“I raised to my lips a spoonful of the cake . . . a shudder ran through my whole body and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary changes that were taking place.” Marcel Proust
Food can certainly evoke powerful memories. For Proust, it was the madeleines soaked in his aunt’s special concoction that brought back childhood memories; today for millions of Americans the smell of turkey roasting will conjure up memories of Thanksgivings past.
As a child, no meal was as satisfying as the Thanksgiving feast. Our day would start early with the smell of strong black coffee wafting through the air. My Dad insisted on getting to the traditional high school football game at least an hour early to get a good spot in the stands. We’d stop by my grandparents, and see who else might be recruited for the early trip over to the game. My grandmother and aunts would already be in full gear with the turkey preparations.
I’d be half frozen by the time the game started, my thermos of hot chocolate nearly empty. Once the game started they’d at least be a distraction from the cold. But once the game ended, my stomach would begin rumbling anticipating the meal ahead.
Coming back into my grandparents house, my mouth began to water when struck by the scent the nearly done turkey, sweet roasted vegetables, and savory gravy. Before long, I’d take my place at the long banquet table, and contentedly fill and refill my plate with all the good food. I had a prodigious appetite as a boy, and they’d always be a bowl of mashed potatoes set strategically by my place (or did I choose my place based on proximity to the potatoes?).
Traditions changed as I moved into adulthood. For a few years, my wife and I did our own thing, spending Thanksgiving exploring the coast of Big Sur and California wine country. That brings its own special memories. We fondly talk of the diligent server who chased us halfway back to our hotel to give us the onion rings we had left behind by design; and the French student at a Thanksgiving meal with friends at Stanford who insisted upon rinsing everyone’s glass before refilling their wine.
Now my parents have taken up the cooking duties from my grandmother—my Dad makes the turkey and my Mother the stuffing. They are now grandparents, and we’re the proud parents of a wonderful boy. Perhaps if he’s so inclined when he is a bit older, I’ll take him to the football game on Thanksgiving morning. The details of the tradition change, but that smell of turkey roasting still means satisfying times and special memories with family.
Originally published on Cooking Chat, moved it over here as I’m deleting old posts that don’t have tasty food photos there!