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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving is here!

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. It is one of my favorites because I really don't have to do anything but eat and watch football. I'm really not sure about how it could be any better until I start thinking of Thanksgiving past. So today I take a trip down memory lane.

When I was a kid (way back in the 60's) Thanksgivings were always spent at my Grandparents house. It was an interesting place because my Aunt, Uncle and cousins lived with them so you always knew that it was going to a full house. A typical Thanksgiving included the following family members:

Grandad
Nana
My Mother
Sister, Linda
Paul
Aunt Glady's
Uncle Bill
Skip
Debbie
Billie
Dick
Kenny
Mary

Along with this set group we would also have between 4-10 others that would show up, announced or unannounced. It never really mattered though because it always ended up being a good time.

Back in 1965 we had three TV stations, no video games and blue laws. So nothing was open on holidays and Sundays. After dinner your choices were watching the Lions loose or play cards. I would choose the card games. What I wouldn't do today to play a game of Pokeno with this now mostly gone group of people.

This story however isn't really about Thanksgiving day, its about Thanksgiving stuffing. The Thanksgiving stuffing that I am sure that I'm the only person (and possibly Skip) who really knew what was in it.

Preparation for the dinner always began the week before. There was the planning on how many would be there (with an allowance for the freeloaders who came unexpectedly). Then a major trip to Kroger's was in store. I remember so well because of how much they bought. It seemed as though the bags of food coming into the house was endless. They would look at the sales slip and comment on how the cost of food was getting so high. I can remember them complaining about how a bag of groceries cost almost $10! Considering that the bags were five times the size of today's bags, which ironically hold about $50 worth of food.

They would spend what seemed like hours emptying out the buys. First, the canned goods, then the snacks, dairy into the refrigerator, an enormous turkey of 20+ pounds, bag after bag of bread and of course nine $2.00 cartons of cigarettes. Nana smoked LM's, Glady's smoked Pall Malls and Bill Lucky's. For those of you trying to figure it out they each smoked 3 packs a day. I spent the majority of my youth in a silver / blue fog that floated around the house 24 hours a day. Second hand smoke? You betcha.

The actual preparation of the stuffing was handled by Nana. She was a short, skinny temperamental Irish women who smoked incessantly. She would hit you with a broom, throw a can at you and tell you that she loved you all at the same time. The turkey would be defrosting in the kitchen sink as she chopped and cut the onions, celery and seasonings. She would then go into the living room to begin tearing apart the bread.

I can clearly remember her sitting in her green chair with the blond cigarette burned end table sitting next to it. The table was used as a staging area for the bread tearing. She would sit with four loaves of bread and a gigantic yellow Pyrex bowl. The bread would be ripped and put into the bowl, as the bowl became filled it would go back into the kitchen to be put into one of the large paper grocery bags. Over and over the process would be repeated until it was all complete. Nana throughout the whole process would be talking to me and Skip (my younger cousin), it was a continuous stream of whatever came into her mind. As she spoke she also smoked, and as she smoked she tore that loaf of bread into smaller and smaller pieces.

We were always mesmerized by the fact that Nana could keep an ash as long as a dogs tail on her still burning cigarette. It just never seemed to fall off. But she never seemed to try to knock it off either. As long as it would get she never reached for the ashtray.

Since the process of tearing the bread lasted about an hour, and she smoked about 10 cigarettes an hour, and she never took the time to knock off those ashes...get the picture. The secrete ingredient...LM ashes.

So, this Thanksgiving as your sitting around the table, with all of your relatives present, and you know that Grandma made the stuffing, and it appears to be seasoned with just the right amount of "pepper", hope and prey that she really did stop smoking.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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