As we approach another Thanksgiving I think most of us start thinking about the wonderful food we will be enjoying that day, but I wonder how much that food varies from home to home. I know the traditional Thanksgiving consists of turkey, sweet or mashed potatoes, rolls, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie and maybe ham.
However, for many Mexican households here in the San Joaquin Valley the meal looks a bit different with tamales often being the mainstay of the meal. For my own family and its German background, we added our own touches to the traditional potatoes and turkey. Every year my Grandma Lewis would make homemade chicken noodle soup. Her day would start early making the dough for the noodles. Then it would be rolled out and cut. For most of her life, it was cut by hand with a great big dangerous looking knife. Later on, someone in the family bought her a noodle-making machine, which made it much easier.
After the noodles were cut, they would be laid out to dry. I remember Grandma smacking many a hand that tried to eat the drying noodles, especially my brother Drew—he still tries that to this day.
While the noodles dried Grandma would bake the turkey and boil the hen in the water that later would be used to cook the noodles. Finally, when it was getting close to time for the meal, the noodles would be cooked and cut again in the big kettle so they wouldn’t be too long.
At dinner, the soup would be what everyone fought over and the turkey came in second. It wasn’t until I was married that we had someone at our Thanksgiving dinner table that heaven forbid didn’t like the noodle soup! That’s when I had to start making stuffing for him, and our daughter Jessica who decided she would take after her dad.
Another Thanksgiving tradition in our home growing up was cream pies instead of pumpkin. Chocolate was the family favorite but Grandma always made a lemon and a coconut as well. Sometimes someone else in the family would bring a pumpkin pie, though my dad would never touch it. As far as he was concerned, and still is, the only pie is chocolate pie!
Until my grandma was unable to physically handle it, Thanksgiving was always at her house and I have the honor of living in that house now—a home filled with memories of a wonderful lady. It was more than just her incredible food of course, she made everything on Thanksgiving feel so perfect and homey, and it was great having all the family together and taking the time to thank God for another year.
Our Thanksgivings have changed over the years since her passing, but my sister Sheryl has taken on the mantel of making the noodles now since my mom’s health makes it difficult for her to make them anymore. After all, it just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving in the Ham/Lewis household without chicken noodle soup.
I’m sure you have your own special twists on Thanksgiving dinner as well. Why not share them here at the Closet—perhaps we will all find something new we can try this Thanksgiving dinner! And if you are preparing your first Thanksgiving dinner and could use a little advice, check out the experts on the Food Network.