One of the things that I love about each Thanksgiving is the thing that most of us think about – the turkey. From the Saturday Evening Post cover with Norman Rockwell’s famous Thanksgiving painting to the memories of my own childhood, the turkey has been front and center in my holiday tradition.
To be perfectly honest, my mother was a fantastic cook. Suffice it to say that when Mom was young, she attended the Antonette Pope’s School of Cooking and throughout our childhood, I can’t remember a day when we didn’t sit down to dinner and share a meal at 6:00 p.m. And we didn’t do fast food very often – Mom usually cooked something special each evening. She loved to cook; and somewhere along the line, it rubbed off on me. From Swiss Steak to Pork Chops to Fried Chicken and almost every other dish imaginable, Mom knew how to do it right. The only thing we didn’t get in our home was veal. That’s because Grandpa thought it was wrong to raise cattle and then slaughter them at a young age, so we never had veal – I mean never – either at his home or at our own…
Now, I don’t cook much any more, but I remember the first batch of brownies I made as a youngster and how I used to assist my mother each holiday season making Cranberry Bread. It was a Pope recipe, like so many other things in our home, and Doug and I just loved it – especially licking the batter from the beaters. Remember those days? I sure do… In fact, it was almost like an assembly line in our home. Mom would bake dozens of loaves because everyone asked her for them at Christmas. Of course, the people who delivered the milk, and the newspaper, and the hairdresser, and the teachers all received Cranberry Bread. So did our doctors, nurses and anybody else who knew us.
Mom had certain times of the year when she really hit it out of the park. For example, on New Year’s Eve, Janet’s folks and my folks were always together. When Mom and Dad hosted, Mom always made Chicken Oriental and that included making her own noodle nests for many years. She just got a thrill out of it.
But her specialty was the Thanksgiving turkey. She used the requisite Pope recipe that called for all sorts of things that aren’t used much anymore. The preparation of the bird, the making of the stuffing, the use of cheese cloth and shortening – all these things contributed to one delicious meal each November. From early on, Dad helped Mom fix the turkey and it wasn’t long before I stepped in to help.
When Janet and I got married, Thanksgiving moved to our home for the first year and sure enough, I worked on the turkey. The second year, the most memorable, Janet and I lived in our condominium and money was a little tight. Uncle Wayne had given me a frozen turkey and that’s the bird I made that year. It didn’t go as well as expected – in fact, right before serving it, as I pulled it out of the oven, hours late, it fell to the floor. We rinsed it off and ate it – everyone was so starved!
Needless to say, our kids grew up on my turkey. I still use Mom’s recipe from the Pope cookbook and I am getting amped up just sitting here writing this post tonight. Janet has always helped me, but by and large, this has been my cooking assignment. This year, since we are eating a little earlier due to family time commitments, we asked the kids about bringing in our meal from the cafeteria. The idea was met with a resounding “no.” Everybody wanted to eat our regular Thanksgiving feast, and that meant my turkey as well. It’s quite a bit of work, but it’s nice to be in demand. So once again, I get to provide the centerpiece for this most important day of Thanksgiving.
I haven’t miss once since the year that Janet and I were married. That means that this Thursday, I will prepare turkey #40. Some have been on the small side; less that 23# or so. Others have been monsters – in fact, I once cooked one in the 35# range to see if we could do it and keep it moist. We did…
Anyway, as the calendar rolls around once again, the verse tonight reflects the Jewish practice of Passover. Each year, the people of God were to remember their deliverance from Egypt. We are told in Ex. 13:10, “You must keep this ordinance at the appointed time year after year.” That’s how I feel tonight. Keeping the ordinance at the appointed time year after year – 40 years in fact.
My encouragement tonight is to remember the things that you have done year after year and passed down to the next generations. My prayer is that you will be blessed by carrying on the traditions of your youth this holiday season. Because our families need this connection to our past – just ask our kids – they’ll tell you… Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…