Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Day, 1949

During all the times that I can remember from the time I was born until I left home, my mother always prepared a delicious dinner (the noon meal) for Thanksgiving Day. The food for the occasion was dependent upon our family's financial circumstances, but usually included a roasted chicken, Mama's wonderful cornbread dressing, home-grown green beans with bacon (no ubiquitous Green Bean Casserole back in those days), candied carrots, ambrosia (fresh oranges and coconut), yeast rolls made from scratch, cranberry-orange relish, and a pie or two -- a mincemeat pie (Mama and I especially liked mincemeat) and a pumpkin pie. It was a meal to which we all looked forward, mostly for the pie, which we did not have very often.

However, the Thanksgiving Dinner of which I have the strongest memories bore no resemblance whatsoever to the feast described above. Herein lies the tale.

I was 15, a sophomore at Central High School in Albuquerque, New Mexico. My best friend was a classmate named Betty J. We spent much time together at school and visited each other's homes regularly on weekends.

In mid-November, Mrs. J. invited me to go on a picnic on Thanksgiving Day (weather permitting) with their family - Mrs. J., Betty, and Betty’s cute brother, Dan. Their destination was the foothills of the Sandia Mountains north of Albuquerque close to a (still) small town of Bernalillo (burn-a-lee’-yo). We would leave around 10:30 in the morning, drive to the Bernalillo area, find a suitable picnic place, have our lunch and return home early in the afternoon. Mama wasn’t too enthused about my missing Thanksgiving dinner with the family, but after I begged and pleaded, she gave me permission to go with my friend. I was ecstatic!

The day dawned bright, clear and very crisp, as a November morning in New Mexico should be. The trip took only about 30 minutes and we were soon unloading the picnic basket and the blanket/tablecloth onto a hillside that was surrounded by piñon pines. The air was filled with the scent of pines, dry earth and rocks. (Do you know that rocks have their own smell -- especially in large quantities? At least, I think they do.) I was excited by the prospect of being able to pick piñones (peen-yo’-nes), otherwise known as pine nuts. Pine nuts, which are very, very tiny, are most often roasted, which causes their shells to become brittle and easy to crack, revealing the sweet, sort of rosin-tasting nut within. However, raw piñones also are delicious, even if getting through their shells is a bit more difficult (one does it with one’s teeth.) Not everyone likes pine nuts, but I really, really like them, raw or roasted.

But, I digress.

After we had explored for a while, and had picked a double-handful of piñones, Betty’s mother called us to lunch. I had no idea what she had brought in the picnic basket, but I soon learned. Our Thanksgiving meal consisted of a jar of sweet pickles, a can of Vienna Sausages, and a large can of pork and beans. 1-2-3. The end.

The pickles and sausages we could eat with our fingers (napkins were provided), but Betty’s mother had brought no plates or bowls and, as it turned out, only one (1) spoon for the beans. I well remember that we passed the can of beans from one person to another, sharing not only the can of beans, but a spoon, as well.

When I got back home, I’m sure I made a bee-line for whatever was left over from my family’s Thanksgiving dinner. As you might expect, I have no recollection of what my mother had prepared, but I will never forget eating cold pork and beans with a shared spoon on Thanksgiving Day.

I leave you with these words from W.E.B. DuBois

"Give us thankful hearts...
in this the season of Thy Thanksgiving.
May we be thankful for health and strength,
for sun and rain and peace.
Let us seize the day and the opportunity
and strive for that greatness of spirit
that measures life not by its disappointments
but by its possibilities,
and let us ever remember that true gratitude
and appreciation shows itself neither
in independence nor satisfaction
but passes the gift joyfully on
in larger and better form."

Wishing you a blessed Thanksgiving Day -- even if it's pork and beans.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Recipe for "Yum! Yum! plus Bits and Pieces


My sister has posted the recipe for the Lemon-Pear-Basil deliciousness that I wrote about last week. It may be found in the comment from "Nutmeg" following my original post. Or, here (only the comments section).  The recipe falls into the "very easy" category.


