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inkwell.vue.398 : Holiday Seasons Past - The Good, The Bad, The Hilarious
permalink #0 of 45: Lisa Harris (lrph) Tue 23 Nov 10 07:02
    
As Thanksgiving is upon us, and the winter holidays are not far
behind, we open up Inkwell.vue to talk about the holidays of our pasts
which have amused and amazed us.  What was the best food? The worst
company?  The most amusing holiday anecdote?
  
inkwell.vue.398 : Holiday Seasons Past - The Good, The Bad, The Hilarious
permalink #1 of 45: Lisa Harris (lrph) Tue 23 Nov 10 07:08
    
I'll begin with my absolutely favorite Thanksgiving of them all.  It
was 1965, in Englewood, NJ.  That year, as this, Thanksgiving fell on
November 25.  My mother was 9 months pregnant.  She had gone in for her
appointment with Dr. Schnayerson on Monday the 22, and he told her
that if she didn't go into labor by Thursday, to go to the hospital for
inducing.  

So, at 7:30 Thanksgiving morning, my mother and father arrived at
Englewood Hospital to meet the doctor.  They induced my mother.  At
about 10:15 or so, they brought her to the delivery room.  Mom looked
at Dr. Schnayerson and said, "Why am I seeing this room?  I've never
seen this room before."  To which he replied, "Linda, you've been here
twice before."  "Yes," she replied, "But I'd never SEEN the room." And
then she was out.  

At 11:03 am on Thursday, November 25, 1965 I was born.  So, this is my
favorite holiday. Big surprise.  And this year in particular, since it
lands on my birthday so rarely, Thanksgiving is extra special.
  
inkwell.vue.398 : Holiday Seasons Past - The Good, The Bad, The Hilarious
permalink #2 of 45: the secret agenda of rabbits (cjp) Wed 24 Nov 10 16:20
    
Congratulations, Lisa! And happy birthday tomorrow, too.

Well, since you started with the good, I'll follow up with The Bad.

My first Christmas in Taiwan was utterly strange. This was over 30
years ago when Taipei still didn't have much in the way of Western
culture. American holidays passed by without much mention, much like
Mid Autumn Festival here.

It was late December, 1976. So there I was in my Chinese family's
home, really wanting a tree to decorate, really anxious to have
something that announced it was holiday season. My Chinese father,
Uncle Chen, had a little potted palm that I brought in and festooned
with wrapped candies, earrings, necklaces, and bits of foil. It looked
weird and forlorn, but I sang Oh Christmas Tree for my adopted family,
made an American-style dinner, passed out presents (this was the
mid-seventies, so one brother got a t-shirt with the Fonz on it and a
girl cousin got days of the week underwear, both of which really took
some extra explaining), but they were sufficiently amused by the
festivities to think that maybe they'd celebrate again the next year
when they had a new American student. Besides, my pumpkin pie (made
with a local squash) and gravy were surprising hits with the folks.

So I guess it wasn't really too bad after all.
  
inkwell.vue.398 : Holiday Seasons Past - The Good, The Bad, The Hilarious
permalink #3 of 45: punkin' (gail) Wed 24 Nov 10 17:18
    
(Happy birthday, Lisa!)

Great idea for story-telling, CJ.  

For years my family celebrated Thanksgiving outdoors around a bonfire
in Sonoma county.  It's curious in Northern California in November. 
Often on the afternoon of Turkey Day it is in the low 60's, and it's
perfectly fine outdoors with a jacket on.  

A campfire makes such a warming hub. The turkey was actually only kept
warm by the fire, not really cooked there.  Yams wrapped in foil and
buried in the coals were a treat that could go golden or darkly
disastrous. 

I have to admit that some years tarps had to be suspended so the
dinner table would stay dry, and sometimes the flapping tarps
accomplished little in that regard.  We had drama, though.  A good kind
of old-fashioned non-disfunctional weather and fireside cooking drama.
The high or low point was the shock of a stick falling off a tall tree
and landing in a perfect pie. Whoa. 

