Of all this country’s Holiday celebrations non more reflects the American dream and spirit as does Thanksgiving. From the earliest days when Columnist shared with the Indians the feast of Thanksgiving the yearly tradition has become an event of togetherness-in most cases family togetherness.
Each year on this day we celebrate the many things for which we have to be thankful. This year is especially notable in that we can give thanks that the election cycle is over.
Actually the family is the focus on Turkey Day, much more so then on Christmas, which in most instances has become a frenzy of gift exchanges and massive overindulgence. Of course there is no shortage of food and spirits on Thanksgiving but at least the celebration seems more basic and focused then that which occurs some 30 days later.
Remembering past Thanksgivings the mind always goes back to those earliest days when the pride and joy of the cook was the artfully prepared turkey. I can recall sitting at the table with my three brothers and since we did not have one of John Madden’s celebrated many-drumstick offerings the competition between me and my siblings for the pair of drumsticks was usually pretty spirited. Fortunately our family was almost equally divided when it came to who liked “dark meat” and who preferred “white meat” so there was always plenty to go around. Since my dad was in the service (Coast Guard) we had our Thanksgiving Day dinner in various locations such as New York, Connecticut, West Virginia, Mississippi, New Jersey and Florida. No matter the geographic location my mother was able to set a table with a tried and true ingredients she knew we liked the best. Since she was Virginia bred there was often a delicious ham to abet the turkey and since my dad was a Bostonian of the old school, a side dish of baked beans was also featured. Like everything else on the table the pies were homemade and extremely tasty. Real whipped cream, not Cool Whip was available and a post dinner nap was very mandatory.
The first Thanksgiving I ever spent away from home, in the Army, was a bit of a culture shock as I feasted on vittles that had been powdered, canned, pressed or otherwise preserved so that most of the original taste and flavor no longer existed. Instead of china plates, sparkling glassware and silver plated utensils we dined on aluminum trays that contributed their unique taste to the food that had lopped over the small division ridges. As Army meals went, Thanksgiving was quite a cut above regular “chow” so one adjusted accordingly. However, when it came to sitting down to the annual feast overseas it was quite a different matter, located in Pusan, Korea we were at the very tail end of the Pacific Theater supplies system. To add to the scant rations that finally reached us was the fact that since it was just a few months following the end of WWII we were getting rations that had been languishing in warehouses for several years and that were now being cleaned out for what was supposed to be “the last time”. Nonetheless, once again, the meal was tolerable because of the one ingredient that makes all Thanksgiving feasts special and that was the presence of friends, pal’s and buddies with whom to celebrate the occasion.
Fending for ourselves in the postwar days of College life at the University of Nevada was always an interesting challenge. The “Gow” house on campus was usually closed for the holidays but even at that time downtown Reno featured a variety of excellent restaurants so tasty food was available and cheap. We did score well one Thanksgiving however when one of our group (three from Florida and one from Pasadena) was dating a co-ed from Las Vegas, whose father happened to be an executive at the old Last Frontier on what was then the nascent Las Vegas strip. Not only did we all enjoy a sumptuous meal on the exec but we also spent several days at the resort, which at that time had its swimming pool in the front of the complex. It was quite a treat to be lolling about at the pool instead of shivering on the corner of Fourth and Virginia in late November.