We’re Deep Fat Frying the Turkey Today

The Hahn family is having its family Thanksgiving today. And, I guarantee, it won’t be like any family Thanksgiving I had growing up.

For Thanksgiving–and Christmas and Easter as well–four of us sat down at the Ferner family table. My parents, my brother, me. It was a quiet meal.

And the menu never varied. Turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, a relish tray of olives and celery and carrot sticks, and mince pie. I don’t remember the vegetable. A glass of wine or champagne.

For a short while, when my kids were still home, I hosted Thanksgiving. That was when, at 50, you might still be at the children’s table. The hardest part of the day was keeping Uncle Bob out of the turkey before it was served, feeding one mother or taking the other back to the nursing home, or keeping track of an uncle with Alzheimer’s.

Now, the older generation is gone. Come to think of it, I’m now part of the oldest generation! And Cindy, a niece, and her husband host the event.

She must be pushing 50 herself, by now, but there are once again some children in the group.

Great niece and nephews Samantha (please call her Sam) and Billy and Adam, still in grade school, and grandson Aidan might be willing to sit at the children’s table–except Aidan is still in a high chair. And maybe Jessica, although she’s in high school. Jason probably will want to be at the adult table–or stand at the bar. He’s in college now.

Luckily I don’t have to figure it all out. Sam and Billy will make place cards–probably a combination of lollipops and crayoned turkey bodies–so everyone will know where to sit.

Last year, there were 25 of us. At the end of the day, we’ll take a photo of the whole group, so we can remember who was there. But no one will ever forget how much the Hahns can eat!

The first year I hosted Thanksgiving for our extended family was the year I moved to Westfield.

Unfamiliar with the eating habits of the Hahn family, since we had always lived far away and never been part of a holiday celebration, I assumed I'd have enough food.

And, I did. With one exception. Gravy.

How could 30 people consume so much gravy?

Every few minutes someone would announce that we were "out of gravy." I kept diluting what was left in the kitchen, bringing out weaker and thinner versions, until, finally, there just wasn't anything left to serve.

At that point, one of the nephews firmly told me that "Gravy is the Hahn family's favorite beverage."

Each year, Cindy asks everyone to bring things, and to give you an idea of quantity let me tell you about the potatoes. Thank goodness Dave, who’s in charge of them, lives in Hadley where they have a lot of potatoes.

Last year, Dave bought, brought and cooked 50 pounds. He brings his own kettle and gas burner–they won’t fit on the stove. You couldn’t get a full serving from the leftovers. And there wasn’t any squash left over either.

And, of course, we ran out of gravy. No matter how many quarts you make there’s never any left.

On the other hand, the Hahns aren’t big on bread. Only a dozen dinner rolls disappeared.

Turkey? Last year, two birds. This year, we’re adding a third. Chris and Jen, who just moved back from the south, will deep fat fry one in the backyard in their southern style turkey fryer.

Some of the family has to bring beer–designer beer they call it, for the middle generation, the 30s to 50s. The so-called "cousins" and their spouses.

And there’ll be at least two kinds of cranberry sauce, assuming Evie does the one with nuts in it. She usually does. And green bean casseroles, just because we always have green bean casseroles.

Curt and I will take the appetizers. Cindy said she’s sorry she doesn’t know what we brought last year–she didn’t see any of them. Yes, those Hahns can eat!

Four great pies, made by Tracy and Peg were totally consumed last year. With ice cream on top. Along with kolache. I’m not sure what they are, but if you’re Slovak you know. We’ll have them again this year, I’m sure.

And, after dinner, Dougie will, as he traditionally does, provide a slide show of old family memories. He’s part of the food industry, but it’s hard to haul stuff from Minnesota. At least in the quantities the Hahns need. So he provides the entertainment.

Cindy has even figured out who will say grace. It’s the prayer the family has always said. Although no one remembers why, or where it came from.

Years from now, the fourth or fifth generation, the sons and daughters of these nieces and nephews, will probably still tell the stories that we pass down each

year---about gravy, or potatoes, or the pies that the oldest Aunt still makes. Or the year another Aunt forgot to cook the shrimp, and served them raw.

But the best part of the day is, simply, just being there. Sitting at a table marked by a child’s handlettered placecard, watching the generations change and the kids grow up, talking on the phone to family members who aren't there.

And taking time to remember those who were there last year, or the year before, but will never be there again.

Retirees, and nurses, salesmen and office workers, service representatives, sound engineers and architects, students and laboratory workers and researchers. A politician, too.

Just a typical American family. Thankful, this week in particular, just to be together again. For another year. And more memories.

I hope your Thanksgiving will be equally blessed.

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