Thanksgiving is my very most favorite holiday.
To me, it is full of everything a holiday should be. Quiet, gratefulness, stores closed and homes open, family, friends, cold weather, kids piled in spare rooms and basements, couches full to busting, and of course, food.
Lots of it.
A beautiful table, prepared by hands that have worked together with too many bodies in the kitchen, bumping against each other.
Excuse me, excuse me. Coming through. Will anything else fit in the oven?
And then another whole table, just for the desserts.
I can’t tell you how much I love it. It is the fullest, most cherished day of the year for me. And when I add up all my Thanksgivings from all of my 39 years, I am pretty sure I have enough love and warmth just within those precious days to say that I could check out right now and say that I had a good life.
Growing up we used to go to Castle Bluff (a camp in Northwest Arkansas) for Thanksgiving. It was like going back in time.
Families from our church and other places around Arkansas would come and we would all bring pies and casseroles from home. Daddy would fry a turkey, smoke a turkey and bake a turkey. While he babysat his poultry, he would stand around in the cold with the other men and talk. The mamas would sit around the wood burning stove and peel potatoes.
And the kids.
We ran hog wild doing whatever we wanted.
It was glorious.
We made the younger kids cry with our fairly rough rendition of Blind Man’s Bluff, a game where one person is in the middle blindfolded and the rest of you are circled around this poor child taunting them while they try to catch someone else to be it.
Seriously, how is that even remotely supposed to be fun?
We made the game more challenging by playing it in a room full of bunk beds. Picture blindfolded children JUMPING from one bunk to another. Little kids always cheated and peeked so I guess that’s why we never had a broken limb. My sister, Anna and I were usually in charge and I should also mention, almost never it.
We also played Kick the Can and Hide and Go Seek. This was way before this camp had a climbing wall or a rappelling deck or modern plumbing. We were basically running around in the woods.
Stay away from the cliffs! Those were the only instructions my dad ever gave us.
At night, we played marathon games of Bible Charades. My parents had this one friend who was a drama teacher and she would do every bleeding heart in the Bible: Mary Magdelene, Mary, Mother of Jesus, Rahab, Ruth and Naomi and even Eve. We laughed so hard at her that my side hurt. She would get up and we would just start shouting out women in the Bible.
In the middle of the night, after the big Thanksgiving feast, Anna and I would sneak into the kitchen (I use the term kitchen here very loosely) and eat pie and rolls until we made ourselves sick.
We talked our parents into letting us sleep in the rat-infested attic above the kitchen under the condition that our Grandmother slept up there with us.
To get up there, you had to crawl up onto the kitchen counter and pull down a trap door. Then you would have to pull yourself up into this small A-framed attic space, using the attic floor for leverage while your legs dangled in the kitchen. The process of getting into the attic was made easier by stacking ice chests on the counter, but we didn’t always have the foresight for that.
Needless to say, once we hoisted my poor Grandmother up there, she was loathe to come down again just to stop us from eating all the pie. We loved her so much though that we were happy to bring her a piece when we climbed back up.
Of course then we’d have to climb back down and dig some Cool Whip out of the ice chest for her. And find her a fork. High maintenance, my grandmother.
We had to retire our Thanksgivings to Castle Bluff because everyone grew up and bought iPads with Game Apps, which are much safer than Blind Man’s Bluff.
Actually, we all just got so spread out as a family once we went off to college and got married and such that it became a journey just get to one of our houses for Thanksgiving. There comes a time in your life when you just want to go home.
And so that’s what we do now. We go home. Only our Thanksgiving home has become my sister’s house in Illinois. We gather there every other year in deference to the families we married into.
Since I am only with my sister and brother and their families every other year on Thanksgiving, we cheated this year and had a pre-Thanksgiving while my sister was in town last weekend. This was an unusual treat brought about by some sad circumstances regarding my Grandmother’s health. She is 89 and has been diagnosed with cancer this fall, so Anna needed to come and see her. And make her some pie.
We used many of our old favorites and a few new ones too. I always like to throw a little healthy onto the sometimes rather beige Thanksgiving table.
I also get to give one of my readers a Petit Jean Ham! The ham will be delivered right to your door step in a cooler. All you have to do is wrap it up and warm it in the oven according to the instructions and your Thanksgiving Ham is ready! It is the easiest part of the menu for sure!
All you have to do to be entered for the ham is leave a comment on this post. Tell me your favorite Thanksgiving food or tell me a sweet Thanksgiving memory of your own! UPDATE: This giveaway is closed but I would still LOVE to hear your favorite Thanksgiving memory!
I will choose a random winner from the comments on Friday. Giveaway closed. Delta Moxie, you are the winner of the Petit Jean Ham! Yay!
The Petit Jean Thanksgiving Ham for this Thanksgiving Menu was provided by Petit Jean Meats, a local Arkansas company. I am a member of their Blue Diamond Club, which basically means they send me products which I select and then share with you. Subscribe to the Chino House via email (box on the top right of web page) so you won’t miss a recipe!