I kind of miss that tradition, as the elder folks in the family have
lobbied for indoor eating.  We're too polite for lewd stick-in-the-pie
jokes, but the vivid memory is worth a chuckle or two.
  
inkwell.vue.398 : Holiday Seasons Past - The Good, The Bad, The Hilarious
permalink #4 of 45: descend into a fractal hell of meta-truthiness (jmcarlin) Wed 24 Nov 10 18:15
    

Violating the topic title, I have something to say about this
Thanksgiving.  After years and decades of insisting on tradition, this
year my wife decided that she did not want to do a traditional meal. So
we're having home cooked Indian food, lots and lots of Indian food. Seven
courses of Indian food followed by multiple desserts.
  
inkwell.vue.398 : Holiday Seasons Past - The Good, The Bad, The Hilarious
permalink #5 of 45: Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Wed 24 Nov 10 21:14
    
In 1997, my mom, who'd been suffering from cancer for several years,
died unexpectedly the Saturday before Thanksgiving. My dad, my sister,
and I, as well as my husband, were in my parents' house kind of at a
loss. Thanksgiving had always been her holiday.

It would have been easier to go out to dinner, but we didn't. Between
the four of us, we pulled it together and cooked Thanksgiving dinner.
It wasn't awesome; certainly wasn't as good as she had made. But we had
done it.

Since then, I've cooked Thanksgiving dinner. In fact, I have my mom's
measuring cups and spoons, her canisters, and her turkey roaster. (This
year, I also have her china and silver, but I don't want to go that
far. I also have her linen tablecloths, somewhere.) 
  
inkwell.vue.398 : Holiday Seasons Past - The Good, The Bad, The Hilarious
permalink #6 of 45: Lisa Harris (lrph) Thu 25 Nov 10 06:13
    <scribbled by lrph Thu 25 Nov 10 06:14>
  
inkwell.vue.398 : Holiday Seasons Past - The Good, The Bad, The Hilarious
permalink #7 of 45: Lisa Harris (lrph) Thu 25 Nov 10 06:16
    
Jerry, I think it is perfectly acceptable to share this years
celebrations if they are as unique as a seven course Indian meal. The
bar has been set. 
  
inkwell.vue.398 : Holiday Seasons Past - The Good, The Bad, The Hilarious
permalink #8 of 45: Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (peoples) Thu 25 Nov 10 06:20
    

awwwwww... Having some of our own mothers' cooking tools is such a great
way of feeling their ongoing presence in our lives, isn't it, Sharon? 
Even if our mothers are gone, we still have those wonderful touchstones
that tie us to our generational history in the kitchen.




I was talking with some of the caregivers at my mom's Alzheimer's home
yesterday and we got around to discussing T-day dinner. Two of the
caregivers said that they always put raw eggs into their turkey's stuffing.
Two said "what? eggs? are you crazy?"

Never ever ever heard of putting raw eggs into stuffing, but apparently
it's an option. And it got me thinking: the whole idea of "traditional"
stuffing is very much a household-by-household concept. 

In the home I grew up in, "stuffing" was made from scratch. It was the
only time of year my mom ever bought balloon bread (usually she 
handmade whole wheat loaves every Saturday, but turkey stuffing
required balloon bread). The stuffing included the bread, plus lots of 
onions and herbs sauteed in butter, chopped celery, pecans, and prunes.
And it always went inside the bird, it was never cooked separately
(or stovetop). 

But there are those to whom "stuffing" means crumbled cornbread and
chunks of oranges, or sausage and fresh fennel, or rice and cilantro
pesto, and maybe even chestnuts and couscous, for all I know.

