Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Mountain Memories -- Thanksgiving Dinner

Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends, family, and acquaintances.

Every year as I prepare for Turkey Day (as my mom called it), I take time to ponder all the things I have to be thankful for. I decided to share them with you this year.

Thanksgiving dinner -- the mid-day meal in Appalachia -- always drew the family together. Even though Mom didn't enjoy cooking and got out of it as often as possible by letting someone else do it for her, she let out all the stops for Thanksgiving.

We had the exact same menu every year. I suppose she relied on what she knew would work. Perhaps she chose only the foods she liked herself. Either way, it was truly a feast.

The only meat we ever had was turkey, baked with salt, pepper, and butter only. Daddy grabbed the giblets and put them in the pressure cooker as soon as they were extricated from the turkey's hidden cavities. They were a delicacy only in his eyes.  No one else touched them.

A massive mound of mashed potatoes was topped with a can of heated peas, placed in a shoveled-out crevice at the top of the mound. We called it a "bird's nest."

Shuck beans
A pot of shuck beans, also known as shucky beans, cooked with onion and fatback, filled the air and attempted to hide the nasty odor of the giblets as the jiggler danced on the pressure cooker.

Mom also made a few salads. Her pea salad, which I hated, had peas (of course), chopped American cheese, raw onion, and Miracle Whip. Her fruit salad was glorious. She diced up red and golden delicious apples, added fruit cocktail, raisins that had soaked in warm water, Miracle Whip, and crushed peanuts (the secret ingredient).

Freshly-baked dinner rolls waited their turn in the oven. Not homemade, store-bought.

The one thing on the table I refused to even taste? The sliced cranberry sauce jelly roll. Anything that retains the rings on the inside of the can after removing it makes me think it must be toxic. I still cannot force myself to take a bite of that toxic jelly roll. Until her death, Mom tried to force me to give it a try. This was one battle she never won.

Our family never had desserts. That would mean Mom had to cook before Thanksgiving Day. One day was all she was willing to do. Of course, if we had visiting family, they usually brought something sweet to add to the meal. Granny baked her glorious sage dressing and brought it, too.

The memory that stands out is my dad's routine at the end of the meal. As we sat around with our stomachs bloated, Dad went to the kitchen and retrieved the turkey neck. We moaned as he sat down and commenced to sucking the meat off the neck bones. It nearly drove Mom crazy. The rest of us tried to ignore him. Hard to do in a small house and with his strong sucking ability. Now I miss that tradition.

I am thankful for my memories. I'm also thankful for the memories I keep alive with my son. Our Thanksgiving Dinner is a meal for two now that Mom and Dad are gone. With my mobility issues, I only cook a few dishes we both love. Leftovers carry us through the entire weekend.

The spirit of family is the most important part of Thanksgiving. I feel blessed.

Above the Fog is available on Amazon
It's been an amazing year for me. My first book, Above the Fog, releases a week after Thanksgiving. A childhood dream is coming true. If you're interested in getting a copy, click on the photo to the right of this blog. Pre-orders (anything before November 30th) is at a discount.

I hope you have heaps of blessings to be thankful for this year. I'd love to hear your list.

What did you love to eat for Thanksgiving when you were a kid? What is your favorite now?

Happy Thanksgiving!


  1. My grandma always made the dressing and my aunt made a wonderous potato salad. I can make those too but my family always wants sweet potato casserole. Like your mom, my mom didn’t care to cook, so I worked on her sweet potato recipe. My family can’t get enough because I bake the potatoes instead of using the canned stuff. By the way, you really need to try the cranberry sauce. You’re missing out on awesome.

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