It's kind of hard not to write about Thanksgiving every year, because it’s a holiday that screams “family,” more than Christmas in my book.
Thanksgiving is all about friends and family, sitting around a dinner table stuffing themselves with turkey, dressing and all of the other trimmings.
Christmas is such a busy holiday and one preoccupied with gifts under the tree and running from here to there that it becomes more hectic than relaxing. Maybe that’s not the way it should be, but reality says that’s the way it is.
This is a big time of year for area grocery stores. Most of them use turkeys as part of their promotions, offering a discounted price in exchange for a minimum spent on other items in the store. Some have no minimum spending at all.
I was grocery shopping two weeks ago and watched as a couple, probably in their 70s, were debating about which brand of turkey to buy while standing in front of the freezer.
The guy, well, he was opting for the cheapest bird. “Turkey’s turkey,” I heard him telling his wife. Not so fast, she said, trying to convince him that the brand with the red pop-up timer was the only way to go.
A few minutes later, I spotted them in an aisle hunting for cranberry sauce, their Honeysuckle White turkey firmly entrenched in the top of their shopping cart.
Hearing the shoppers debate about the turkey with the pop-up timer brought to mind the Thanksgiving extravaganzas when I was a kid.
Somehow, my mother always was able to roast what I thought was the perfect turkey – brown, tender, moist and you guessed it, stuffed with dressing.
Of course, since the time I was kid, people have determined that it’s no longer safe to stuff a turkey – more hogwash if you ask me. Someone probably stuffed a turkey with bad ingredients, or left it out too long before putting it in the oven, and someone got sick.
Before I got married in 1978, I had never heard of cooking stuffing on the outside of the bird. But that’s the way my mother-in-law did it, and that’s the way my wife roasts the turkey as well. But until my mom died in 1990, I was able to get stuffing cooked in the bird.
When I was a kid, my mom would put the turkey in the oven on very low heat after midnight Wednesday before Thanksgiving Day. The aroma would fill the house well before the break of dawn.
Today, not only do we have pop-up timers, but bags in which to cook the turkey. Presto. Some prefer deep-frying. Others like the big roasters, like the Westinghouse ones that every area family seemed to have owned.
But no matter, Thanksgiving will always be about family. We’ll have 15 people at our house on Thanksgiving Day. Not to put the damper on the day, but a huge absence will be my cousin by marriage, Gary Douglas, who died last January.
More to me than a relative by marriage, Gary was one of my best friends – the kind that would give you his right arm if you needed it.
Thanksgiving was a riot with him. He didn’t like turkey, and while everyone at the table was asking for white or dark meat, he was munching on kielbasi or cutting his steak. Not a Thanksgiving went by that we didn’t rib him, always with the rhetorical question: “Who doesn’t eat turkey on Thanksgiving?”
We won’t have our turkey digested before the hectic pace of the Christmas season is upon us with early Black Friday sales starting Thursday night.
But for at least a little while on Thanksgiving, enjoy the afternoon and evening, and relax with family and friends. Curl up on a couch and watch the parade and football -- and then have more turkey.
They are the real joys of the holiday.
Jim Raykie is the editor of The Herald and writes this column on Mondays. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org