Thanksgiving: I Can Remember

Nov 23, 2023
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I have often spoken of my North Dakota heritage, and some of the memories of growing up in a small town. When Thanksgiving rolled around when I was a child it was more than a speed bump on the way to Black Friday. We had a fairly large dining room area that masterfully orchestrated by my Mom to seat all of the relatives who would travel to our home for Thanksgiving dinner. We didn’t host Thanksgiving dinner every year, but when it was our turn we spared little to make sure that we had enough food for everyone, and that was without the many dishes that were brought by the relatives and friends who shared the day.

Most years we go along with just one large, and I am talking 20 pounds plus, turkey. There were a couple of years where we cooked 2 turkeys borrowing the neighbor’s oven for the second bird as we didn’t have room in our oven for two.
There was also an unwritten rule in our small town that everyone would have a place to go for Thanksgiving. Didn’t make any difference that we may have to bring in a couple of cinder blocks and a plank to construct a make-shift bench to accommodate everyone in attendance.

Fast forward a bit to this year and Thanksgiving Day 2023. There is a group of young Airmen at 5 BW Public Affairs who work together and are all faced with a similar challenge. What do we do for Thanksgiving dinner? Times have changed a bit. Unfortunately, Thanksgiving dinner needs to take place after the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the noon kickoff of the NFL games on TV. That doesn’t leave a tremendous amount of time to celebrate Thanksgiving, but that’s a discussion for a different time. Used to be that the stores opened for Black Friday sales events on Black Friday, albeit that it was 12:01 AM, but it was still Black Friday and not Thanksgiving Day. Again, a discussion for another day.

So back to the young men and women of the 5 BW Public Affairs. They have solved the Thanksgiving Day conundrum by scheduling a potluck (another of those North Dakota words) for 4 PM on Thanksgiving Day. Airmen Lichtenhan and his spouse have volunteered their home as the gather place. Everyone will contribute to the potluck, and just a visit with a few of them led me to believe that indeed, Thanksgiving Dinner would be well covered. The turkey? Well Airmen Lichtenhan has assured me that his wife is “pretty fired up” about hosting Thanksgiving and has done internet research on just how to cook the turkey. Thanksgiving sounded pretty under control, which made me feel good knowing that even though the Wilson household has cooked for some larger family events, we may have struggled a bit to host the entire 5 BW PA staff and our friends and relatives. Rest assured, we would have made it happen had the necessity been there, it’s just what you do on Thanksgiving.

Lutefisk & Lefse-
The 2 Power “L” Words
I don’t know that we have talked about the 2 traditional Scandinavian dishes that appear on Thanksgiving, Lutefisk and Lefse. Lutefisk is cod, but that is where it’s resemblance to fish ends. It is soaked in lye and salt until it becomes a fairly repulsive soft chunk of white “mush”. Then, it is cooked, and the fragrance of cooking lutefisk overpowers the once familiar smell of a cooking turkey and boiling potatoes. The only redeeming ingredient is the melted butter that you pour over the lutefisk to drown not only the taste, but the smell. Still, it is an acquired taste, and if you grew up in a Norwegian community like me, you look forward to the Lutefisk, especially when it is delivered to the table with another holiday favorite, lefse.
Lefse kind of looks like a softshell taco, but it is made out of potatoes. You once again overwhelm the lefse with butter, and now you reach for the sugar dish to spread white sugar on the butter and then you roll it into a long pastry and enjoy. For as bad as Lutefisk may be, Lefse more than makes up for the Lutefisk shortfall.

So Happy Thanksgiving! Enjoy family and friends, and of course all of the great food. Then sit back and maybe enjoy a football game, or a nap. They seem to go together on Thanksgiving.

Best Kept Secrets
Not sure if you have made arrangements for your pumpkin pies at Thanksgiving, but Costco has 12 inch pumpkin pies that fit the bill quite well. There are several local vendors that will have pies out in their bakery section. A second piece of pie goes well with leftovers for supper.

Today’s Chuckle
What did one turkey say to the other when they saw the pilgrims arrive? They look nice, maybe they’ll have us over for dinner.

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