Unable to return to home after our deer hunting trips in October, we gathered our family to celebrate Thanksgiving in sunny California. Our thoughts were focused on our grandmother now unable to travel, and family in Utah. Using her recipes, we tried to duplicate Grandma’s Thanksgiving dishes. Doing our best, we recreated the traditions that we’d enjoyed when younger. Grandma would start baking days before the actual holiday as homemade pumpkin and raisin pies were made in advance to have room in the oven for the huge turkey needed to feed extended family-aunts, uncles and cousins who came from miles around. Plenty of food was prepared in order to have leftovers to enjoy for days on end without any more cooking.
Grocery stores did a big business that time of year. Many ingredients could only be bought in cans and weren’t available fresh in rural Utah. Canned yams, corn, and pumpkin for pies as well as jellied or whole cranberries completed our traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Desserts included Grandma’s homemade pies, and fruit salad with whipped cream made from fruit cocktail, fresh apples, bananas, and sprinkled with chopped walnuts.
Each family has its own special traditions for Thanksgiving dinners. My husband is from Texas and his holiday meal wasn’t complete without cornbread stuffing with celery, onion, lots of sage and chicken broth for moisture and a green bean casserole. Enjoyed by all families everywhere were gobs of whipped mashed potatoes and succulent turkey gravy, tasty hot rolls with real butter, and a relish dish of homemade pickles. Yams sweetened with brown sugar and topped with melted marshmallows rounded out the feast. There was hardly room on your plate for the different kinds of food.
If the guests gathered for dinner were many, the children sat at separate card tables in the living room. Before prayer, the tradition was for each person to express what he or she was most grateful for. Family, health, food, church or America were blessings always named, and are probably the same answers we’d give today. We ate until we were stuffed, then the men folk retired to the couches or recliners to sleep while the women assembled together in the kitchen to visit, store leftovers and tackle the heaping mound of dirty dishes. I’m sure Grandma was most thankful when the dishes were done. She could take off her apron and finally relax till the Christmas feast.