"Tis The Time Of The Year To Be Thankful!"
The seasons are now upon us. And soon it will be Christmas Day. How time flies. I love this time of year. It is such a cozy and romantic time. Sitting by the fireplace, decorating the Christmas tree, shopping or simply walking about the shopping malls. It is the most wonderful time of the year! The wonderful smell of apple pies, sweet potato pies and yummy bread pudding. Not to mention the aroma of basil and sage coming from the Thanksgiving turkey, baking in the oven. I just can't help myself. I love food! Delicious tasting food. Thank God I am an aficionado, connoisseur if you will, only during this time of year. All the other time of the year, I managed to be a lot more discipline in my approach to my appetite. I get this feeling coming over me and I reminisce of the time when I was in grade school and we colored the Thanksgiving turkey and they were placed on the walls in the classroom. My how time flies.
This holiday season I am sure to rush straight home from work or a busy schedule just to spend some time eating my favorite cheese cake while sitting alongside of the fountain enjoying the sounds of Christmas and the view of the most beautifully decorated 110 foot Christmas tree where I live. I have never lived at such a place like this before. I enjoy and like so well the place where I now live.
Your Eyes Are Bigger Than Your Stomach
The reasons that I love this time of year so much, may have more to do with the fact that as a little girl growing up in New Orleans, I didn't have a lot to eat. Sometimes it seemed there may not have been enough. So we all eaten just a little. And when it was finished there were no seconds. Because there was not anymore. It's not that I was hungry most of the time, rather, it was seldom that mom prepared those meals that were so special, and so much of it. Like some of the many desserts she made during this time of the year. When Thanksgiving came around, neighbors and friends talked about what they were cooking; the arrival of out-of-town guess and relatives; huge bags and bags of groceries with turkey, hams, sweet potatoes, Irish potatoes to make potato salad; fresh fruit, apples and oranges! It made me feel happy and glad inside to see all this food in the house and refrigerator. And it was during Thanksgiving that my Dad paid a man to hunt down and skin a coon for us to have with the Thanksgiving dinner. My Father would also bring home a huge live turtle. My mother would make the most delicious tasting turtle soup ever imagined. That was the times I eaten so much that I couldn't finish what was on my plate. Mom would lean towards me and say, "Your eyes are bigger than your stomach."
When the turtle was cleaned and cut into small pieces, before placing in the pot to cook, the meat still pulsated. Total joy and excitement! While everything was going on I kept busy playing with some of my paper dolls and enjoying the hassle of everyone and everything around me. I would ask my Mother if she wanted me to do anything and she would say. "No baby, go out and play I'm busy trying to get dinner ready." And then I would say to my Mother, "Mom can I have some sugar?" She would hand me a teaspoon of sugar. "No," I would say protruding my lips. "Not that sugar.I want some of this sugar." It made her smile and she kissed me on my cheek. Playing inside and outside and visiting my friends across the street from where I lived were very special memories during the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons.
My little brother and I were amazed by the coon. It was a small sized animal. A few of it's prinky hairs were sticking out. It had a long mouth and we could see its teeth, and it's tail was sort of long. "That thing looks like a dog," my brother laughed out loud. "That's not a dog," My Mother replied. "It sure do looks like one," I added. Gail, our little black cocker spaniel sniffed its nose. He probably didn't have any idea whatsoever. He was just hoping he would get to eat some of everything.
We know that Thanksgiving historically is all about giving thanks for a successful bounty of crops. It was in 1621 that the Plymouth colonists, in present day Massachusetts, and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast which is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies.
More than 200 years later President Abraham Lincoln declared the final Thursday in November as a national day of thanksgiving. Congress finally made Thanksgiving Day an official national holiday in 1941. Speaking of presidents, I am grateful to honor the first Black President of the United States of America, Barack Obama, for which I truly give thanks.
What was the menu at the first harvest feast? Historians aren't completely certain about the full bounty. However, the only two items that historians know for sure were on the menu are venison and wild fowl, which are mentioned in primary sources. The most detailed description of the "First Thanksgiving" comes from Edward Winslow from A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth, in 1621:
"Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, among other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed upon our governor, and upon the captain, and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty."
Our modern Thanksgiving is centered around the turkey, but that certainly wasn't the case at the pilgrim's feasts. Their meals included many different meats. Vegetable dishes didn't really play a large part in the feast of the seventeenth century. The pilgrims probably didn't have pies or anything sweet at the harvest. They brought some sugar with them on the Mayflower. Also they didn't have an oven so pies and cakes and breads were not possible at all.
People tend to think of English food as bland, but, in fact, the pilgrims used many spices, including cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, pepper, and dried fruit, in sauces for meats.
Let Us Stop And Give Thanks
I came across this recipe for cooking coon. It is somewhat different from how my Mother prepared hers. For one this recipe does not include the little red peppers that my mother put in her coon, and it does not have the sweet potatoes with skins around it like my mother use to cook it. Here is the recipe:
Remove all the fat from the meat. Cut it into pieces and soak the meat in salt water overnight. To Cook: Cover with water, add two medium onions and 1/2 teaspoons of ground oregano. Boil until almost tender enough to eat. Then remove to a roasting pan and cover with the following dressing: 1and 1/2 lbs loaf of bread, 3/4 cup chopped onion, 2 teaspoons poultry seasoning, sage to taste. Salt and pepper. Add the cooking broth (diluted half with water) to moisten the dressing. Bake at 350 degrees until dressing is cooked and meat is tender.
I still remember how good it tasted. It was highly hot and spicy with the little red peppers, even the sweet potatoes tasted hot with the peppers. Also my mother never cut-up the meat. She par boiled it and then placed it whole in the roasting pan. I remember it was very tender.
At this Thanksgiving Holiday, I wish you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving, filled with love, and joy. And I wish you will have many, many reasons to give thanks.