It's fascinating how many different variations there are for "stuffing,"
and I'm curious what other people consider the canonical T-day stuffing.
And also, does the stuffing go INTO the bird? Or is it cooked on
the side? (and as for cranberry sauce: whole or jellied?)
  
inkwell.vue.398 : Holiday Seasons Past - The Good, The Bad, The Hilarious
permalink #9 of 45: Dave Waite (dwaite) Thu 25 Nov 10 09:42
    
It is not Thanksgiving without at least one can of jellied Cranberry sauce -
preferably with the rings from the can still visible when served.
  
inkwell.vue.398 : Holiday Seasons Past - The Good, The Bad, The Hilarious
permalink #10 of 45: the secret agenda of rabbits (cjp) Thu 25 Nov 10 19:56
    
Oh man, you are definitely channeling my late stepmother. I once
served only homemade cranberry sauce on T-Day, a mistake I made only
once.

The favorite stuffing around our house is Chinese sticky rice,
mushrooms, lop chong sausages, and smoky chestnuts, all cooked together
and stuffed in the bird, which is basted with soy sauce, rice wine,
and sesame oil. 
  
inkwell.vue.398 : Holiday Seasons Past - The Good, The Bad, The Hilarious
permalink #11 of 45: Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Thu 25 Nov 10 20:37
    
Cranberry sauce: from a can with the rings still showing

Stuffing: outside, sausage, bread, two eggs, turkey stock, and this
wonderful package of stuff from the produce department in some of our
grocery stories that includes celery and onions, all evenly chopped,
and herbs, in the perfect size to mix with the bag of 'stuffing bread'
that the grocery stores' bakeries sell.
  
inkwell.vue.398 : Holiday Seasons Past - The Good, The Bad, The Hilarious
permalink #12 of 45: David Gans (tnf) Thu 25 Nov 10 21:49
    

My wife and I participated in a glorious feast wiht good friends.  Rita
contributed green beans with Ginger and cashews - delightful!  The rest of
the meal was of similarly spectacular character, except for that cylinder of
canned cranberry sauce that the man of the house splurched onto a plate in
the middle of all that goodness.  I noticed it when I went in for seconds,
and thought, "That is just obscene."  I didn't say anything, but later it
came up for derision from others in the party.
  
inkwell.vue.398 : Holiday Seasons Past - The Good, The Bad, The Hilarious
permalink #13 of 45: David Gans (tnf) Thu 25 Nov 10 21:52
    

My wife just reminded me that I had no problem at all digging in to the sweet
potatoes with toasted marshmallows on top.  I told her I ate them ironically,
but she wasn't buying it.
  
inkwell.vue.398 : Holiday Seasons Past - The Good, The Bad, The Hilarious
permalink #14 of 45: Chef Boy RG (sudsy) Thu 25 Nov 10 22:34
    
As a very young child I recall my mother making her simple
bread-sausage stuffing with stale Bunny Bread that she'd buy at the
Bunny Bread Thrift Shop. (It had a very cool and very non-PC neon sign
of a skinny Bunny in Scottish kilt.) She'd buy several loaves of
day-old bread, deal out the slices on cookie pans, and allow the bread
to dry out. We'd then tear the slices apart and she'd mix them with
pork sausage, a little onion and celery and a sprinkling of raisins,
all moistened with stock made from the turkey neck and giblets. It was 
delicious. A child of the Great Depression, for her the idea of buying
a box of dried bread cubes to make stuffing was an extravagance.
  
inkwell.vue.398 : Holiday Seasons Past - The Good, The Bad, The Hilarious
permalink #15 of 45: Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Thu 25 Nov 10 22:38
    
yeah, I know, my mom saved the crusts of bread all year long to make
stuffing with at Thanksgiving. 
  
inkwell.vue.398 : Holiday Seasons Past - The Good, The Bad, The Hilarious
permalink #16 of 45: Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (peoples) Fri 26 Nov 10 08:14
    

sudsy's memory of The Drying of the Stale Bread matches the one I have from
my own childhood household.

