Monday, November 24, 2008

My Meh Thanksgiving

Today, in a celebration of all thing Turkey Day, the folks over at have set up a nifty blog spot. It is my honor today to host a post written by Joe from Crotchety Old Man Yells at Cars. Joe never fails to crack me up, so take a gander at his work here and at his site. If you want my take on Thanksgiving, my post is over at Joe's site today. Isn't it crazy how we mix things up like that?

Thanksgiving was so special. My sister Lisa made a very nice centerpiece celebrating famous women in history, and, well, you know how young kids can be, it wound up in the fireplace and…oh wait, that was a Simpson’s Thanksgiving Special.

Mom put the turkey on the table and left it to set. Dad tried to sneak a piece, but Mom yelled at him from the other room to leave it alone. Dad then went to sit and wait for dinner when suddenly, the Bumpus’s dogs got in the kitchen and…oops. That was from a movie, and wasn’t even about Thanksgiving.

While I have no real special memories of Thanksgiving I do have vague recollections of a large bird surrounded by various seasonal dishes, followed by desserts. I would have to say that I could not think of any one incident that was unusual or amusing in any way. No wacky uncles asking me to pull their finger, no crazy aunts fighting over who made the best pumpkin pie.

That is not to say we didn’t have our own peculiar traditions. The first thing was that Mom got up at maybe 5 in the morning to wrestle the turkey. I have no idea why, but she liked to get a really early start. We still didn’t eat until around 3, but I guarantee you we never had raw turkey. Right around 8 or so, my sister and I got up to watch the Macy’s Parade. It ended when Santa came down the road, of course, and Santa then went to have dinner with Captain Kangaroo around 11. This was when we started to ask Mom if it was time to eat yet. After a quick yelling at, we would watch March of the Wooden Soldiers and Mighty Joe Young. Yeah, channel 11 had a killer Thanksgiving Day lineup for kids. So far, pretty normal by most standards. Don’t worry, that would change.

Of course, as with many other families, green bean casserole was on the table. This is possibly the single strangest side dish. What is weird about it? To begin with, it usually is only made for festive occasions. Ok, here is the complex recipe: dump some canned green beans in a casserole dish, cover with canned mushroom soup. At some point, sprinkle canned onion rings viola! Gourmet dining in the Crotchety household. I can see why such a difficult to prepare recipe only showed up once a year at my house. That, plus the fact that no one actually liked it may have been a contributing factor. We had it because, well, that’s what the hoi poloi ate for Thanksgiving.

And no festive Thanksgiving would be complete without Mom’s famous recipe turnips. While turnips probably taste good prepared using some method espoused by Emeril or Bobby Flay, boiled and mashed was most likely the starting point, not the finished product. Though, I will admit, mixed with mashed potatoes and gravy, then covered with ketchup made them barely edible.

The next odd part was the turkey. Turkey is normal enough, but every year, we went to Otterbein’s Turkey Farm to get a locally raised bird. It was probably double or triple the cost of a Butterball from Shop Rite, and it was known to be the best turkey around. Nothing strange about that, I guess, except, well, no one really liked turkey in our house. It was the only time my family ever bought turkey. And while we did eat turkey sandwiches until the bird was gone, that was the extent of it until the next year. No turkey soup, no turkey hash, no turkey anything.

But perhaps the single most unusual Thanksgiving tradition was the turkey dressing or stuffing. One year, many years ago, my parents had told a friend that the worst thing about turkey was the stuffing. Thanksgiving Eve, he showed up with the loads of stuff needed to prepare Dicky’s Special Dressing. No, I didn’t make the name up, though it is pretty funny in retrospect. This was before food processors, so each thing had to be minced by hand. It took hours and hours to make this. Seriously. Possibly the most interesting thing about Thanksgiving was the guy who came to make the stuffing. My old man hung out with an assortment of weird and quirky guys. There was the “My adversary did it guy.” Every possible thing that went wrong in his life was blamed on “My Adversary.” Flat tire, hole in his sock, you name it, he would explain away every single thing as being done by, well, you know. Pop’s gang included Googs, Hootch, Red, Bert, Whitey, Indian Joe, T, Deds, and Lefty. But the weirdest of all was Dicky, the stuffing guy.

Dicky was a part time musician, and his specialty was “air sax.” So, while we removed the fibrous strings from celery (swear to heaven) before mincing it, Dicky would regale us with an air sax version of “The Shadow of Your Smile.” This went on for nearly the entire 4 hours it took to make the stuffing.

But the memories of my unremarkable Thanksgivings are strong. And traditions are important to families, and our strongest memories are taste and smell. So, every year, to honor my Thanksgiving memories…who am I kidding? We go to a nice restaurant and order something we like.

P.S. My nephew won’t be able to write about his unremarkable Thanksgiving. Because his uncle Joe already asked him to


Jenn Thorson said...

Thanks for sharing the joy and fellowship that is Thanksgiving in Crotchety-land.

Well, okay, joy, and fellowship and mashed and boiled turnips and mediocre cuisine and....

What was I saying?

Oh-- happy Thanksgiving to you and Mrs. Crotchety and our kind blog-host here, Plain Old Mike!

eve cleveland said...

Are y'all sure that you and Mike ain't got no kind of relativity between y'all? So, good, I'm gone read it again.

Adullamite said...

I am so glad we have nothing to be thankful for!

AngieSS said...

Ahhh, the delights of those weird holiday dishes that show up once a year. Does anyone like green bean casserole? Why does someone always make it?

Anyhowser Joe, I hope you have a wonderful "Turkey" day, even if it's at the local eatery! :)

michiganderlady said...

Green Bean Casserole here too. :)

Not that anyone ever eats more than a teaspoon of it though, just enough to say, "Yup. I had one of everything. " LOL!!!

Da Old Man said...

@ all: Thanks for stopping by.

Bee said...

I was always cynical of Green Bean Casserole but I tried it last year and yumm-O!

Don said...

Joe are you sure you didn't steal my family's *secret* recipe for green bean casserole? I swear that's the same way my mom made it too.

Chat Blanc said...

turnips and Dicky...ewwwwww! ;)

dana wyzard said...

My family hated turkey, but after we saw grandma stick her spoon in the "can of grease" that she kept on the back of the stove, and pull out a spoon full of grease.....with a dead mouse in it....we never quite liked stuffing again either.