Mark Ballard

Grateful for memories of past Thanksgivings

Here’s a Caramel Cake I made like the one we enjoyed on Thanksgiving.
Here’s a Caramel Cake I made like the one we enjoyed on Thanksgiving. Special to The Telegraph

When I think back on the Thanksgivings of my youth, it is impossible to separate those days from the feasts prepared and served on them. The food on Thanksgiving was light years ahead of our already over-the-top Sunday dinners. The dining room table and our stomachs could barely hold all the mouth-watering creations. Thanksgiving was always a day I looked forward to with great anticipation.

The meal was so huge it took multiple people and kitchens at various locations to prepare. One kitchen simply wasn’t large enough to cook all the different recipes and certainly didn’t have enough pots, pans and counterspace to hold them. My grandmother assigned various dishes to my mother and aunt like a teacher would homework.

Cookbooks were scoured as if this was going to be our last meal. A week or so out from the big day, a grocery list was carefully written on a large legal pad. Everyone knew that the trip to the grocery store would be a push and shove event. You had to shop early because many of the items needed would be gone from the shelves closer to Thanksgiving.

The Monday before Thanksgiving our kitchen turned into a restaurant-style kitchen for three days with all of us jumping in for the prep work that could be done ahead of time. Onions and celery were carefully chopped into tiny pieces and stored away in the refrigerator to await being added to the corn bread dressing. A congealed salad always made an appearance at our Thanksgiving table and it was also prepared ahead, covered in tin foil and placed in the refrigerator.

A check-list was made and duties checked off after each task was completed. The morning of Thanksgiving was always a race against time as we staggered baking things in the oven. It took all of us multiple trips to the trunk of our car to precisely place each dish so it would not move on the short drive to my grandparents’ house.

When we arrived, we unloaded the trunk and added our food to every conceivable place in Granny’s kitchen where space would allow. It looked like a large Tupperware party showcasing their products, each one filled to the brim with deliciousness. The house smelled like what I think heaven will smell like as the various aromas joined in harmony. Granny already had the dining room table set with her nicest china and a big turkey.

We didn’t know where to begin in the process of filling our plates for the first time. I usually went straight for the bowl of fresh corn Granny had vigorously scraped from the cobs. Then I grabbed the bowl of peas Mother made us shell during the summer months. Then I proceeded directly to the dressing that was still steaming from the oven. Everything you can imagine was on that table and then some.

Second and third helpings were dipped even though our stomachs were already miserably stretched to capacity. Even though room was never saved for dessert, we somehow found a way to shove it in because our Thanksgivings always ended on a very sweet note. Pumpkin and pecan pies were sliced as were caramel and chocolate cakes. I can see the entire confectionary scene in my mind right now.

Sadly, most of my family has passed away. We’re down to just a few people. Each year we cook less and less and sometimes we even eat out. God forbid! I know both Granny and Mother are rolling over in their graves. Those were good times that left me with great memories. As we all know, time moves on and things constantly change. It’s a whole different world now. But one thing that remains from those long-ago Thanksgiving dinners is Granny’s china. It now lives in our china cabinet. I’m so grateful to have it and a slew of wonderful and happy Thanksgiving memories!

I hope each of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with family, friends, food and gratitude.

▪  Join Mark at the Georgia National Fairgrounds Sunday for the last day of Mistletoe Market from noon to 5 p.m. He’ll have his 2017 Christmas merchandise and much more and he’ll be on stage at 2 p.m. Santa will be there for photos, too! $5 entry.

Mark Ballard’s column runs each week in The Telegraph. Send your questions or comments to P.O. Box 4232, Macon, GA 31208; call 478-757-6877; email mark@markballard.com; follow him at instagram.com/mark creates; or become a subscriber to Mark’s Facebook page.

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