About Me

My photo
Douglas, Alaska, United States
I have lived in Alaska since 1978, having come to Juneau as a Jesuit Volunteer. I fell in love with Alaska and now live on Douglas Island with my husband and two dogs.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Thanksgiving Memories

-turkey, turkey.

First of all, THANK YOU!!!! to the many followers who commented on my last post, which, I admit, was rather of the "poor me, quivering chin, whiny butt" variety.

It was so reassuring to hear that many of you do not receive regular comments either, but continue to post because you know that there are people who are enjoying, if not commenting on, your blogs.

So, in the spirit of gratitude, which we will be concentrating on this week (especially on Thursday), I decided to share some of my favorite Thanksgiving memories, and to ask you if you would also like to share some of yours, as well!

We always had Thanksgiving dinner at my childhood home, and everyone would come there for the feast.  Since I was the youngest of six, my older siblings were married and had children of their own when I was quite young.  As a matter of fact, I became an aunt when I was three years old.  So, of course, I was always "invited" to sit at the kids' table for Thanksgiving (and Christmas, and Easter) dinner.  I didn't mind this too much, except that I missed all the fun conversation at the grown ups' table.  I think I was about 15 when I was finally allowed to join the adults.

We always had the traditional foods for Thanksgiving: turkey, with my mother's amazing oyster stuffing, mashed potatoes, my mother's amazing giblet gravy, cranberry sauce, salad, and some sort of side vegetable like peas.  My sister Rita liked the canned jellied cranberry sauce, so my mom always bought one can just for her.  Over the years, my mom experimented with cranberry relish, but she usually just settled for making the whole cranberry sauce from scratch.  There was never a sweet potato to be found at our table.

We used to tease my mom about her gravy.  There is no better gravy in the world than the giblet gravy my mom used to make, but we would jokingly accuse her of using some product like Kitchen Bouquet to flavor her gravy.  She knew we were joking, but she would be a good sport and play along, vehemently denying the accusations.

My job was to mash the potatoes.  One thing about my mom, she always had me help with the cooking and she taught me a lot.  I would use the old wooden handled potato masher and I can still remember the clinking sound it made in the big pan she used to cook the potatoes in.   Several big knobs of butter, and some splashes of milk later, the potatoes would mash up thick and fluffy.  They would go on the back burner to stay warm while she made the gravy.

She would have one of the guys move the turkey to a platter to rest and she would pour the drippings from the roasting pan into a big saucepan.  She would drain most of the fat off of the drippings, but not all of them, because "that's where the flavor comes from".  She would heat up the drippings in the saucepan while she mixed flour and milk together.  She would pour the milk/flour mixture into the drippings, stirring it with a whisk and stir and stir and stir until it started to thicken.  She would salt it (a lot) and put in the cooled and ground up giblets (it was also my job to grind the cooked giblets with the meat grinder).  One final stir and then the gravy would be put into the "nice" gravy boat, that was part of the china that my dad had bought for her, china that became even more precious after he died when I was five.

When my mom cooked a huge dinner, everything always came out even.  The potatoes would be perfect, not gluey from warming too long, the gravy never had a hint of lumps, the turkey would be roasted golden brown and the cranberry sauce always jelled.  She had a gift!

One year, our neighbor Doris came over after dinner to show us her new puppy, Julie.  Julie made a beeline for the counter, on which the turkey platter was resting.  She jumped up and her paws caught the edge of the platter.  Down came the platter, turkey and all, shattering on the kitchen floor.  The platter was part of the aforementioned precious china set.  My mom tried to reassure Doris that it was alright, but poor Doris was completely mortified, and my mom was heartbroken.  Doris did her best to replace it, but the pattern had been discontinued.  She did replace it with another lovely platter that we used after that.

After my siblings married, they had to join their in-laws for some holidays, so they usually would do one year with us and one year with them.  My sister Rita, who was very slender, could eat like a horse, and would usually eat a full meal at the in-laws and then come and eat leftovers at our house with pumpkin pie for dessert.  She would then sigh and say that she "ate too fast" (never too much, just too fast)!

After I moved to Alaska and married Charles, we would usually have Thanksgiving with several other friends who didn't have family close by.  One year, we were invited to our friend Therese's house for dinner with her and her family, including her parents.  When it was time to make the gravy, Therese and her mom were getting things ready when Charles said: "Paula makes the BEST GRAVY in the world!"  Therese's mom, Ril said: "Oh, I'd love to know how you make your gravy - can you show me?"  I was horrified, because Ril had probably made at least 40 Thanksgiving dinners in her life and was no doubt a gravy expert, but I gamely went into the kitchen and made the gravy just like my mom did, praying that there would be no lumps and that it would thicken.  It turned out fine, but I could have killed Charles that year.

There are so many memories, but I don't want to go on too long.  What are some of your favorite memories?

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!  We have so much to be thankful for this year!


  1. Lovely. I also like the new picture on your blog. :-)

  2. I'm so glad that you got reassured about the lack of comments on blog posts! It is comforting to know that we are all in the same boat, LOL.

    Those are all endearing stories! Ah, I wish I could conjure up some unique stories about my childhood Thanksgiving, but my memories remain a jumble from those years. It was always loud and confusing at our household, and mom would always try to whip up a feast amid the frenzy of a household filled with children. As the only girl, I was always charged with 2nd mom duties of cooking, cleaning, and tending to my younger brothers. So there was always more work than there was much fun. But it was always a holiday in which we paused and thought about our many blessings, and we were always grateful for the plentiful helpings of food. One thing I do remember vividly is the cranberry "sauce" sitting like a log on a plate, still showing the tell-tale ribs from the can. I never saw an actual cranberry until I was an adult!

  3. Hi again from Colorado. My email is SandyLuckhurst5759@gmail.com. would love to meet you next summer. Contact me when you have time, We are traveling by ferry and will also be staying in Juneau at various times.
    Thanksgiving last year was the first time since the 80s that my sister, brother and I were at my mothers together in SD. With my father not well it made it a very special day.

  4. Oh you have made me hungry, and our Thanksgiving was all the way back in October....

    BTW I think I have read that Epsom Salts will discolor quickly, so it might not work for the sparkly frame....


    1. Thanks Jen - I will try to find Buffalo Snow to make the frame instead of epsom salts!

  5. We don't have Thanksgiving over here but you're making my mouth water!


I love to receive comments - please tell me what you think!