Thanksgivings on 'The Island' were probably not much different from Thanksgivings celebrated in other parts of the country. Families gathered and visited. Thanksgiving dinners were centered around Tom Turkey with several side dishes and desserts.Up until a few years ago, I never had to worry about all the pre-Thanksgiving dinner preparations that most women went through. Finding the perfect turkey, remembering to set the turkey out to thaw a few days prior to the big day, and purchasing the necessary ingredients for all the different dishes to be served. I never had to worry about all of that because 'She' was still here.
My mother never allowed us to help in the kitchen on Thanksgiving Day or any other day. Oh, there were times when she allowed my sister and me to grate coconut for her ambrosia or grate cheese for one of her other dishes she had planned for Thanksgiving dinner. For the most part, she handled everything by herself. She preferred it that way.
Most of them simply gathered in the kitchen to visit. Emily would help with washing dishes and Mag....well Mag was always "busy" but I don't remember her actually doing anything.
Mag was a character. She mumbled and laughed and danced around the kitchen taking every step my mother took. Mama never said a word. She just worked around Mag.
Watching Mag was quite entertaining to me. Somewhere in between all the mumbling, laughing and dancing, Mag was constantly eating. I remember one Thanksgiving when Mama and I were going to take Mag home. We went outside to get in the car and Mag went back inside and grabbed a piece of Mama's chocolate pie. She said she was going to put it in her pocket and eat it later because her jaws were just too tired.
Mama was a traditional southern cook. Thanksgiving dinners usually included a ham to go along with the turkey, ambrosia, cornbread dressing, peas, corn, candied sweet potatoes and dinner rolls.
In earlier years Mama didn't candy her sweet potatoes. She would peel baked sweet potatoes, mash them up, then add sugar, vanilla, butter and cinnamon. Once everything was mixed up, she would spoon the sweet potato mixture into empty orange halves left over from making her ambrosia. A marsh mellow was placed on top of each before placing them in the oven just long enough to brown the marsh mellows.
She usually made a chocolate pie for dessert and sometimes baked brownies. She began making pecan pies in the later years. Chocolate fudge, buttermilk fudge and divinity were most often saved for Christmas time.
Her pie crusts were always homemade. I remember waiting patiently for her to finish her pie crusts. Any overlapping strips cut away from her pie plate went onto a cookie sheet and were baked until lightly browned.
Man, how I loved those plain baked pie crust strips! No need to sprinkle sugar or cinnamon over them. They were perfect as they were.
Unfortunately, one of my older brothers liked the pie crust strips about as much as I did so it turned into a competition of who would be there at the moment the strips came out of the oven.
This competitive game continued through the years.
I remember one Thanksgiving back in the 1970s. Our high school football team had advanced to the state playoffs and the game was to be played below New Orleans on the day after Thanksgiving.
Continental Trailways buses were rented to carry the football team and cheerleaders and pep squad. The trip took several hours one way.
We ended up losing the game; making the return trip seem even longer. Tired and anxious for the trip to end, my mind turned toward the baked pie crust strips I had wrapped up and hidden before leaving home. It was like comfort food, if you will. A sort of consolation prize after having watched my team lose.
It turned out that my hiding place was not so great. I arrived home to find my baked pie crust strips gone. Yeah, my brother had found my hiding place and he had eaten every one of the strips.
But the story doesn't end there...