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 odd  reason 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 siblings each. 

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.

1 comment:

  1. A darling post and so sweet! FYI, a relish tray is so called because those items are considered relishes...celery, olives, etc. I just loved this peek at your childhood Thanksgiving, Donna. Charming!
    Love, K