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by Tony Baldwin

(written as a sample essay for my 7th grade language arts students, back in 2001)

Ah! How I thrill to inhale the crisp autumn air of a New England November! I love to smell the musky odor of fallen leaves wafting on the crisp autumn winds! November always brings comforting memories of Thanksgiving dinners at my Grandma’s house in historic Groton, CT.Image/photo It should come as no surprise, then, that Thanksgiving dinner is my favorite meal of all. I mean, not only does this meal include such delectable delights as fresh, oven roasted turkey, candied sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, fresh corn, creamy mashed potatoes and tempting traditional pies, like pumpkin and mince, but this meal always carries all of the comfort of home in its varied flavors and awesome aromas, like an olfactory and gustatory hug.
My senses reel with excitement every year when I hear the sizzling of that turkey in the oven and its delicious aroma fills the room. The sweet, pungent odors of fresh mince pie and spicy pumpkin pie make me salivate salubriously. I practically tremble with adoration when I watch candied yams, bubbling with cinnamon, marshmallows and brown sugar, being drawn from the toasty oven on this annual Thankful Thursday. My taste buds tingle in anticipation. Even the colors of this meal bring me to reverie: the yellow corn, the orange squash and sweet potatoes, the magenta cranberries, creamy white potatoes, vibrant green peas, and tempting, oven-tanned turkey. It’s as much a feast for the eyes as for the tongue and nostrils! I could rave for pages about the tastes, too. How I thrill at the tangy, sweet flavor of butternut squash boiled with copious amounts of brown sugar, ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon! The juicy turkey swimming in savory gravy sends me to unfathomable depths of culinary bliss! The sweet/sour tang of cranberry sauce makes my mouth water at its mere mention. Even the textures of these various foods make my mouth merry. The creamy mashed potatoes, the buttery, crunchy corn, the gooey squash and tempting turkey all tickle my taste buds. Yes, this meal is definitely a sensual extravaganza!
Of course, the greatest reason I relish this meal with so much gusto is because of the many warm memories that I associate with it. I recall many special Thanksgiving holidays at my Grandma’s house. Grandma was the hub at the center of our family that made us turn so smoothly and cooperate like a well-oiled machine on that day. My aunts would assist Grandma in the kitchen while the men and boys of the family would venture out in to the cool, crisp November air to rake the many-colored leaves from Grandma’s well-groomed lawn, surrounded by maples, oaks, chestnuts and other New England deciduous trees. I remember raking and basking in the woody aroma of smoke from Grandpa’s hearth, once, as the year’s first silent snowflakes began to christen the lawn. We raked and joked and played in the leaves all morning our breathe twirling in vapor with the chimney’s smoke, until the lawn was pristine, only interrupted by the freshly gathering snowflakes. We would then all clamber back through the kitchen door, to be greeted cheerily by the many aromas of my favorite feast and steamy hot cocoa. After removing our heavy winter layers, we would settle into the dining room at the table, bedecked in Grandma’s best china and the polychromatic foods that graced these decorate porcelain vessels. After gorging ourselves we would retire to the living room and sit by the fireplace, our eyes drooping as we pretended to watch football or Thanksgiving Day parades. The warmth at that table went far deeper than the steam of freshly baked turkey and boiled squash, and the warmth in that living room emanated as much from our hearts as from Grandpa’s stone hearth. There was an atmosphere of deep love at Grandma’s house that I will cherish forever. I will forever be thankful for that memory.
Today, my Grandma is no longer around and my family, spread across the country from California to Connecticut, no longer gathers on Thanksgiving. I prepare the same meal, myself, now, at home for my daughter and me and, when lucky enough to have them, a few special friends. My small apartment is not Grandma’s house, we have no great lawn to rake and no crackling fireplace in the living room. The “dining room” is a small table, crammed between the fridge and my office space. All the same, the memory of Thanksgiving dinners with Grandma lives on in my memory and in the traditions that I choose to carry on. I choose to continue to cook a traditional New England Thanksgiving dinner every year, complete with squash, corn, turkey, potatoes, gravy, candied sweet potatoes, homemade macaroni and cheese, mince and pumpkin pie. I share the warmth of love and gratitude with my daughter, for whom I am immeasurably grateful, and with what friends may join us. I now have a new-found appreciation for the work that Grandma endured to prepare that meal for us, too. It’s no simple task to time all of those separate dishes so that the meal is all ready simultaneously. It’s hard work, too, skinning squash and peeling potatoes, preparing dressing and stuffing the turkey. So, today Thanksgiving is still as important to me as it was in the days of my childhood. I wish to provide my daughter with the same glowing warmth of family love that my Grandma provided for me and my family when she was with us.
So, you can tout the many wonderful qualities of your cheesy pizza, delicious doughnuts or juicy prime rib all you want. I’ll even agree that those things are sumptuous in their own right. I love those dishes, too. But nothing compares to Thanksgiving dinner for taste, color, aroma, and most of all warmth. You just can’t compare anything with the memories of a warm family holiday. The values that Thanksgiving represents, of family and gratitude, impart a value beyond nutrition or flavor to our simple turkey.

© anthony baldwin
#thanksgiving #family #tradition #food #turkey

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December 2013

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