You are reading this after the day of reckoning over the turkey leg and who actually got to feast on it this year. However, on this end of the publishing deadline, everywhere I turn, I hear people making plans for this holiday feast week. A trip, shopping, cooking and the inspiration for it all—Thanksgiving Dinner.
In the periphery, there are bets on football games and plots for spending vacation time from school classes. Paintball wars, cattle workings, roping, skiing and lots and lots of eating, napping, visiting and family togetherness.
Somehow, a turkey drumstick, dressing and of course the traditional pumpkin pie, still have the power to bring the family home, even from afar. Almost nothing that takes place on Thanksgiving couldn’t happen on another day of the year. I’m fairly sure the Pilgrims at the first such event didn’t look at the calendar and say, “Let’s do this on a Thursday in November. Is that good for you?”
So what is it really that keeps us coming back to the historical observance of collecting a crowd, cooking up everything in the house and eating until it’s gone and we are moaning our way back to our tepees and cabins.
I believe it is the tradition that brings families together year after year, under all circumstances. Dinner is the bonus. And rural America remains steeped in tradition for many things, but none more than a traditional holiday.
We don’t get too revved up about President’s Day, Mother’s Day (except to hold a branding) and Secretary’s Day, but give us the 4th of July, Thanksgiving and Christmas and we’ll show you down-home country tradition.
There are a few folks that hold with the thought that the pilgrims more than likely ate chicken-fried elk steak and chose to follow that menu instead of de-feathering a fowl.
Others have sought a variation to the roasted turkey bird and opted for the deep-fried version. This cooking method generated a retail Tsunami of turkey deep-fryers followed by the landslide of warnings about how the combination of fire and hot oil can quickly turn a fryer into a vertical flame thrower.
Family traditions will again be orchestrated by mothers in the way they were indoctrinated to the holiday. They will roast turkeys, hams or a side of beef, make a variety of dressing (or stuffing), potatoes, gravy, rolls and of course pies.
Families will sit around big tables stretched to the limit, with extra chairs, benches, and maybe even a flour barrel set in place for a short kid to sit on.
As families grew and scattered to the zip codes far and wide, the changes came in location, but not in traditions. It’s not quite like the days of old when “over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother’s house we go” offered images of horse-drawn sleighs and piles of snow. We’ve evolved to pickup trucks, baby carseats, long miles of paved highways in a snow-free Southwest. But the destination promises the same as the song:
Over the river, and through the wood —
Now Grandmother’s cap I spy!
Hurrah for the fun! Is the pudding done?
Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!
Enjoy your holiday, before, during and after the turkey. You are making memories you don’t yet have.
Julie likes pie and turkey too. She can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.