Writing 101: Happy (Insert Special Occasion Here)!

Tell us about your favorite childhood meal — the one that was always a treat, that meant “celebration,” or that comforted you and has deep roots in your memory.

Free free to focus on any aspect of the meal, from the food you ate to the people who were there to the event it marked.

Today’s twist: Tell the story in your own distinct voice.


Author’s Note: Today we will be taking a brief pause in the love lives of our cast of characters to tell a story about yours truly.

As the daylight hours grow shorter and the temperature begin to fall, certain memories come drifting to us through our senses.  We hear and feel the cracking fire in our hearth and remember bonfires where you shared some drinks and laughter with your friends.  You see the changing leaves and think back to all the times you had to rake the yard and how tempting it was to jump right in the middle of the pile.  (And more often than not, you did). More than anything, for me, it’s the smell of pumpkin pie and celery, which brings me back to grandma’s house on Thanksgiving.

In my early childhood, I must have believed that meal was created by magic.  I remember I would come out of my bedroom sometime in the morning the smells of my own kitchen.  The room would be filled with the tangy smell of onions mixed with the sweet smell of brown sugar.  The first job I ever had in helping to prepare Thanksgiving dinner was adding the marshmallows to the candied yams during the last few minutes of the baking time.  Once these were done, along with the baked beans, mom and I made our way next door.

Perhaps it was the way the cool air felt after leaving such a warm kitchen, but it seems to me that every Thanksgiving Day was a mild one for late November in Iowa.  Many times, when I find myself outside on a sunny fall day and there is the slightest chill in the air I am reminded of that short walk of years past.  One year in stands out among the rest as the year in which no one wanted to tell me a secret, but not for reasons you may think.  This was well past my adolescent years so I was trusted to carry one of the hot dishes from mom’s kitchen to the table next door.  I gingerly carried the baked beans over the uneven bricks of the pathway between front doors and carefully made my way to the front porch. It was there that my careful approach ended.  As I moved to take the final step I fell forward, dish still in hand, and managed to spill only a few of the beans.  Unfortunately, those beans (of somewhere around 400 degrees) landed all over my hand and arm.  Throughout dinner, my family found it impossible to take  pity on my pain and continually found ways to bring up the fact that I “spilled the beans.”

My memories of those Thanksgiving dinners always make me smile.  I always think of the way it was when I was small and my uncle and cousins joined us every year.  I even remember when I was the only child there and still had my own table, which was actually a two-step stool.  I loved to sit on the lower step and use the top step as my table top.  Eventually I got old enough to move from the kid table to sit with the grown ups.  At that table, it seems we always had to wait for my dad to join us. He would tinker away in the garage until someone told him dinner was ready.  Of course, we had to tell him it was ready about fifteen minutes before we set it on the table so he would be there in time. When he showed up, I could always count on two things happening.  First, my mom would argue that she didn’t want to sit next to him (but she did) and second, he would ask my grandma if she had any beer in the fridge (but she didn’t).

Above everything else, there is one thing that brings me back to Thanksgiving at grandma’s house.  I don’t know it ever began, but we always had homemade noodles served in chicken broth with our meal.  Not chicken & noodles mind you, just the homemade noodles cooked in broth.  I thought it was a long standing family tradition with the recipe being handed down through generations.  I believed that during my teenage years and early twenties when I got to grandma’s kitchen early in the morning to help her mix up, roll out, cut and dry the noodles.  Finally the year came when I would be making a Thanksgiving Day feast at my own house.  I tried to find the recipe she had given me and failed. Desperately, I called her to get the recipe again.  All my thoughts of heirloom family recipes were shattered though when she told me to look on page 110 of the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook.  Oh well, those are still tasty noodles.

My mom and dad now live in the house my grandma served those meals in.  Sometimes when I walk through that dining room I swear I can smell the pumpkin pies cooling on a rack or the fresh sliced carrots and celery placed between grandma and me.  Some memories stick with us through our senses.  Maybe that’s why whole milk brings lost loved ones to mind (along with a craving for turkey and corn casserole.)

**Along with attempting to write in the style of my speech, I also included a few comments in parentheses.  I use parentheses so much (literally in written word and by inference in spoken word) that I almost named this blog “Parenthetically Speaking.”




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