When I was a child, Thanksgiving was one of my favorite days of the year. It still is.
Watching the Macy’s Day Parade, in black and white, was the background for all the busy kitchen noises that sometimes won out over the high school bands and Broadway singers. My brothers and I would be glued to the television, fascinated by the floats, and within eyeshot of the marvelous fruit bowl that was perched on the coffee table away from the busy kitchen.
Every year, my mother would buy apples and oranges, grapes, and sometimes bananas, and place them in her mother’s frosted pink glass fruit bowl. The apples were pretty common, but oranges and grapes were exotic fruits to us at the time. We had them when they were in season, and that was it, especially the oranges. They were expensive, so they were always something delightful at the holidays.
My Mémé’s fruit bowl is made of frosted pink glass, and had matching sugar bowl and creamer. The creamer is chipped, but I still use that too. Part of the holiday ritual!
She decorated the bowl of fruit with lots of mixed nuts in the shell, and filled a second smaller bowl with the overflow. During the day we were allowed to slowly nibble one now and again, but we knew we couldn’t be too greedy. Having to crack them one at a time definitely slowed us down.
I inherited the bowl from my mother, and I still bring it out each year at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and on a whim as well. There is also a sugar bowl and creamer that matches. The creamer has a big chip, but I use it anyway, nothing is perfect, and it is still quite functional. I fuss to make the bowl look as pretty as she did, only now it looks much smaller than when I was a kid. This year, I had a great deal of trouble finding the whole nuts. I went to three markets, and was told by one clerk that people don’t bother shelling nuts any more, they want them ready to use. Where’s the fun in that?
I finally found them on a holiday display, and was delighted that all the standard nuts were present, including my favorite Brazil nuts and hazelnuts. The grapes we had when I was a kid were purple, and they had seeds in them, which didn’t in any way hinder our delight at eating them. I couldn’t find purple grapes that looked good, so I had to go with seedless green, and they were much larger than anything we had back in the good old days.
A little then, a little now
So my fruit bowl, like so much of what we serve at Thanksgiving, is a little memory, and a lot reality of how we cook and eat today, and what is available. We’ll have turkey (cooked with the stuffing outside the bird), gravy, mashed potatoes, all the sides we love, including nut-, gluten-and dairy-free dishes along with vegan and full fat everything. We’ll serve up everyone’s favorite pie even if it means I have to make six pies! Mom made pumpkin, apple, and lemon meringue, and called it a day. This year, at our table there will be chocolate cream, key lime, strawberry rhubarb, blueberry, pumpkin, and apple. There will be lots to send home with other folks, and they will be happy.
We’ll still have the parade droning in the background, and after our meal, there will be football games, lots of dishes, and more stories to share about what is going on this year, memories and plans served up in equal measure.
The memories don’t change a lot, and neither does that wonderful feeling of sharing the cooking and serving up a feast to remember with those we love, keeping in our hearts those who are no longer here.
Happy Thanksgiving to all of you! May your tables be filled with love and laughter, and everything delicious.
My daughter’s pie display a few Thanksgivings ago. She aims to please as well when it comes to pie!
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