Well the holidays are officially here. We get a break between Halloween and Thanksgiving but now that Turkey Day is here, we are in full swing.
I hope you all have your gift lists done and “what I’m thankful for” speeches prepared for this special time when you gather around the table to catch up with friends and family on the latest happenings and to share in the tradition of eating turkey -- or tofu turkey if you are vegetarian -- stuffing, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie -- or no pie if you are watching your waistline.
I’m originally from Cleveland so my favorite Thanksgiving memories might be different than some of yours. Here they are.
1. My dad getting up at the crack of dawn to cook the turkey so we could bring it to my grandma’s house by 1 p.m., which was always meal time. This is my top memory because it happened many years in a row like clockwork. Now I’ve grown up and dad is in heaven, and I live in California. I grew up in Euclid, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland. Grandma lived in Ashtabula, not far from Pennsylvania.
As a girl, we always went to my grandma’s house for the big holidays. Dad would get up at around 5 a.m. and put the turkey in the oven and around 7 a.m. I’d wake to the smell of Thanksgiving dinner and what a smell it was. When we were ready to drive to grandma’s house, he’d put the turkey in the trunk under a bunch of towels so it’d stay warm. So for an hour we’d smell the turkey while driving there. Grandma went to heaven a few years ago as well. Miss you dad and grandma.
2. Thanksgiving in St. John US Virgin Islands in 2007 at Maho Bay, a luxury camping facility. This was by far the very best Thanksgiving ever. Yes, I loved visiting my grandma in Ohio when I was a girl, and miss her dearly. And I also miss dad putting the turkey in the oven before sunrise.
But nothing beats being in paradise and snorkeling all day and then eating a gourmet turkey dinner at a luxury campsite on the rough and tumble side of St. John. That was the best. No dishes. No fattening leftovers to tempt me. Our own iguana living on the tree branch outside the kitchen window. Life was good in St. John.
If I had a choice, I’d spend every holiday in a tropical paradise. I want to give a shout out to my neighbors who are in Hawaii right now. I am truly jealous.
3. A can of black olives. My parents’ longtime tradition was to serve a bowl full of black olives before each Thanksgiving meal. One time I was at someone else’s for Thanksgiving and there were no olives and I was kind of sad. So each year my husband buys me a can of black olives. Sometimes we forget to open them but it’s nice of him to remember.
4. Pearled onions. My husband’s mom in New Jersey makes awesome pearled onions. My family never made or served these so this is a newer tradition for me. I’ve had a small handful of Thanksgivings with her and I must say she’s an excellent cook and the onions are to die for. So I make sure my husband has these onions while he makes sure I get my olives.
5. Guess the mystery meat game. I recently got in touch with my cousin Stephanie after many years. Like me she moved from Ohio to California. Our dads are twins. Her dad, my Uncle Brent died soon after my dad died so we have a lot in common.
In any case, Steph’s dad, my Uncle Brent, used to bring mystery meat as a side dish to Thanksgiving dinner at Grandma’s. He and his friends were big time hunters which I was told was a good thing because so many animals can’t survive in the snow a long time so you may as well put some out of their misery. I can’t say I’m a big fan of hunting but it was important to him and it did put food on the table.
In any case, he’d bring mystery meat each year and we’d have to guess what it was. I think it was just rabbit or venison each time.
I never actually tasted the mystery meat but we all had a grand time guessing. My brother and I always got a kick out of this. Everyone would guess things you normally don't find on your plate like beaver or squirrel.
I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving this week, and may you enjoy your own family's traditions.