I had Thanksgiving at the home of a friend who invited about a dozen
maybe 15 pals to share the table. Everybody contributed something, 
from appetizers to pies, we were exceedingly well fed. I brought a 
salad of nappa cabbage with chunks of fuyu persimmon and a couple
handfuls of pomegranite arils, plus chives, minced preserved lemon,
and toasted sliced almonds. A delightful young woman whose name I
now forget made a killer "mile high" cheesecake -- each slice stood
about five inches high -- topped with a from-scratch mulled-raspberry
sauce. Everything on the table was wonderful, I went home very full
and very very happy. 
  
inkwell.vue.398 : Holiday Seasons Past - The Good, The Bad, The Hilarious
permalink #17 of 45: Ed Ward (captward) Fri 26 Nov 10 09:21
    
Either Sharon's family didn't eat much bread or they had a
Turkeysaurus for Thanksgiving. A *year's* worth of crusts? Ai yi yi!
  
inkwell.vue.398 : Holiday Seasons Past - The Good, The Bad, The Hilarious
permalink #18 of 45: Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Fri 26 Nov 10 13:10
    
I didn't mean we ate the entire year's worth in one shot. She saved
bread all year. It was used in Thanksgiving stuffing, bread pudding,
etc.
  
inkwell.vue.398 : Holiday Seasons Past - The Good, The Bad, The Hilarious
permalink #19 of 45: Lisa Harris (lrph) Fri 26 Nov 10 14:51
    
My childhood thanksgivings were typical family affairs. When I moved
to Florida,  I began to celebrate with my dad and step mother. Sheila
doesn't cook, so we went out for the holiday.  It was very strange. 

The first few years she chose traditional food restaurants. But then
there was the year dad and Sheila were fighting and she decided that we
should go to the Spanish restaurant at the Holiday Unn fir
Thanksgiving dinner. It's hard to be festive when the host and hostess
aren't speaking AND the food isn't even good Spanish fare 

Suffice it to say that that was the year I swore that as soon as I had
a house (we lived in a small apartment then) I would only have turkey
day at home. 
  
inkwell.vue.398 : Holiday Seasons Past - The Good, The Bad, The Hilarious
permalink #20 of 45: Laura MacEachen (laura-mac) Sat 27 Nov 10 16:49
    
with age comes wisdom?  I finally caved on the cranberry sauce - years
of fresh cranberry relish with oranges and nuts and other savory
stuff, whirred around in the Cusinart or cooked berries with additions
- gone, Daddy, gone.  The canned-with-lines stuff disappeared every
year and I'd take all my relish home.  Now I buy whole berry Ocean
Spray sauce in cans, break it up and serve it up in a bowl - it really
tastes good and NO LINES.

My family:  culinary Philistines.  
  
inkwell.vue.398 : Holiday Seasons Past - The Good, The Bad, The Hilarious
permalink #21 of 45: Ari Davidow (ari) Sat 27 Nov 10 19:40
    
The year before her death, my grandmother was at Thanksgiving with my aunt 
and uncle in New Jersey. She was the cook of the family, so normally this 
was a busy day for her, but this time she wasn't feeling well. She came 
down for the meal and exclaimed, "Boy, how smart I am. If I hadn't been 
feeling ill, =I= would have had to do all this."

In recent years, Thanksgiving has become the meal that our in-laws allow 
us to host at our host. My wife's brothers are religious and her mother 
keeps kosher. On Jewish holidays, nobody can drive, so Judy and I shlep to 
their side of town. On Thanksgiving, them that care cook the kosher food 
and we serve it on paper plates using Judy's great grandmother's silver. 
Judy has many of her mother's kitchen things, along with the dining room 
display case of fancy dish things and chachkes from her mother, and said 
mother gets a kick out of seeing them in their new home.

Foodwise, we do ourselves proud--lots of roasted and steamed vegies, along 
with a really nice cranberry relish, roast turkey breast, amazing vegie 
stuffing, salads, Judy's apple pie, plus one of her nieces is about to 
graduate Johnson and Wales cooking school, with a specialty in desserts.
This year I added some tofu and vegies for the vegetarian contingent so 
they'd have some protein.
  
inkwell.vue.398 : Holiday Seasons Past - The Good, The Bad, The Hilarious
permalink #22 of 45: the secret agenda of rabbits (cjp) Mon 29 Nov 10 11:57
    
Sounds lovely!

