I've done four lectures on Irish research in the past week in New York and Connecticut. One of the comments I hear as I try to help people understand the importance of location in Ireland is that their ancestors didn't talk much about the old country. That is not uncommon as they were frequently leaving terrible conditions and anxious to become Americans. Thanksgiving, therefore, has always been a special holiday for both my family as well as my husbands. It's interesting that our food traditions were almost identical and have changed very little over the years. According to my husband you do NOT mess around with Thanksgiving. We will be celebrating this year with my sister-in-law (where we're lucky enough to be able to stay when visiting Connecticut). Dinner will consist of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, candied sweet potatoes, mashed yellow turnips, creamed onions, string beans, cranberry orange relish and of course, lots of gravy!
Over the years it's been acceptable for me to add something to the dinner, but not at the expense of any of the traditional dishes. During a vegetarian stage for one daughter I added a butternut squash lasagna. Another year my middle daughter requested sausage and cornbread stuffing which was OK as long as it sat next to the traditional Pepperidge Farms herb stuffing! I've also added a sweet potato souffle topped with a crumble crust, which joins the candied sweets.
This special family holiday is a wonderful time to share stories about your ancestors. I have a wonderful memory of making cranberry relish with my grandmother each year. We would make gallons of it to sell at the church fair. The process consisted of grinding the cranberries and oranges together in a meat grinder that was attached to the counter with a bowl set on the floor underneath to catch the juice. The cranberry mixture and juice would be mixed with (lots of) sugar and placed in all types of washed and boiled jars that had been collected throughout the year. This was an all day process! I always think of Nanny Mitchell as I whir the cranberries, oranges and sugar in the food processor (which takes less than five minutes).
As you sit down and give thanks this year for all your blessings, I hope you'll spend time sharing those wonderful stories, especially with the younger folks (you don't have to refer to it as genealogy <g>). Remember also to use this time to collect and share information for your family health history.