Bits and Pieces

It started raining around midnight last night, and is still raining at this writing (8 a.m.)  The rain gauge outside the kitchen window indicates that we've received a bit over an inch of much needed precipitation.  It's been very, very dry since mid-summer, and every drop is welcome. Fortunately, the overnight lows are not yet in the freezing range.   Ice-covered streets and trees are not something to which I look forward. Here in central Arkansas, we are much more likely to have ice than snow.   My thoughts have been with those in Minnesota and Wisconsin as they dig out from the recent snow-dump.

* *
I learned yesterday that my youngest daughter (YD) and her son (Nebraska) may be coming for Thanksgiving. YAY! I'm hoping the roads stay clear enough to make a safe trip. They've already had a bit of snow up there.  If she comes, she'll be bringing her "new" dog with her: Thule, an Afghan Hound.  I've not had an up-close-and-personal encounter with an Afghan Hound before. I am very fond of dogs, and they of me (usually), so I'm looking forward to meeting her.  How my cats will react is another matter.   YD has two cats, so perhaps there will not be too much mayhem.

Post post edit: Another call from YD this morning.  They are not coming for Turkey Day; maybe Christmas.  Shoot!

* *
Gardening Daughter received a brief telephone call on Sunday evening from her son who is in Coast Guard boot camp.  We think it was a "morale call;" he has a bad cold and is feeling generally yucky and down in the dumps.  I know that boot camp is difficult, both physically and mentally.  I'm keeping him, and the others in his class, in my prayers.  Only about 4 weeks to go. His group is due to graduate on December 10. Hang in there, "M.!"

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Yum! Yum!

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Lemon-Pear-Basil Tart

This past Sunday afternoon, I accompanied Gardening Daugher, her husband and 16-yr old daughter to my sister's home in Hot Springs Village.  Sister had asked GD and hubby to assist in realigning some closet doors which had jumped the track.  She and brother-in-law are, like me, getting a bit physically challenged when it comes to manhandling stuff.

Mission accomplished, Sister served us a delicious late lunch/early supper of Portugese Kale Soup and bread, followed by a heavenly dessert.

The base of the tart is lemon cake, made from a mix, topped with sliced firm, but ripe, pears (Bartlett's, I think - Sister will let me know), covered with a thickened lemon sauce (juice of one lemon, sugar, cornstarch and water) and then chilled.  The unexpected and utterly delicious additon to this sweet was fresh basil leaves, shown, and the expected whipped cream (not shown.)  Basil, lemon, pears and cream in combination made my taste buds sing!  I had a second bite and would have had thirds, but all those present at the table thought it was wonderful, too!

Your pear tart is a winner, Sister. Are you making another one anytime soon?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Inquiring, and Wandering, Minds

Driving home last evening in the all-too-early darkness since "Fall Back," my companion and I were chatting, as we usually do.  Our topics of conversation vary greatly, and it's usually not "girly stuff."  This time was no exception

We are concerned for a young church member who is suffering from post traumatic distress syndrome, having recently returned from what must have been an horrific tour of duty in the Middle East Conflict.  If you're a praying person, please be sure to mention the men and women of our armed forces, and all those in harm's way.

What this young man is currently experiencing brought to mind the experience of a college friend who had served in the Navy during the Korean Conflict. (Ever notice how all our "non-wars" are "Conflicts?")   My friend's ship came under attack and an enemy shell struck the magazine (ammunition section), blowing the ship to smithereens and causing all sorts of injuries.  He survived without serious physical damage, but for years thereafter was startled almost to the point of fainting at any loud, unexpected noise. I don't know that he ever completely recovered from the experience.

In a complete departure from that painful subject, I suddenly began to wonder why the word "magazine" is a used both in a military sense and as a descriptor for such things as The Ladies Home Journal.   This morning, I looked it up: the answer is below, compliments of

1575–85; < F magasin < It magazzino storehouse < Ar makhāzin, pl. of makhzan storehouse; in E figuratively, as “storehouse of information,” used in book titles (from c1640) and periodical titles (in The Gentleman's Magazine, 1731)"

Later, with more cheerful things.