Much cause for thanks

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, while searching for the large turkey platter, I was reminded of my first Thanksgiving in England many years ago.

My husband Hal, a true native son of Seattle, and I were living in England a few months after our wedding. He was determined to celebrate Thanksgiving in the traditional manner. This was easier said than done.

First, of all, Thanksgiving was not celebrated in England, for obvious reasons. There was still food rationing, for it was right after World War II. And the menu was completely strange to me.

All I knew about sweet potatoes and yams was what I gleaned from "Gone With the Wind." The local greengrocer in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, when asked about sweet potatoes, replied, "Oh, yes, it be part of turnip family and we feeds 'em to the horses." He had no idea what corn on the cob was except that it might be suitable for chickens. As for cranberries, they were completely foreign and unheard of.

My husband, undeterred, then went out to visit the local farmers. After depriving the chickens of their Sunday dinner, he came up with some fairly decent corn. Another farmer provided a collection of sweds and turnips and other ugly, unidentified roots, which we promptly decided not to use.

The turkey provided another problem. At that time there were few turkeys available, and those that were were being fattened up for Christmas. Hal must have used all of his considerable means of persuasion because he arrived home carrying a huge, noble, feathered creature with black feet and great claws extending.

"Here's your turkey!" he proclaimed, and parked it on the kitchen table.

I must admit it frightened the life out of me, and at that point I gave up.

Fortunately, Nelly, our daily help, knew what had to be done to prepare what she called "the gobbler" for the feast. I left her to it, and did not watch the procedures, which took more than two days.

The pumpkin pie, which was my special effort, was a complete disaster.

I used what I believed to be a pumpkin rescued from the church harvest display. I had to use a variety of conflicting recipes and a lot of hard-to-come-by ingredients, including cans of condensed milk. My valiant effort landed in the pig's bin; not even our dog, a good, self-respecting British beagle, would look at it.

Yet all turned out well. The meal was a great success. The turkey, after being cooked all night, was delicious, the best I've ever tasted, before or since; it was really wonderful! We replaced the cranberry sauce with red currant jelly. The potatoes, even if they weren't sweet, proved adequate.

We shared the Thanksgiving dinner with several GIs from nearby Army and Air Force bases. Above all, we realized we had a lot to be thankful for.

Things have changed a lot over the years. Now the turkey comes white and shiny, pre-packaged and wrapped in plastic, even including a thermometer that pops out when the bird's cooked. Sweet potatoes and yams abound in every supermarket, and pumpkin comes in convenient cans with ideal recipes on the labels. Or, you can buy the lot, pre-packaged frozen, or cooked and delivered to your door. Maybe that's progress.

So enjoy your Thanksgiving with friends and family, and remember to give some to Northwest Harvest or the city ministries downtown that provide Thanksgiving dinner.


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