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Wednesday, November 23, 2005Happy Thanksgiving...
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving out here in my corner of the world and as usual we’ll spend it with our family and friends. I realize not everyone celebrates thanksgiving but in my family it’s a pretty big thing. We’re not celebrating the pilgrims landing in America and giving the Indians the big ol’ finger. In my house thanksgiving is the pre game warm up for Christmas and we all get pretty excited about it.
All the activity starts about a week before Thanksgiving. Curtains get changed, little festive knick knacks start popping up all over the house on the mantel, in the china cabinet. My father starts stocking up the pantry all excited at the thought of cooking for friends and family. He loves to cook for us all. My mom starts to finalize the dinner and desert menu every year she says she’s going to make less variety of foods but every year something new gets added to the menu.
On the day before thanksgiving our kitchen is always hectic. Tonight we’ll have take out because there is no room to cook tonight’s meal while preparing for tomorrow’s. Already the food preparations have begun my mother has peeled and boiled 10 lbs of potatoes for my dad’s holiday potato salad. Everyone loves my dad’s potato salad and as the name implies it’s only made on holidays. It’s his own secret recipe even my mom doesn’t know the ingredients of the dressing everything else the potatoes, apple chunks, boiled eggs, onions, green peppers, and red peppers are identifiable still no one has ever been able to get him to divulge the ingredients of his dressing. When he gets home from work he will season the turkey and pork shoulders the way the our people have done since back in the day; coarse black pepper, garlic, olive oil, and assorted ingredients . The kitchen will be enveloped in the smell of the seasonings making all of us hungry.
Everyone chips in to prepare the meal adding our own dishes here and there. As I write this my aunt-in-law is boiling octopus for her seafood salad…this is the only thing that she actually knows how to cook and she goes all out with it. My 8 yr old cousin learned how to make home made butter in school last week and my mom loved it so much she told him that that was his job this Thanksgiving to make butter for dinner. He’s really excited about this too. My mom even bought a special bowl to showcase his butter.
Tonight while we all lay sleeping the kitchen will be turned into a bakery. The house will be filled with the sounds and aromas of my mother baking all night. The scent of pumpkin pie, sweet potato pie, pecan pie, bread pudding, peach cobbler, flan, chocolate mousse cake, arroz con dulce, tembleque, corn bread, and buttermilk biscuits will invade pleasantly invade our dreams making us all wake up hungry in the morning. If it’s a crappy day weather wise we’ll all stay in and watch the parade on television while my dad makes us breakfast. As a kid my absolute favorite part of the parade was the end when Santa Claus made his appearance because that’s when the count down to my birthday began.
Once the parade is over my mother’s shift in the kitchen begins…and ours by that I mean the kids. It is our responsibility to take out the extra table and chairs as well as dessert table and set the dining room up and make sure the house is spotless. By 4 o’clock family and friends begin arriving… dinner is served at 6 pm and goes on for hours after that. Our table always reflects the various people and influences in our lives…. Traditional southern and Arab dishes alongside the traditional Boriqua dishes of my people all sharing the same table like an edible version of the UN.
The company will be a mixture of friends and family and the occasional neighbor stopping in to wish us a happy Thanksgiving. My mom will not let them leave until they at least have dessert with us. At one point during dinner my grandfather will begin teasing my mother, his only daughter. He’ll purposely pick a dish that she made and compliment my father on it my dad will tell him that my mom made it and my grandfather will say, “ Nooooo, no Maggie can’t cook!” and it will lead into a story about my mom’s first attempt at cooking when she was 12 and how he and my uncle Joey were forced to eat the saltiest meatloaf and lumpiest mashed potatoes known to man to avoid hurting her feelings. Of course I’ll whip out the camera and being shooting photos of all gathered here while they are deep into conversation unaware that I’m watching them through my lens. I find those make the best pictures. After dinner everyone takes their dessert and spread out all over the house enjoying different activities the kids will play video games, some of the adults and teens will play dominoes. My parents hold court in the living room my dad channel surfing always looking for Mighty Joe Young while my mom talks with her friends never sitting too far from my father. Every now and then they’ll look at each other and smile. My dad will grab a passing kid and lay a kiss on them; my mom rubs her dad’s shoulders. It’s during times like these that I like to stand back, taking everything in. Thankful for my family and friends, thankful for the good times and the memories. Happy Thanksgiving to all.
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