REMEMBERING PAST THANKSGIVINGS                                                                                                                                     (while now it’s only….turkey for two)

There was a time, way back, when Thanksgiving was a time for an annual gathering of the family clan, with a horde of kinfolk, not to mention a few friends, neighbors, and even the occasional lone acquaintance found at loose ends and drawn in for the occasion.

And, naturally, having such a large assemblage of eager mouths ready to gorge on all that a well stocked farmstead could provide required a logistical operation worthy of the Army. A logistical operation launched well in advance of the day itself. One which required an annual bartering exercise with neighboring farmers….a bushel of our prized black walnuts in exchange for the largest and freshest turkey critter that could be found, well buffed up from a finishing diet of corn and other goodies that turn turkeys into gourmands. Sweet potatoes and corn (still in its green husks), exchanged for a couple of gallons of our own honey bees endless production (three hives of them), and home-churned butter, from the creamy contributions of our tiny sweet Jersey family cow (more of a pet than a bulk milk producer), for sweet peas, string beans, or whatever else we didn’t produce ourselves. All in all, a few weeks of frenzied activity in preparation for the main event resulted in a cornucopia of mostly home grown edibles.

Then, of course, there was a whole lot of baking to be done…. biscuits, rolls, pies, cookies, even a cake or two. All of them produced from scratch, from our own eggs, butter, cream, walnuts, and hazel nuts.

And while the womenfolk were busy with these most critical aspects of the preparations, my father, our tenant farm-hand, and I, chopped, stacked, and prepared plenty of stove and fireplace wood to keep the entire system from coming to a halt. Besides the chopping and hauling of wood, my main duties were to take care of our Jersey, gather eggs from my step-mother’s prized chickens, and otherwise keep both the old wood-fired brick oven, the cook stove, and all the fireplaces in good working order (the house was a relic of Colonial times, so most of its “modern” amenities were limited to the bathrooms, and things electrical).

Eventually, the time for feasting finally arrived. My late uncle, a career naval officer of salty reputation, was traditionally given the task of saying grace because, much to my aunt’s displeasure,  he would always conclude the ritual with a sign of the cross and his anticipated roaring quarter-deck-voice-in-a-hurricane…”Now hear this! All you turkeys….GET STUFFED!” At which point the whole assembly would applaud, laugh, and with loud merriment, stampeded itself upon all the goodies spread out onto the heirloom antique cherry wood dining table (extended with its extra leaves for the occasion). And stuffing itself….it did. Living was indeed good in those times.

Today, however, most of them have long been gone. Those of us still round are scattered across the country and in different parts of the world. Too far away, and too complicated to consider having a similar gathering of the clan. Besides, a small apartment in the middle of an urban area just wouldn’t work too well for such an occasion.

So, as an elderly couple, my wife and I have worked out a comfortable mini-version of those past grand feastings….it’s turkey for two. And for those who find themselves at a loss about what to do for Thanksgiving when there are only two people to share it, perhaps this formula should work well for them also.

There’s no such thing as a “small” turkey, so rather than spending a frustrating time looking in vain for one, we just buy a nice two- turkey-thighs pack. Its price and quantity being ideal for the occasion, with hardly any left-overs or heavy cleaning up to do. A simple home-made batch of dressing,  a quick freshly made whole berry cranberry sauce,  a scattering of sweet potatoes baked in their skins, a tossed salad, perhaps even a homemade apple pie, and, voila….a modest but satisfying Thanksgiving feast…for two….a bit of wine…optional.

Of course, old traditions still linger, so I pick up where my late uncle left off, saying grace, making the sign of the cross,  while voicing….ALL YOU TURKEYS….GET STUFFED!  And much as my poor old aunt did long ago, the wife scowls, shakes her head….then breaks into a  giggling fit, as we set to…and get…. stuffed.

Living is still good.