I want to be able to look up from the end of the story and then, slowly, as what I have read sifts down, to have the flower of relevance open for me. ~ Nancy Hale, Essayist
Thursday, November 24, 2011
Thanksgiving and Relish Trays
My older brother played football in high school so those
four years, Thanksgiving dinner was not at my grandmother's house but at ours.
There were some things we could count on at our Thanksgivings: all three of my
grandparents would be there, we would have cider, a relish tray, and at the end
of the meal, my maternal grandmother would make the same announcement,
"Pete (my father), you will have to roll me back to Boston tonight".
We loved it. We also loved that because our kitchen was so tiny, it was impossible
for us to help clean up. So everyone underage got to watch TV with my
grandfather or read by the fire until the all clear was rung and dessert was
finally laid out with the coffee on a fresh snowy cloth.
At the time, cheese and crackers were not yet fashionable so
Mom kept to the tradition of having a "relish tray" for our first
course. I'm not sure where the name came from, but a relish tray was really about
celery and it wasn't really a tray but an old fashioned divided dish that was filled on one side with
celery stuffed with cream cheese sprinkled with paprika, and on the other side,
with black olives. I remember we kids put the olives on our fingertips, which
for an oddreason was allowed. Perhaps
because it was irresistible for children and both my grandmothers knew
something about children, having both been raised in families with more than 10
Dad would put the leaf in the dining room table which then
took up the entire dining room. We didn't have enough chairs so a bench on the
side of the table took care of at least three of us. Mom bought cider from a
farm in town that we drank with the turkey and she made all the traditional
fixings and vegetables. Dessert was pies - apple, pumpkin, mincemeat.
Thanksgiving at my house is going to be quiet and small this
year. Just one brother, my mother, and my daughter. Last night I called Mom to
ask her to bring along her electric knife. We reminisced about Thanksgivings of
yore and then she said something unexpected I won't soon forget. Mom asked if I
remembered a coat she bought me one fall - moss green tweed with an attached
scarf to wear on Thanksgiving day when I was six. "Yes. It itched", I
replied. "Well", she said, "I keep seeing you in that coat
tonight". Nothing could be sweeter to have with the turkey and all its
fixings, the cider, the pies, and that marvelously plain relish tray with the
celery and black olives.I may even pop
a few on my fingertips.