Shawnee News-Star November 17th 2018 Becky Emerson Carlberg 'To Grandfather's house we go' was a poem published in 1844 to celebrate Thanksgiving in New England, a place where it does snow.   But, surprise, our first snow fell November 12th, all 1.5 inches of it!   Snow is so magical.   The super cold that followed was an […]

Shawnee News-Star November 17th 2018

Winter Road

Becky Emerson Carlberg

'To Grandfather's house we go' was a poem published in 1844 to celebrate Thanksgiving in New England, a place where it does snow.   But, surprise, our first snow fell November 12th, all 1.5 inches of it!   Snow is so magical.   The super cold that followed was an abrupt return to reality which found me moving more plants into the house and jacking up the heaters in the greenhouse and plastic wonder bubble.

I remember waking up many a Thanksgiving morning and smelling the delicious aroma of turkey baking in the oven. My mother would cook the bird through the night. Next morning she could watch the parades and excitedly wait for the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes to appear in front of Macy's.

Stalking the Turkeys

Thanksgiving in England was held in the evening.   It was not a holiday for our friends, so after work we all gathered together for the traditional American meal. Cooking the turkey was an experience since our oven was half the size of those in the US; the bird had to fit a 9'x12' pan.   Ray, our mobile grocer who delivered bread and eggs could also bring fresh turkey or chicken.   One year I opted for turkey.   The bird came when I was not at home.   Hanging on the doorknob was a plastic bag with yellow feet and legs sticking out.   I lugged the turkey indoors and put it in the sink.   Thankfully the head was not attached, but several feathers were.   It was really fresh.   The turkey farm was just down the road. The English were familiar with turkey and dressing, but for them it was a Christmas meal.   Sweet potatoes, cornbread stuffing, pecan and pumpkin pies were unfamiliar foods.   Thanksgiving presented an opportunity to discuss American history and our links to England. For my husband it was much closer"his grandmother was English.

In Germany we celebrated Thanksgiving late afternoon.   The Armed Forces Network broadcast the parades in the afternoon, which was great for us.   We usually did the 10 K (6 mile) Turkey Trot around Ramstein village in the morning.   Friends, neighbors and newcomers to Germany were welcome.   The Germans quietly ate, thanked us and left. The American ex-pat was beyond thrilled to have Thanksgiving type food she could not buy on the German economy.   After having a slice of pecan pie, all she could do was rave about my piecrust.   How did I make it?   I never breathed a word it was Pillsbury.   Single servicemen and women loved having a meal not on base with family.   Americans living in villages brought their favorite holiday foods to share. Thanksgiving overseas was very meaningful and special.

In Oklahoma, my mother always invited relatives, neighbors, friends and visitors to our Thanksgiving table.   The extra leaves were put into the table and the card table set up in the next room to accommodate everyone. The centerpiece of wax pilgrims and turkeys, autumn leaves and plants was assembled in the middle of the dining room table.

Winter Trees

Four years ago, a fresh twenty-pound turkey (minus feet, head, one wing tip, most vital organs and feathers) made the trip, embedded in ice, to the family homestead in southeast Oklahoma. The bird kept company with the sweet potato casserole, one pumpkin pie and two humans.   Wednesday afternoon another pumpkin pie, pecan pie and cranberry sauce were added to the food roster.   Late night the dressing was prepared and stuffed inside the turkey.   The turkey went into the large blue enamel roaster.   Everything was taken outside to the patio where the temperature was predicted to drop to 25 degrees.

Early next morning the bird pan was placed into the gas oven and cooked until the end of Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.   Mom and I saw the Tulsa Union High School band and the Rockettes and Santa.   When the National Dog Show came on, a howl erupted from the dining room so the television was turned off and attention was focused on the turkey and trimmings.

That was the easy part. The turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, pies, cheesy hominy and gravy were to be transported to a small cabin the other side of Cavanal Mountain.   Mom filled two thermal carafes with gravy and the rest of the meal was tucked into large heavy-duty aluminum pans.   Eleven people feasted and took home leftovers.

The trip to southeast Oklahoma two years ago took us through hills of radiant oaks, sweetgums and shortleaf pines. Too bad wildfires dotted the horizon.   The area was in drought.   The azaleas in front of my mother's house actually had large deep pink blooms this late November.   Wish mom could have seen them.

The door was unlocked, the lights were flipped on, the HVAC system was switched to heat and the gas logs in the front room and bathroom heater came alive in blue-orange flames, giving warmth.   The chilled fresh seventeen-pound turkey was washed and seasoned.   Sage dressing was spooned inside the bird over sprigs of rosemary and onion slices. Shucks.   I left the celery and sweet pickles at home.   Improvisation became the game plan.   The bird was settled into the bottom half of my mother's heirloom metal turkey roaster, tented with aluminum foil and put in the refrigerator.   The temperature this year was too warm for outdoor storage.

Early Thanksgiving morning the turkey was brought out of the fridge.   The night before the gas burners worked so I assumed the oven would as well. The dependable Maytag was turned on.   Instead of seeing the temperature, I saw F5 stream across the little screen.   The oven then promptly turned itself off.   Oh no.   I tried it again.   The F5 flashed in my face.   I figure F5 probably meant 'you're screwed sucker.'   The stuffed turkey sat patiently in its pan.   My uncle's lights were on next door.   He was more than happy to help.   The bird cooked in his oven.

Sunset at Lake Wister

Everything came together and we all enjoyed a great meal.   The day ended with a walk around Quarry Island as the sun was setting.   The sky turned cerulean blue, pink and gold.   The surface of the lake was like glass with several Canadian geese and one pelican gliding quietly across.

At this year's Thanksgiving table, casually mention 5,000 to 6,000 feathers were removed from the turkey before it was baked.   That should give everyone pause to be thankful they aren't a turkey. This could be debatable.

The 1621 celebration to commemorate a good harvest was a three-day affair between the immigrant English Puritans escaping first from England to Holland then fleeing to America and the established native Wampanoag tribe members who had lived in the Massachusetts and Rhode Island area for centuries.   Probably turkey, deer, pumpkin, berries and other native foods were eaten raw, roasted on a spit or boiled.   The Wampanoag befriended the vulnerable foreign Europeans.

Do not forget many of us are immigrants or descendants of immigrants from many countries.   Let this be the year for everyone to join together, be thankful and count our blessings.

For 'tis Thanksgiving Day.