I was seven years old in 1950. Mineola was the quiet county seat of Nassau county, outside of New York City. My mom, like most of the moms I knew, worked at home with the children and housekeeping. Thanksgiving was a big event. It was a gathering of the family, and the start of the holiday season.
First thing in the morning I remember the children dressing up as raga-muffins. Baggy old clothes with crumpled hats, or costumes. Their faces made up with charcoal beards for the boys, lipstick and rouge for the girls. We all carried paper bags as we walked from house to house saying, “anything for Thanksgiving?” People would put oranges, apples, walnuts and candy in our bags. It was fun, and we all enjoyed the treats.
At home my mom was busy stuffing the big turkey with her traditional family rice stuffing. First she sautÃ?Â©ed onions in butter, then rice cooked with salt, pepper, garlic and thyme added, along with some tomato sauce. A hand cranked meat grinder, ground the cooked liver, heart, and gizzard added to the stuffing mix. After she filled the big cavity of the turkey, she would fill the neck end with a bread stuffing. SautÃ?Â©ed onions, stale bread crumbled with salt, pepper and thyme added, went into the neck cavity. She rubbed the bird with a mixture of salt, pepper, thyme and butter over the skin before entering the oven. She would baste it with its own juices as it slowly cooked for hours.
Glazed sweet potatoes, pearl onions, peas, mashed potatoes, gravy, cauliflower with cheese sauce, and cranberry sauce, were all part of the feast. Dessert was pumpkin or mince-meat pie.
The family gathered at the large table, and I remember my mom giving me a part of a large drum stick.
When the clean up began, my three sisters and I helped my mother put away the food. As we washed the dishes we sang songs and practiced our harmony. They allowed me to dry the silverware. I loved being part of the singing and clean-up.
Family, feasting and thanks to God were the important features of the day.