving.