Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. There is no gift giving, No real decorating to speak of unless you are Martha Stewart. Martha Stewart and I share a birthday. That’s about all we share.
I love Thanksgiving.
I cooked my first turkey when I was 15 or so. I wanted to learn. Easy peasy. Even bad turkey is good. I learned how to make gravy from the giblets. I already knew how to make bread and Grandma Emma’s chocolate bottom pie. I always have fresh cranberries for my mother. Roasted asparagus for my brother. Squash with sausage for my dad when he was still alive as well as cornbread dressing and regular dressing. In fact, dressing may be my favorite.
Of course, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie. And Brussel sprouts. I vow each year to add corn pudding but haven’t yet. It’s already two full days of cooking and I’m getting old. There will be wine and everyone’s favorite soft beverage.
Everyone has that one thing they want to see on the table, and I try to cater that.
For me, it’s not Thanksgiving without olives. Black ones. Pitted. The plain old ones in a can. Jumbo. Often, they don’t make it to the table. I eat them in the kitchen, off my fingertips, while cooking.
Before we moved to Hawaii, so I would have been younger than 7, we were in Michigan for Thanksgiving dinner. I was in the kitchen with my Aunt Connie who I had no memory of. She was wearing an apron. She is Italian and is the widow of my mother’s brother, Gary.
My mother abhors olives. I had never even seen an olive before. One by one, Connie took olives and stuck them on the tip of my fingers and thumbs while I was in the kitchen underfoot. I ate every one of them. Best thing I had ever put in my mouth. Loved them. I became a black olive connoisseur at that moment.
At the table, there was a relish tray though of course I didn’t know that’s what it was called. There was celery and I don’t remember what else besides the olives. I loved celery. I still do. It’s probably why I love dressing so much. I put celery in everything I can get away with. I was an adventurous eater as a child (still am) and ate my body weight or more at each meal. (Still do.) I gorged on celery and olives as well as everything else on the table. Except cranberries. I’m not really a fan.
Black olives are the gift from my Aunt Connie that I will never forget.
This year I am not cooking for Thanksgiving. I feel kind of guilty about it, but a friend is catering. I will add in the missing things that are important to those of us intending, but we’re talking a few hours in the kitchen, much fewer pans, and much much less cleanup. Of course, there will be olives. We’ll see if they make it to the table.
I do feel guilty. But there has just been so much going on that I can’t afford two days lost in the kitchen though I love it. I do. I love cooking holiday dinners. Preparing food may be my love language.
May you have a wonderful Thanksgiving with everything and everyone you need to feel grateful.
My story, Secondhand Smoke, was published today in the Veteran’s Day Issue of As You Were: The Military Review Vol. 17. It is set in the tail-end of the Vietnam War in Jacksonville, NC (home of Camp Lejeune) and draws heavily on my experience as a military brat though the story is fictional.