Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thanksgiving in the 50s

Preparing Thanksgiving dinner during my childhood started months ahead. We grew most of the things used for that special meal back then.

Early in the growing season, we picked strawberries and made the jelly with Sure-Jell. Next, late in August, we gathered fully ripened corn. The most memorable time read more
was when the man farming our land pulled a whole farm wagon full of corn below our house. He had four growing boys and had planted the corn on our farm. All of us kids and the men started to husk. Inside the house, the two mothers put the kettles of water on to boil, and we had a huge corn freezing party.

Late in the summer we dug the potatoes and the sweet potatoes in our garden. I stood by as my father used a pitchfork to expose them.  I pulled them out of the dirt as they appeared on the surface. Dad stored them in the underground hand dug cave next to our house. This was a walk-in cave with a seven-foot ceiling and an area of 12-by-15 feet.  

Carrots and celery also grew in our garden. In the fall, my mother pushed the dirt up around the celery to protect it from the cold. We could keep it that way until December. We dug the carrots out and also stored them. They were never the nice smooth carrots of today. They were twisted and bumpy.

In the fall, the apples in the orchard were picked and also appeared in our cave. She 
peeled and cooked tons of them, put them through a Foley grinder to make applesauce, and added sugar before boxing it up for the freezer.

 At some point, Dad brought in the pumpkins which Mom then skinned, cooked, and froze for making pumpkin desserts, including Thanksgiving pumpkin pie.

Closer to the big day but still plenty of time ahead, she prepared her favorite cranberry sauce, cutting up more apples, but including store bought cranberries, pineapple, and oranges. She ground all with her food grinder because we didn’t have food processers back then. She then added sugar. This she also froze so that it would be available for special meals.

Thanksgiving Monday, the bread baking would occur. Mixing by hand, she made five loaves, leaving some out in the open to get stale. When the outside became a little hard, we broke it into crumbs for the filling. We always called it filling instead of stuffing.  We used store bought margarine even back then.

The day before Thanksgiving, Mother baked her pumpkin pies using the pumpkin stored in the freezer. Reddi-wip topping had been bought at the store to serve on top. She cleaned the celery and carrots, cutting each into serving size pieces. She also mixed up the filling that day.

The turkey came from the local grocery store. Thanksgiving morning my mother got up very early to stuff it and put it in the oven. Nearer meal time, she made the candied sweet potatoes, cooked the potatoes to mash, and heated the corn. Meanwhile, I set each place at the table with a plate, silverware, a glass, napkin, and a special small dish for applesauce or cranberry relish. 

When meal time finally arrived, we made many trips from stove to table before Mother called the family to sit down. Gathering there, we bowed our heads. Dad said grace and then we passed the food. Mmm!

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