When thinking back on the best, worst, or funniest winter holiday I
ever had, one of the first that comes to mind happened in my second
year of college. I was living on my own, far away from home, and no
invitations had found their way to me for a T-Day dinner. 

I was living in a totally ramshackle bunch of buildings my neighbor
Barry called Sun Moon Acres because it was run by a tiny old despot
called Woo Huck Sun. Mr. Sun was a wee bit gone by the time I arrived
on the scene, and though my Honolulu apartment had been furnished by
him with gorgeous 1940s rattan furniture and pillows (how I wish I
could have brought those home with me), somewhere along the line he had
got himself a really good deal on light yellow paint. So everything
was painted. You name it. Fridge, sink, toilet (why scrub when you can
paint?), stove, all the fixtures. 

He didn't want any flowers in the yard, either, so it was just hardpan
and weeds. I grew some sunflowers by my front door, thinking yellow
flowers would meet with his approval. He tore them out. I finally went
so buggy with the yellow that I took down the venetian blinds,
disassembled them, and spray-painted them a shocking pink. He toddled
over in a froth, red with rage. "No pink!" he yelled, "only yellow!" So
I yelled back, "No more yellow! Pink!" And then when my Korean
neighbors moved, they gave me their wall-to-wall orange shag carpeting,
so my itsy cottage looked like an acid dream even if you were as
straight as a Quaker.

But anyway, because it was a little community of people who generally
were all alone, I hunted around to see who else was without stuffing
and found my Pakistani neighbor, Leila, also wondering what to do with
her evening. We found we had enough cash to go out for dinner together,
so we hit Waikiki Beach and had one of those meals meant for the
tourists. It was bland but okay, as those dinners usually are, but what
was totally great about that Thanksgiving Dinner so long ago was that
I finally felt like a real adult, cocktail in hand (Hawaii's drinking
age was 18), toasting the setting sun on a tropical beach.
  
inkwell.vue.398 : Holiday Seasons Past - The Good, The Bad, The Hilarious
permalink #23 of 45: Gail Williams (gail) Mon 29 Nov 10 13:00
    
Nice. I like how the family gathering memories and the getaway
vacation memories can be equally memorable.  

Some of my Thanksgiving and Christmas week holiday memories fade
together now.  When was that camping trip near Death Valley when it
improbably rained on us and we had to seek shelter only to find a free
holiday buffet at a little desert cafe...?  

When did we carry a ceremonial can of cranberry sauce (with the
ridges) with us on a drive up the coast to stay at a decommissioned
lighthouse?

This year I baked a store bought pie shell with a ricotta/sour
cream/cherry jam/frozen cherries filling.  Good when warm and fresh out
of the oven!  Just OK later, served cold for the whole family.  Darn
it.  For some reason I am drawn to experiment with holiday recipes. 
Win some, lose some.  (Anything less than awesome is a loss in the
family ceremonial context, in my estimation, which doesn't help.) 
Still, I keep risking new food ideas, playing off the old standards.
 
  
inkwell.vue.398 : Holiday Seasons Past - The Good, The Bad, The Hilarious
permalink #24 of 45: Keryl McCord (kaimac62) Mon 29 Nov 10 19:45
    
This Thanksgiving was a learning experience. What did I learn? I will
never do this one again; an empty nest with two boomers in a townhouse,
and our little sweetie Snowphie, a white mini-Schnauzer, became
Thanksgiving central to more than 10 people for five days. (My now
three year old granddaughter couldn't say Sophie, it came out Snowphie
and as our pet is a white Schnauzer, it has stuck.) 

Between daughter-in-law and three grandsons (8-6-4), another grandson
(age 10) with us for the duration as his mom had to work leading up to
the holiday, my sister, niece, and sister's 18 year old 6'2 185 pound
grandson who is a perpetual eating machine, and me and my husband, that
was ten people. 

