Dear Readers: I know I promised the continued saga of moving from Poudre Canyon to the pink log house on Summit View but with Thanksgiving two weeks away Susan suggested I share some of my mom’s Thanksgiving recipes and stories about how she worked for two weeks before Thanksgiving to put out a wonderful large and bountiful dinner, fit for the King and Queen. I will continue the Pink Log house story Nov 28.
Last Thanksgiving I wrote about Grandma and Grandpa Cogswell and the Thanksgiving they had each year from 1939 to 1947. This is a story about my mom and her Thanksgiving meals she prepared on our farm, between 1947 and 1956 east of Fort Collins, Colo.
This is an excerpt from Mom’s tiny handwriting on pages of the Family Heritage Book that each one of five kids got from her.
“In 1947 Mom and Dad McClure increase their living quarters on the farm from a tiny two bedroom house by remodeling and adding a full basement and expanding the main floor to three bedrooms and a large kitchen and formal dining room and a large living room with a brick fireplace. They did much of the work themselves.
“Then Dad in 1956 having sold his shorthorn cattle ranch, decided to retire from farming, but retained the home farm and bought a John Deere Implement business located in Fort Collins, assisted by his oldest son John Junior.
“Dad devoted his time to the business. In 1958, eight acres was purchased east of Fort Collins on Highway 14 and a new expanded business facility was erected so Dad relocated the John Deere Implement store to this site in 1960. The farm home where the McClure family had continued to reside was sold in 1962. Mom and Dad and their two youngest children Jimmy and Elaine who were in high school moved to a temporary home in Fort Collins and then purchased a home east at 2900 East Mulberry within a mile of the business location.
“The McClures had resided on the farm known as Shamrock Land and Cattle Company for 25 years. Dad acquired two mountain hay and cattle ranches and was active in operating them, thus he kept his lifelong interest in agriculture and cattle. The ranches were known as Grace Creek Ranch and T-bone Ranch compromised of a total of more than 9,000 acres. They were located in the Laramie River Valley about 130 miles from Fort Collins.”
This little blurb of history about my family while I was growing up is only a small background of where and how I grew up. It was hand written by my mother and compiled in a large book complete with pictures, that I call my Family Heritage Book. It is very be big and thick, a prized possession of mine. However my mom never tells about herself in this book, and how in 1947, she started having the family Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners in her new house.
Mom started two weeks in advance planning Thanksgiving dinner. She did her shopping in Fort Collins for her baking. She spent the rest of the week, baking cookies and pumpkin, apple, cherry and Dad’s favorite, mincemeat pie, made from homemade mincemeat she had made in the summer, from venison and beef. She left out the citron that is in commercial mincemeat. It is truly delicious; however you have to acquire a taste for it. Apples were added to the mincemeat and baked in a two crust pie shell. Dad loved his mincemeat pie warm with vanilla ice cream on top. Me too!
The Saturday before Thanksgiving, that house was scrubbed from top to bottom. And all the furniture was “tarnished” as one of my little sisters called “polished.” Two days before Thanksgiving the china dishes, the silverware and the glassware and all the serving bowls were taken out of the cupboards and buffet, washed by hand and dried with her bleached white embroidered tea towels. The linen and lace tablecloths and the linen napkins, were re-ironed to get any creases or wrinkles out after being folded from the first ironing and put on the table.
Mom made her famous cranberry salad in a 13-by-9 pan, the day before, grinding up fresh cranberries and chopped celery. She added crushed pineapple to orange Jell-o, the rest of the ingredients and refrigerated to set. It was cut into squares before serving, put on a small serving plate lined with a lettuce leaf, and then the square of cranberry salad and the final touch was a dollop of salad dressing (no mayonnaise in Mom’s kitchen!) or whipped cream. It was a very festive and pretty, set beside every place setting on the table.
The table was set the day before Thanksgiving with dinner plates, silverware, water glasses, folded napkins, all in their proper place. Mom inspected every detail after my sister and I tried to do our best getting each place setting just right. Mom always had a big beautiful fresh fall flower arrangement as the centerpiece in the middle of the table.
Days before, bread was dried and the day before Thanksgiving and when I got a little older, I chopped the celery and the onions for the dressing or as Dad called it, the stuffin’. Usually Thanksgiving dinner was between two and four in the afternoon so the big 22- to 25-pound turkey had to be put in the oven at least by five o’clock in the morning. Potatoes were peeled that morning as was the sweet potatoes. A big green salad was prepared and put in the refrigerator (my job again). The day before Mom took the pies, cookies and dinner rolls out of the freezer, and we wrapped the dinner rolls in foil to warm them in the oven just before dinnertime. The plates of butter and individual salt and peppers were put on the table.
Potatoes were mashed by hand, leaving a few lumps, adding fresh cream and gobs of butter. The sweet potatoes were put in the oven with brown sugar, a little squeeze of maple syrup, large amount of butter and at the last minute topped with marshmallows.
The dressing was taken out of the turkey that had been resting on the cupboard for about an hour. Dad was summoned to carve the turkey and with big fanfare he did so. The gravy was made from the turkey drippings, boiling and blurping away on the stove. It was poured into two large bowls, one for each end of the table.
The potatoes, sweet potatoes, dressing, green salad, and hot rolls were added to the table, and with big fanfare Dad would bring in the carved turkey.
Mom had special places for everyone to sit. So she directed everyone to their places, I always hoped I could sit beside Grandpa or Grandma Cogswell. My Uncles Marvin and Leslie took their place. Uncle Norman and Aunt Ruth (no kids at that time) little brother Jim in a high chair beside Dad and Elaine setting next to Mom. Then Ginger and me. My brother Johnny (Sonny-Butch) usually got to sit with Marvin and Leslie.
The Grace of Thankfulness was usually said by Dad or Grandpa Cosgwell. The heaping bowls of food were passed around amid the “ohwws and ahwws” of how nice the table looks and how wonderful the food smelled. The hot rolls were passed last and then the table was silent except for the cling-clang of silverware and the gracious exclamations of how good everything tasted. Mom beamed with pride.
She worked so hard for two weeks for this moment – that lasted only for about 20 to 30 minutes – then it was time to wash dirty dishes while the men-folk retired to the living room waiting for the full bellies to subside, because there was pie with ice cream to eat. Dad was first in line.
These are warm memories I wish to pass down to my family. Our Thanksgiving dinners changed drastically in Alaska! First and always involving the family but including the “orphans” in the neighborhood that did not have immediate family or lived alone. Don’t forget your family and most of all invite a person or two who are not as lucky as you are.