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OPINION: Thanksgiving at Grandma’s house

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I remember sitting down in my Grandma Laursen’s cozy kitchen for Thanksgiving dinner as if it were yesterday. Her table was covered with a crisp, newly ironed tablecloth. Each place setting had her best bone china plates, sterling silver utensils and clear, spotless glasses. She always wore a dress covered with an apron. Her kitchen was her happy place.

Her fruitcakes were the first to be made in anticipation of the holiday. I know, I know, not fruitcake! But her fruitcakes were like none I had ever tasted. They were moist, flavorful, and full of wonderful ingredients, especially the gumdrops. She would make them about two weeks in advance and wrap them in her flour sack dish towels. She would rub them with rum every day, and the rich flavor would infuse through the cakes. We used to tease each other about getting drunk on Grandma’s fruitcakes!

Grandpa and the boys, Uncle John and Uncle Doug, would shoot a goose or two and hang them on the north side of the house, where they would freeze and stay that way until ready to pluck and prepare to roast. Several days before roasting, the geese would be thawed, plucked and prepared for the brine solution. That process took an entire day! The goose would sit in a salt brine solution overnight and then be rinsed and prepared for roasting. Grandma would fill the cavity with various fruits and vegetables, onions, apples, mashed potatoes, carrots, salt, sage, and pepper. She placed the bird in the large roaster with slabs of bacon and melted butter on the breast. The goose would be in the oven for hours before being presented at the table in all its glory. I have tried several times to replicate this feat, but the geese I roasted always tasted gamey and tough, much to my frustration.

We would also have parsnips with carrots, mashed potatoes and gravy, homemade rolls, fresh from the oven, with a variety of Grandma’s home-preserved jams and jellies. I loved her red currant jelly. It looked festive all by itself. There were also various condiments: Grandma’s pickles, homemade cranberry sauce, and stuffed celery if we were lucky. 

I have tried to copy Grandma’s dinner, but I can’t because I have always believed there was a secret ingredient in Grandma’s food. After many years of food fixing, I think I have figured it out. Her secret ingredient was “love.”

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