Smoky Mountain Family Historian

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgivings of My Younger Years

Marian Pierre-Louis made a comment on Facebook about expecting about 40 people for Thanksgiving dinner that made me think back to my younger days when we had extended family gatherings at either our house or at my paternal grandparents' home. When the gatherings were at our home, the usual attendees included my family, wives of my brothers once they were married, both sets of grandparents, some of my maternal grandfather's brothers and their families, and even my dad's brother's family. We could always count on one of the neighbors across the street showing up about the time dessert was served as well. When the gathering was at my paternal grandparents' home, the gathering included my paternal grandparents, our family (including my brother's wives once they were married), my dad's brother's family, and many of my grandfather's brothers and sisters and their families. Sometimes some of my grandmother's extended family members would also be present. There might even be a friend or two of my grandparents there who weren't related. At some point around my pre-teen to early teen years, the gatherings changed a bit. The attendees tended to be my parents, my brothers, their wives and children, surviving grandparents, my dad's brother and his wife, and my mom's brother and his wife once they moved back to Mississippi. Although you might say that the addition of aunts and uncles did make it an extended family gathering, it did not resemble the gatherings of the older days when we had trouble finding places for all the foods and desserts that were brought.

My maternal grandfather always had to have his ambrosia at the holidays. Ambrosia, as I remember it, consisted of oranges and coconut flakes, with each serving topped by a maraschino cherry. We always had turkey and ham. Of course, we had southern cornbread dressing. There was some form of sweet potato, either a casserole or candied sweet potatoes. (I preferred the casserole.) Later, we often had a butternut squash casserole instead of or in addition to the sweet potatoes. There would be green beans and/or English peas. There would be a relish tray that had pickles, olives, and things like that. (I usually skipped that one.)  We would have cranberry sauce. It was usually the canned variety. There would often be some sort of sweet salad such as a cranberry salad, "Tops" salad (which had pistachio pudding, cottage cheese, pineapples, and cool whip, I think), or maybe one that had an orange jello base to it.  There might even be another vegetable or savory salad. There would be deviled eggs for those who wanted them. We all looked forward to Mom's homemade rolls at Thanksgiving. For dessert, there would be pecan pies and either pumpkin or sweet potato pies (sometimes both). There would usually be some sort of cake also.

We try to incorporate some of those traditional items in our holiday celebrations while adding a few things that my nieces and nephews will eat nowadays. It's almost impossible to find foods that everyone will eat so we have to offer more variety in many cases. This year we'll be having the turkey, ham, dressing, cranberry sauce, sweet potato casserole, green beans, rolls, pumpkin pie, and pecan pie from the traditional meal. We'll be substituting my sister-in-law's fruit salad for the ambrosia. We'll add a hash brown casserole to the mix. I haven't decided whether or not to add some English peas or not yet. It probably depends on how many actually show up and whether some would prefer them to the green beans.

Let me wish each of you a Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you are celebrating with family.


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