By Jayne Sherry
Happy fall my friends, fellow cooks and any new readers as well! Since we have survived Halloween, turned our clocks back and voted, we can now concentrate on that festive holiday that revolves around good food, family, friends and thanking God for all the blessings we have received in the past year.
Our house was an amazing, hectic, loving, chaotic and blissfully happy place on Thanksgiving day. All the grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and extended relatives traveled to gather at our home — anywhere from 30-40 people.
As you have probably already surmised, my dad did most of the cooking with my mom and I helping wherever needed. Mom’s main jobs were decorating and serving as hostess. The tables were set with all of our fine china, sterling silver, linen tablecloths, beautiful crystal and candles. It was an absolutely stunning table; even at a young age I could appreciate the beauty of it all.
Then there was the food; my dad prepared abundant appetizers beginning earlier in the week. Two turkeys, each about 20 pounds, were cooked in roasting ovens in the basement so as to leave room in the upstairs kitchen. The turkeys were stuffed with dad’s homemade herbed, sage dressing with onions and celery (and some other ingredients that I never have quite figured out). All of the traditional side dishes accompanied our holiday turkey feast: roasted butternut squash, mashed potatoes and gravy, homemade dinner rolls, fresh asparagus wrapped in bacon … you get the idea. Desserts were mom’s specialty; she didn’t make them very often, but I have never had a pie that could come close to any of hers. She made them all — pumpkin, apple, mincemeat and pecan.
While food was being prepared and cooked, the rest of us kids played and enjoyed being with relatives we saw only once a year. The adults told stories and reminisced about old times and past holidays. One Thanksgiving stands out in particular and is a testament of true friendship and God’s love coming through.
We were all gathered at our house; I remembered it had snowed, so all of us kids had taken to the sledding hills and were thankfully out of our parents’ hair! After a full day, we changed into warm and dry clothes and were ready for dinner. My father went down to check on the turkeys. Much to his horror, one of the roasting ovens had burned out and the butter was not even melted on top of the bird! One turkey would not be enough to feed all of our guests.
While he was downstairs, our best friends and neighbors, Jerry and Arlene from next door, stopped over as was tradition to wish us all happy holidays and share a seasonal cocktail. As everyone was celebrating and enjoying each other’s company, Jerry went downstairs to check on my dad. Upon finding out what happened, Jerry didn’t hesitate to tell my dad that his family’s turkey was about the same size and it was all ready. Jerry took our turkey back to his home to finish cooking. His guests had not all arrived and would have their meal later in the day. He brought over his family’s stuffed Tom and we were able to enjoy our holiday meal on time and giving much “thanks.”
I don’t know how many people today would consider such a selfless, loving act. I think of Jerry and Arlene often as they were a large part of my childhood and played an important role in my upbringing. They were the type of people my parents surrounded themselves with.
We retell that story often at Thanksgiving; even my children have heard it more than once. I sincerely hope you enjoyed my little memory of a Thanksgiving long ago and that it brings you happiness and hope!
From my Kitchen Korner to your home, I wish you all the blessings and peace that God provides for this wonderful time of year! Happy Thanksgiving.
(Jane Sherry is an employee of the Diocese of Davenport.)