Thanksgiving At the Big Farm

Walking into the Big Farm kitchen on a late November afternoon the day before Thanksgiving, my cheeks rosy with the cold and feet all pins and needles from hanging so long from the cutter seat, my nose would be assailed by a feast of smells. There would be sage freshly ground for the stuffing, spices waiting to season "punkin" pies, russet apples glowing from an ironstone bowl on the kitchen dresser blending with fresh bread just out of the oven where apples pies were now bubbling.

Unbundled and soundly hugged by Grandma, I'd soon be perched on Grandpa's knee to watch supper preparations while listening to his accounts of new kittens, the latest antics of the farm animals, and telling him of my adventures since last we were together.

Supper was stew which had simmered all afternoon on the back of the stove, served with fluffy white dumplings and crisp dill pickles. Yellow cream in a blue pitcher awaited the grownup's coffee and my milk was yellow with cream too. The cake Ma had brought for dessert had three layers and was mounded with coconut. No one had indigestion as I remember.

Early Thanksgiving morning from my trundle bed in Grandma's roon, I would hear Uncle Bert building up the fire in the fireplace and rattling the lids of the iron cook stove as he chunked in wood. It would take both to cook our dinner. Two turkeys lay in twin pans in the spring room, ready to go in the brick oven built into the fireplace.

Grandma, Aunt Bea (Uncle Lonzo's wife) and her girls with Ma worked all morning basting, peeling Irish potatoes, scrubbing sweets to bake and steaming squash and turnip (Grandpa's favorite vegetable). Biscuits had to be "whacked up" and pickles dished out. Uncle Bert and Pa set up the extra trestle table and it and the regular table, stretched to full length, were spread with snowy damask and set with bone handled knives, silverware and Grandma's best dishes.

The menfolk escaped to the barn for chores or into Grandpa's shop to see his latest work. My younger cousins and I joined our fathers, tho one of another of the boys would be sent to fetch wood every so often. This was a dangerous job as one might be pressed into service to run errands to the spring room and cellars if one were not quick.

Dinner was laid at noon. Grandpa's prayer was long and fervent, for a man of the soil who has his large family all around him has much for which to thank his Creator. One turkey went under Grandpa's knife, while the other fell victim to Uncle Bert and they delt white, dark and special pieces according to taste with the skill of long practice.

Mashed potatos were showy peaks running rivers of golden butter, sweet potatos burst mellow orange from crisp brown skins, turnips added their homey aroma to the sweet squash fragrance and the cool, crisp tang of pickles. Teas, green and black, buttermilk, and sweet milk were poured into waiting cups and glasses. Steaming bowls of gravy and plates of sweet creamy butter were passed to flood plates and melt into hot biscuits.

Happy voices, laughter, the scrape of silver on plates and sighs of gustatory pleasure made our dinner music. Finally came the pies: golden spicey punkin with its brown skin top and a dish of sharp cheese, delicious mince made a day or two before so the flavor would ripen, and Aunt Bea's chocolate cream topped with baked eggwhites weeping tiny gold tears of sugar.

The afternoon was devoted to digestion and conversation, but about five oclock Grandpa, followed by his sons and grandchildren, would appear in the kitchen door, sniffing the air inquiringly in search of supper. While chores were being done, we chldren romped through the barns then walked through snow filled dark to the warm, fragrant kitchen. After bowls of hot creamy turkey soup, slices of cold turkey, fried potatoes, pickles and more pies were consumed, sleepy children were kissed and bundled into sleighs for the trip home. Aunt Min, Aunt Mary, Uncle Lonzo and their families disappeared down the road to the jingle of sleighbells and the whisssh of runners on frozen snow.

I'd undress beside the fireplace, drooping eyes fixed on dancing flames, and Grandpa would tuck me up in the trundle bed. Thanksgiving day at the Big Farm was over for another year.