Memories - I Remember Thanksgiving With My Family


The winter season starts off with Halloween in October, and right around the corner is Thanksgiving. That was when Daddy would do the shopping and Mother lived in the kitchen for 2 to 3 days so everything would be just be perfect. The turkey was always over 20 pounds as there would be 15 to 20 guest here.

In the early years Mother did it all alone and had no help in the kitchen till it was over and some of the lady friends cleared the table and did the dishes. Daddy would put the food on the table or have help from a hungry guest.  After he was gone only Mother could carry it, it was balanced on her head. She carried her clean laundry that way too. On her head. She was quite good at it after having to do it all her life.

During this time the men would move the table and chairs back to where they belonged then they would sit around and visit while the ladies were doing the same thing in the kitchen while they did the dishes. Mother would stay on the couch as she was wiped out from all the preparation of the meal. We can sit, stand and lay down when we are tired. Mother had two choices sit or lay down. She had painful bone problems as she got older and heavier.  So her only relief was to lay down which she would never do with guest in the house.

We always had the exact same thing for Thanksgiving every year and it always turned out perfect.  Mom could time everything down to the minute. So it would be on the table at the same time.

After Daddy died she continued the meals but now she had help in the kitchen, she volunteered me.  I learned all the recipes and in later years the torch was passed to me.  I had watched how she did everything and even the more different foods came out just like hers.

Here are some of my mothers traditional offerings.

The Broccoli salad for one.  She would use chopped frozen broccoli, boil it in salt water and drain it good.  Let it cool a bit and use lemon juice, wine vinegar, and a bit of oil mixed well with a little pepper. The boiling in salt water adds all you need. Just use a little of the other ingredients to taste. It was then chilled.

Next our scalloped corn was one of the easiest but also very much in demand. Funny thing was as simple as it was to make we only had it on the holidays never the rest of the year.

Just butter a casserole dish and then sprinkle the first layer of canned corn drained. Alternate layers of saltine crackers crunched up, dots of butter and a little pepper to taste. End with crunched crackers. Add milk to almost the top, if it is too high it will bubble over but it needs to be at least 3/4 full. Baked till the top is lightly browned, at 350 degrees.

The sweet potatoes were canned, just cuts down on the prep time. The juice from the can, is drained into a sauce pan. With a half stick of real butter, salted, honey about half cup. And cinnamon maybe about a tablespoon full. The potatoes are cut into smaller chunks and spread out in the shallow baking dish, The liquid mixture is heated till blended then poured over the potatoes. The option is the marshmallows. I like to cover the top of the dish with mini marshmallows and then brown the tops of them. The potatoes just have to be heated through, in the oven on 350, before served, or before adding the marshmallows.

The stuffed celery was always a hit. We would set out a couple packages of Philadelphia Cream Cheese and let it warm a bit, so it is creamy. Whipped doesn't work, just use the bricks. I like the pecans chopped up fine when added to the cream cheese along with a tablespoon of mayonnaise. Mix well. Clean and cut celery into 2" pieces, and stuff with the mixture. You can also add chopped pecans to the tops for decoration.

Peanut butter stuffed celery is good for the kids in the house. They can make theirs themselves and refrigerate till time to serve.

Don't forget the olives of choice, green, black and pickles sweet and dill.

Mash the white potatoes that have been boiled and drained well. Add a little milk and butter to make them creamy.

Since Stove top stuffing has been around we have used that instead of having to cook cornbread. You can add the cooked giblets chopped fine, celery chopped fine, onion chopped fine, to the butter and water mix, and simmer till done. I also like to add a couple cubes of chicken bullion to the liquid. This is when you can add what ever seasonings are to your liking. Add to the dry stuffing cover and let stand a while.

The turkey has been in the oven since early in the morning and we put a tent of aluminum foil over it to hold the juices in and only uncover it the last half to one hour. So it can brown.

The pies were cooked the night before. Nowadays you can buy frozen ones and just heat and eat.

Last but not least is the gravy. This is made at the last minute. I have a big cast iron skillet also called a chicken fryer. I drain the juice in the turkey pan into the skillet and add a bit of real butter about a half stick. I get it real hot and start sifting flour and stirring so it doesn't burn, the higher the heat the better, but don't leave it a second or it will scorch. With all the stirring against the bottom of the pan is what makes it smooth. Keep it on medium when you are browning the flour. When it is smooth and golden brown start adding milk. It will take quite a bit. Just keep stirring. When the gravy starts bubbling and getting thicker, add more milk, keep adding and stirring, till it is to your liking. I add garlic powder, celery salt, pepper, parsley and dried onion flakes and simmer till ready to serve.

We always forget to heat the rolls till after the dinner is over and the guest have gone home, so it really isn't necessary to have rolls with the meal.

I like the leftovers the next day and have come up with a killer meal. I package the leftover white meat stuffing and gravy. Usually have to make a bit more gravy but it is better to just save what is already done. I chop the turkey into little cubes and add to the gravy, that will need to be thinned down anyway.  To this I add about a fist sized bit of dressing and stir till all is mixed. Then I add more celery salt, pepper and garlic powder and simmer, adding milk or water, as needed. I make a big pot of minute rice, and serve the turkey gravy mixture over the rice. I promise you will like it better than the day before.

So enjoy your Thanksgiving with the Tomainiís.


© 2003 Judy Tomaini Rock, All Rights Reserved

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