I will never forget the first Thanksgiving that I cooked the entire meal by myself. The year was 1978. We had two young children and were living in Vogelweh, Germany, in base housing. Russ had invited all of the single people, about 12 in all, from his Air Force communications site to come to our apartment to celebrate Thanksgiving. Knowing these young guys were destined to eat alone in the mess hall, Russ invited them to eat Thanksgiving dinner with us.
Getting up at the crack of dawn on Thanksgiving Day, I prepared the turkey, which was simple since I only had to follow the directions on the wrapper. It was done in plenty of time for me to bake my remaining dishes. Since I had my trusted Better Homes and Gardens cookbook in hand, I was all set. I remember looking up every recipe, from refrigerator rolls to pumpkin pie, but what I relied on most were my memories of past Thanksgivings when I had worked alongside my mother as we prepared these same traditional foods. Remembering back to those days, I knew that really great dressing had to have both cornbread and biscuits (my mother saved stale biscuits to use in the dressing), so I baked both and crumbled them into small bits. Remembering how she sautéed celery and onion together, I did that as well, adding them to the bread mixture with lots of dried sage and turkey drippings. Soon the mouthwatering aromas of my yeast rolls, along with the pungent scent of the sage dressing, mingled together in my steamy little kitchen. The sweet spicy smells of cinnamon and cloves permeated the air as my pumpkin pies slowly baked in my crowded little oven.
While the children helped me carry all the bowls of food to the table, Russ carved the large perfectly basted and browned turkey. My rolls were perfectly golden. The turkey gravy, rich and thick, sat beside the fluffy mound of mashed potatoes. Looking over this beautiful table and knowing that I had prepared this entire meal by myself gave me an incredible sense of accomplishment. Seeing the beaming faces of those young airmen that joined with us around the table also made me doubly thankful. Not only was I thankful for this great meal and being with my own little family, but I was equally grateful that we were able to share it with friends who were so far away from their own families.
That’s why at Thanksgiving it is important for our family to always set several extra places around the table for friends who may not have a family close by or for those who are less fortunate. I’d like to ask all of my readers to think of setting a few extras places around your Thanksgiving table this year and extend an invitation to three or four people, or even a small family, who may need to feel the warmth and love of caring friends. Open your hearts and share in the spirit of the first Thanksgiving. Who will you invite to sit at your welcome table this season?