Fall is often one of my favorite times of the year because it means thanksgiving is almost here. I love baked deserts, and they seem to be most easily expected during the fall. With the warm weather replaced by cold, the oven can roar to life. It also means Punkin’ Chunkin’ is near, an annual event where unsuspecting gourds are shot, hurled, and flung across a corn field in Delaware; all with the intention of getting the longest throw. Thanksgiving also brings my extended family together. It gives us time to reconnect and to spend a few days together as a family. Most of my family is from New England, which means I really only get to see them yearly. So it is nice to be able to spend a few days up with them.
Thanksgiving is typically an enjoyable vacation for me; over the course of the semester I always save my one unexcused absence to give myself a nine-day break. This way I get a few days before my family leaves for thanksgiving to be away from school. It is good to get a chance to get out of the school mindset before traveling and visiting family. Every year my dad’s side of the family gathers in Massachusetts at my uncle’s house. Because we typically have more than thirty people, getting ready takes some additional time. We always head up the day before that way we can rearrange their living room and kitchen to allow for tables and chairs to be setup. That means moving recliners and couches to make enough room! They have a fairly large house, which means there is room to host everyone with four tables lengthwise, two tables wide. Somehow we’ve never had anyone drop by unannounced at mealtime so there is always enough room for everyone.
Once the heavy lifting is done we begin the finer things. One tradition we have is there always has to be “Uncle Aub Mix,” which is basically a trail mix filled with every delicious candy you could hope for; M&M’s, chocolate chunks, assorted nuts, and many other candies and it has evolved over time. This past year we agreed that wasabi peas were no longer allowed admission to the mix party; they would be segregated from the “good” mix. Everyone has their own taste when it comes to the mix but there is generally enough variety to meet everyone’s desires. The only thing left to do the night before is put on the tablecloths and wipe down the chairs. Then most of us get to relax until morning.
My uncle, however, is in charge of getting the two turkeys started around four or five in the morning. He gets most of the thanksgiving staples from a local turkey farm, and believe it or not everything comes precooked! The turkeys, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, gravy, and stuffing, all that needs to be done is reheat it! Some of those things are relatively easy to reheat throw them in the microwave and for several three minute warming and stirring cycles. But the turkey still needs to be brought back up to 160 degrees which takes a skilled cook to keep that bird moist on its second cooking! Here’s the crazy part apparently the fixings have always been pre-cooked! I just found this out this year and would have never guessed. Everything always was so moist and delicious most people wouldn’t know it unless told. I guess it is possible that Chef Bobby Flay might have had some inclination that some things weren’t freshly made the day before. I will say however that everything is cooked at least the week before and frozen so we’re not eating month old frozen potatoes!
The real fun starts in the morning; the tables have to be set and the serving dishes placed. The Keurig coffee maker was setup with assorted coffees arranged on the dessert table. Several casseroles are prepped and will be cooked as soon as the oven is free. People start arriving with their food. The rest of the family is in charge of bringing anything else they want. People bring green bean casserole (which I absolutely hate… I think green beans are the worst tasting vegetables, I have even had them fried which should make them better because everything is better fried but they weren’t), broccoli casserole (think green bean casserole but with broccoli), sausage stuffing, and of course ninety percent of the desserts are brought by other people. Some people bring beverages, but my uncle gets a ton as well. I guess the key thing to having so many people over for thanksgiving is to have plenty of food and a variety of it. It keeps everyone happy and prevents any holiday brawls. One year we didn’t get enough gravy and there was almost a mutiny. We had to run to a convenient store (since all the supermarkets are closed in Massachusetts on holidays) just to keep everyone happy! Okay I guess mutiny is a bit over exaggerated but you can imagine. Ever since we have always had plenty of food perhaps too much food.
The mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, and gravy from the turkey farm are brought back to their proper temperature. Once the turkey is finished anything that needs cooking gets thrown in the oven. My uncle carves the turkeys and spreads it into the serving dishes and we are almost ready to go. Once the casseroles are done we will be able to eat! Generally everyone choses their own seats and I typically choose based on the food that is around me, the food I know I’ll enjoy the most. Things not near me will get passed around eventually but there may not be much left by the time it gets to me! That is the secret to getting the best food at a non-buffet style thanksgiving event. If you are doing a buffet style meal you will just have to be first in line! We typically eat around one in the afternoon, which allows enough time to relax and recover after eating. Generally everyone hangs around for at least a few hours, though not many stay for dinner, those remaining will eat a light dinner, as they are hungry.
Punkin’ Chunkin’ starts at eight! My dad and I go every year but we still watch the show when it airs so we can enjoy the better view television provides. It also creates a story being able to hear from the participants, learning what everyone went through during the off-season. We’ve always watched Punkin’ Chunkin’ on television during thanksgiving, which peaked my dad’s interest. He started looking into where it was held and if we could go. We made plans in 2011 to head down to Delaware for our first time at Punkin’ Chunkin’. It’s now become a tradition for us to head down and experience the action first hand. There is just something about rednecks and engineers building devices to throw a pumpkin a great distance that is intriguing. But, just cause we went down doesn’t mean we saw everything, which makes watching the broadcast necessary!
Friday is a recovery day of course lunch is usually leftovers that everyone is tired of but we have to get rid of some how! I saw a good recipe where all the leftovers get turned into a potpie! What a good way to use up all the leftovers that on their own no one wants to eat but it combines everything in such a new way that you don’t mind! Unfortunately for me I didn’t find that recipe until after thanksgiving and it was too late to try it. There are tons of ways though to deal with getting through the extra food and there are tons of recipes that can help. Head to the Food Network or The Chew’s website where they have tons of recipes for thanksgiving leftovers! Don’t be surprised though if you end up eating turkey for lunch every day, but be prepared have other meal options for dinner to get a variety it will really help prevent getting sick and tired of eating the same thing every day until everything is gone.
Thanksgiving for me is a great time to look back at what has happened over the course of the year. It brings families together and allows you to share milestones that you otherwise didn’t get a chance to share with extended family. I love this time of year because it allows me to get away from school. I also genuinely enjoy getting everything setup for the big day, and getting to do odd jobs along the way. Every year brings new experiences and new food to enjoy as a family.