Weird Things People Do on Thanksgiving
As a kid, I loved Thanksgiving. The experience was colorful, festive and I was allowed to drink Coca-Cola.
For about eight years during the 1970s, the routine was exactly the same. We'd gather at Aunt Ginny and Uncle Clinton's house late in the afternoon and all the women would be bumping into one another in the kitchen. At that time in the history of the family, there were about 20 of us and we three O'Donnel kids, greatly outnumbered by adults, were spoiled by our many doting aunts and uncles.
I remember the teal-colored double-level refrigerator (so '60s!) from which I'd gather ice cubes for glasses of Coke. I can still hear the fizz of the soda as it made contact with the ice in my glass, which felt glamorous and very grownup.
Out of the matching oven would emerge the biggest turkey my eyes ever saw and it was always one of the men who'd do the carving. I liked to watch, particularly if my father was at the helm (I seem to recall lots of cursing under his breath) and I'd always try to sneak a piece of skin. I remember waiting patiently for the discovery of the wishbone and placing it somewhere on a kitchen ledge for drying.
The gravy was always made with Kitchen Bouquet, a suspicious, brown flavoring liquid in a strange little bottle. I never saw the Bouquet emerge at any other time of the year. I also recall jars of Heinz turkey gravy and Aunt Ginny singing a little ditty while she stirred her concoction.
The potatoes were not mashed but whipped with an electric mixer. The stuffing was Stove Top out of a box. And the rolls, they were fresh out of the Parker House bag. If there was a vegetable, it may have been creamed onions. Oh yes, it was green bean casserole, with those French-fried onions on top.
After much corralling, everyone would gather in the dining room (we were relegated, of course, to the "kids' table") and someone would say "Grace." My uncle would preside at the head of the table, donned in one of those silky, stretchy Quiana shirts that were all the rage. I loved sitting near him, as he'd oversee the passing of the food, in a cool, calm manner that always made me feel secure.
After dinner, the men would gather in the basement to play pinochle (and I think, to drink Scotch). The kitchen table was a mess, but I always made my way there, for an extra piece of turkey skin and a few minutes alone attempting to crack open a few nuts with a nutcracker (I always needed help.).
In the early 1980s, my father died, followed soon thereafter by my grandmother and my Quiana-wearing, Cadillac-driving uncle. The family quickly shrunk and Thanksgiving was forever different.
When asked about their own family quirks and traditions on Thanksgiving, a few friends replied with the following:
"My family always drank Blue Nun, and only on this one day of the year." (Blue Nun is a sickly sweet white wine in a blue bottle that became popular in the 70s.)
"My mother-in-law makes gingerbread turkeys. You know, gingerbread cookies, but instead of men, they're turkeys."
"My dad always pulled out the electric carving knife to slice the turkey."
"We have sashimi for lunch before the turkey dinner. My mother orders it from the same place every year."
"I just bought the family a nice knife last year because for 35 years they've been cutting the turkey with a dumb steak knife."
So, what weird thing does your family do every Thanksgiving, without fail? Share your tales in the comments area below!
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