My nephew and his wife joined us on Turkey Day, and stayed until
Saturday. Twelve people, plus five more for dinner. 

We had an amazing feast and I put everyone to work slicing, dicing,
wrapping, cooking and baking, setting up, and cleaning up after, 
putting stuff away. Eight sweet potato pies sent folks off with a
memento, and lots of food for leftovers. 

What wiped me out however was that everyone didn't go home after
dinner. (No, I did not cook any other meals, they were on their own for
that.) That is what was different than any year before, normally
everyone goes home. We'd never had so many people from out of town. And
that is what will not be repeated next year. If you can't go home that
night, then the limit is one night only. :)  

But seeing our grandchildren bonding and having a wonderful time was
almost worth the price of admission. Hopefully my more sentimental side
won't take over next year and lead me to even contemplate trying to
find a way to repeat this less painfully. We'll see.   
  
inkwell.vue.398 : Holiday Seasons Past - The Good, The Bad, The Hilarious
permalink #25 of 45: Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (peoples) Tue 30 Nov 10 07:00
    

<cjp> -- your "no pink, only yellow!" landlord story is wonderful! Thanks,
it sooooooo reminds me of my two years of living in Hawaii back in the early
'70s. I can see and hear the whole thing in my mind's eye vividly!

And <kaimac62> -- that sounds like a fabulous Thanksgiving, except for
the fact that it stretched out into five days. Also, I'm impressed
that amidst all that chaos y'all somehow managed to put together EIGHT
sweet potato pies. Given your obvious interest in the culinary arts, I 
hope you'll come on by the <cooking.> conference when you get a chance.
We're all about delicious excess.



I think my most memorable Thanksgiving -- or at least one of them -- was
when I was in the 7th grade, taking the required Home Economics course
at school. Back then, girls took home ec, boys took shop, so we could all
grow up with the necessary skills for our gender-role positions in the
world, you see.

Anyway, in Home Ec we were taught cooking and sewing. I'd already been
given a chance to learn both of these skills at home, through my mother.
I'd taken to cooking right away and had assumed the role of household
chef for the family, making everything from meatloafs and casseroles to 
homemade whole wheat bread and from-scratch apple pies. OTOH, I loathed
sewing and never got any good at it. 

In Home Ec we had two homework assignments: make an apron, and cook a meal 
for your family. I made an apron, but it looked like it'd been done by
a blind, one-handed monkey. 

However, I figured I'd make up for it by doing Thanksgiving dinner for
the family and nearby relatives, for a total of 16 at the table. I
plotted out the menu. I made lists of ingredients and compiled a shopping
list. My mom drove me to the store but I handled all the shopping.

I made from-scratch stuffing (no pre-cut bread, no seasoning packages, I 
sliced and diced and toasted and sauteed everything myself). I stuffed and
roasted an enormous turkey. I made mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes, 
green salad, steamed peas with pearl onions, fresh home-made bread rolls,
a pumpkin pie, a mince pie (no pre-bought crusts, either, all made
from scratch). And yes, whole-berry cranberry sauce. 

I set up the end-to-end tables, laid out a decorative centerpiece of
autumn leaves and berry-laden pyrocantha collected from our yard. I
took photos, I made charts, I documented everything from the shopping
list to the guest list. 

So there I am, making T-day dinner for 16 while my classmates are burning
breakfast oatmeal for their families. And my teacher decides that all
of my documentation, photos, and my descriptive essay about the dinner
I've done are lies. I mean, clearly my sewing skills are crap, so 
why would I be able to cook, huh? She figured my mother had done all the 
work and I was just trying to take credit for it. I get a D- for the 
semester grade.

My mom went down to the school and talked to the teacher. We got it sorted 
out, and my grade got bumped up to a solid B, and I was mollified, if not 
totally satisfied. I'm still offended the teacher thought I was lying. 

More than 40 years later, my interest in cooking abides and I continue to 
love the culinary arts. I still can't sew any better than a blind, 
one-handed monkey, though. 
  

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