From Pipi’s Pasture: Remembering Thanksgiving
When Thanksgiving rolls around, I can’t help but remember my childhood, when the holiday was celebrated with a big dinner and lots of family. Thanksgiving was usually spent with the Osborn family, since our grandparents, Dad’s parents, lived on Deer Creek, just over the hill from our ranch at Morapos. Many of the other Osborn family lived close by, too. My mother’s family lived near Steamboat, so ranch chores prevented us from going there very often, but we did occasionally go there on Thanksgiving.
When Grandpa and Grandma Osborn still lived on their ranch, we usually had Thanksgiving dinner there. They had a rather large dining room with a big table where the adults ate dinner. We kids fixed our plates and ate elsewhere, though I don’t think we sat at a table.
Sometimes, Thanksgiving was at our house. Looking back on it, my sisters, brother, and I wonder how everyone fit into our house, because it was small. Our grandparents’ house wasn’t so big, either, but things seem so much bigger when you’re a kid.
Anyway, even though the hostess fixed the turkey and trimmings, everyone contributed to the Thanksgiving dinner. So, the women started cooking several days before the holiday. Besides, they liked to cook some Thanksgiving dishes to have on hand for the days after the big dinner.
Most of the ingredients for the Thanksgiving meal came from the ranch, from canned goods in the basement to the eggs and milk from ranch animals. Sometimes, even pumpkin and minced meat was canned, but ingredients such as marshmallows, raisins, cranberries, evaporated milk, and gelatin were purchased at the grocery store.
Our sister Darlene (Blackford) remembers that chicken was the main meat at our house on Thanksgiving for several years, until the summer we raised white turkeys. She recalls how exciting it was to see that turkey as it was pulled from the oven. She remembers the family even bought a special big platter for the turkey.
Before the holiday, baking could begin, and the nuts — usually walnuts — had to be shelled. That job usually fell to us kids. Sometimes, the hunters brought walnuts with them when they came to the ranch in the fall. Mom did not buy already shelled nuts — at least not that I remember. Mom also churned butter. She saved up cream to be used in some of the recipes — and for whipped cream.
Mom sometimes started off her baking with an applesauce cake with raisins and nuts. (Come Christmas, other ingredients were added to make a fruit cake.) She frosted the cake with a powdered sugar icing. She baked pies, always pumpkin and minced meat, but sometimes apple or cherry. Mom baked bread, cut it into cubes and placed it on cookie sheets to dry for stuffing. Our dining room table was covered with pies, cakes, and cookie sheets, and we had to move it all elsewhere to eat our meals.
On Thanksgiving Day, no matter where we were, the dining room table was filled with sweet potatoes (made with brown sugar, butter, and covered with marshmallows); cranberry dishes; vegetables, such as baked corn or green beans; a variety of gelatin salads; and, of course, the turkey, dressing, potatoes, and gravy. There were also freshly-baked rolls, relishes, and jellies. The desserts were left in the kitchen for later.
Memories of Thanksgiving past!
When we’re not cooking something on the grill, it’s great to be able to whip up nutritious casseroles for summer dinners. This week’s column features two casserole recipes. I make “Skillet Beef–a-Roni” often. I don’t keep the ingredients for the other casserole on hand so don’t make it as often.