Ahh November. When the air chills, temperatures drop and hot cocoa is a daily norm! I love this time of year, and so did Taffy and Duke, especially at Thanksgiving.
Of course it all starts with the latest issue of Better Homes and Gardens. Full of ideas for decorating and recipes for some yummy new things to try for dinner. The decorating changed year to year, but there was always one thing Taffy had to have out and that was her Gurley pilgrim and turkey candles! Duke had bought them on his way home from work when they were first married and they always had a place of prominence on Taffy’s corner hutch. I loved those little candles. There was a pilgrim boy and girl and a turkey. They were never burned! Oh no, Taffy said they were very special and were for display only. It was almost ceremonial how she would unpack each one, wrapped in tissue paper and then placed in its spot. Once in place Taffy just sat there at the dining room table and smiled at them, Dukes love reflected in her eyes. It always made me so happy to see how much they loved each other.
Taffy especially loved any new ideas on how to cook the perfect turkey. One year it was inside a bag, another year butter under the skin, then it was high heat. Taffy loved “food science”! She often would walk through the Food Fair trying to decide on what to make. There were some dishes that were always present. We always had fresh made cranberry sauce made from whole cranberries. Never the gel in the can type. I still make them the same way, just like mom taught me. Her other specialty was her creamed white baby onions. How I absolutely adored those! She was truly an expert at making a béchamel sauce and then adding in the white peeled onions and slowly simmering them until that sweet onion flavor permeated the sauce. Mom made the gravy from the giblets. I never really knew what “giblets” were but boy they tasted good! Taffy would go downstairs and get her American Meat Grinder with the green handle and attach it to the counter. After boiling the giblets she would grind those up, sauté them and then put them back in the roasting pan full of the cooked bits and fat from the turkey roasting. A little milk and flour and that gravy was all set. The stuffing was all Duke though. A week before he would go out and buy “a good white loaf” as he would say, and cut it up into cubs and put them in the big black speckled enamel oval roasting pan and leave them downstairs in the rumpus room to get stale. Then he would spend all day chopping celery, onions, sage and garlic and sautéing that until it was soft and then add stock and boil it all down to a rich broth. He would mix that with the stale bread cubs and then stuff the turkey with that. He said that making stuffing outside the turkey was dreadful and that was NOT “stuffing” that was “dressing”! Dukes favorite part was making biscuits. He used his moms cast iron skillet to make what he called “the perfect baking powder biscuit”. They were truly delicious with a slightly salty crust perfectly browned and ready for butter and a quick swipe through the thick giblet gravy.
Of course Thanksgiving was also about family… cousins, aunts and friends. Often times we would have dinner over our cousins house with what seemed like a hundred people! Everyone dressed up and brought their favorite dishes. I would sit in the living room and listen to all the giggling and laughter as the Manhattan’s and Whiskey Sours were poured. Of course a thick layer of smoke filled the air since everyone smoked A LOT! Later in the evening they all drank something called a “Stinger”. I’m still not sure what that was made with, but the volume level would get louder and louder until finally all the pies, either home-made or brought from Delicious Orchids in NJ, were served. Delicious Orchids became a regular excursion in November. It is located in Colts Neck, NJ and has been around since the 50’s. We would motor down to buy some yummy pies and of course get some apple cider and doughnuts to feast on the way home!
By the end of the night everyone was full, all the cousins were tired and we would pile back into Taffy’s yellow mustang convertible and motor home, full, happy and glad we have a big extended family to share the season with.
This Thanksgiving, enjoy your family and loved ones, and try to reach out to those who might be alone or without someone. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
Hugs and love