Column: Passing Thanksgiving Traditions to a New Generation

Pass the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, candied sweets, green beans, cranberry sauce, pumpkin bread, squash and apple pie. The mere thought of the aromas of these traditional foods wafting from the kitchen throughout the house gives me a nostalgic feeling. 

Ever since I was a small child, Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday. The family gathered around the dining table, filling the room with laughter and conversation, conjures memories from long ago and from more recently. 

Americans of all ages, genders, religions and ethnic groups observe this national holiday in appreciation for the harvest. Everyone can choose their favorite dishes in addition to the traditional fare shared on the first Thanksgiving by the Wampanoags with the Pilgrims in 1621. The menu has evolved and now may include vegan, vegetarian and ethnic foods.The gratitude remains the same. 

For me, Thanksgiving is all about the pies. The Mayflower’s sugar supply had dwindled by the fall of 1621, and the first Thanksgiving feasts didn’t include pies, cakes or other sweets. Desserts have become a popular part of contemporary celebrations. 

Apple pie brings memories of my grandmother. I remember her floured hands as she rolled out dough on the kitchen table of the house where she raised her family and lived into old age. She let me taste the left-over bits of raw dough. I liked the saltiness. She laboriously peeled, cored and sliced the apples, adding sugar, spices and lemon juice. 

The bright red enamel pie plate will complement the Apple Raspberry Pie.

I make crust the old-fashioned way like my grandmother taught me how to do. But instead of rolling the dough onto a floured tabletop, I roll it out between two pieces of parchment paper. This permits easy lifting and placement onto the pie plate. 

I like to add raspberries for a little extra pizzazz. A pie sold at Silverman’s Farm inspired this tasty addition. I recently saw a recipe with blackberries that sounds delicious too. But my husband, Paul, prefers raspberries. Plus I have a shiny red enamel pie plate to complement the color.

This year I also have a new gadget which happens to be bright red. The handy device peels, cores and slices apples. I heard about it from a story hour at the library our grandson attended. A retired kindergarten teacher and retired art teacher led the story hour and actually let the little ones make their own small pies. The apple peeler, corer, slicer was part of the demonstration and delighted our grandson.

The Johnny Apple Peeler gadget peels, cores and slices, reducing the amount of hand labor required to prepare apples for baked dishes.

Curious about the the gadget and surprised I couldn’t remember seeing one before, I did some research. I learned that prior to 1864, there were no mechanical devices to quickly prepare the apples. The tedious task had to be performed by hand with a knife.

David Harvey Goodell, who later became the governor of New Hampshire, invented the labor-saving device I recently heard about and purchased. My grandmother laboriously peeled and sliced apples with a knife and might not have known about the mechanical peeler, slicer, corer. Or maybe she couldn’t afford one, having raised her family during the Great Depression and become a widow at a young age. 

I watched a video supplied by the manufacturer to figure out how it works. My first attempts were clumsy. The apple only got partially peeled and dropped unevenly on the drive shaft. I am practicing using it before my Thanksgiving baking on Wednesday. Practice makes perfect. I believe my Grandma would approve. 

Peeling, coring and slicing apples is easy and fun to do.

As a widow, Grandma had to do things without a help mate. Paul and I are able to work and pass down traditions together. Paul is an accomplished chef, so I don’t have to make the feast all by myself. He will roast the turkey, grill the salmon for our “pescatarian” relatives and make the sides. We eat lots of plant-based foods these days but are not giving up roast turkey!

In addition to apple raspberry pie, I will make pumpkin walnut muffins and set a festive table. Family members will bring green bean casserole and pumpkin pie. We have much to be thankful for. For the first time, all three of our grandchildren, and two of our three grown children and their spouses, will share the feast at our house.

It’s never too soon to encourage the next generation to appreciate — and not take for granted — the food that sustains life and all of the bounty that has come our way. We will sit around the Thanksgiving table and encourage everyone — even our 2-year-old grandson — to give thanks in their own words and their own way. 

We at the Courier send best wishes to you and your family for a happy Thanksgiving. May happy memories, old and new, warm your hearts. Peace and joy be with you. 

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