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Barbara Rolek

Thanksgiving Won't Be the Same This Year — Or Will It?

By November 21, 2013

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I originally ran this post two years ago, after my dear friend passed away unexpectedly. I am running it again because I want to celebrate her life and how much we all have to be thankful for, whether it's apparent or not.

"With busy schedules not meshing and family scattered across the country, this Thanksgiving doesn't promise to be the mighty gathering of the clans as it has in years past. It'll be a small affair and that's enough to take the wind out of my sails.

Port Wine-Cranberry Gelatin Mold
Port Wine-Cranberry Gelatin Mold
Betty Crocker Recipes
"I just can't seem to motivate myself to liberate the silverware and candlesticks from their felt sleeves and start the arduous task of polishing, a chore I used to relish. Nor can I seem to recapture the shivery feelings bringing out the gold-rimmed china, crystal compotes and Depression glass used to give me.

Growing up, Thanksgiving in my family was a thing to behold! Weeks in advance, the strategy was carefully mapped out. Whose house would win the toss this year? Who would prepare what? Would we have enough chairs? Would we have to use a card table for the kids? Should we have black olives or green olives or both? What about hors d'oeuvres? Is the roasting pan big enough? Is the turkey big enough? Should we have stuffing or dressing? Will it be jellied cranberries or cranberry relish?

"After the talking was done, the real work began. And I loved it all. Polishing, dusting, washing, cleaning, making room in the closet for extra coats. As a second-generation American, I loved the traditions and the fact that the cranberries were always served on the gold plate, and that the men in the family got the dark meat, and that it was OK to drip gravy on the tablecloth, and that, only at this meal and Christmas dinner every year, we kids were allowed a sip of Mogen David wine for the toast.

"As I grew up, I developed a keen interest in other people's Thanksgiving traditions. My college roommate of Italian heritage had a Thanksgiving Day meal that always included spaghetti. And, until she came home on break with me, had never had pumpkin pie. And she was from New England! I've known some people who serve corn on the cob, and others who opt for succotash as side dishes, and yet others who have Indian pudding for dessert.

Susan Hegedus
Susan Hegedus
From the files of Barbara Rolek
"My friend Susan's version of turkey dinner always fascinated me. Her family toasted loaf after loaf of squishy white bread before tearing it apart for their dressing. They made a port-wine gelatin mold that could jeopardize the program of any 12-stepper. The vegetable was a variation of the famous green-bean casserole made with mixed frozen veggies, Cheddar cheese and mushroom soups, and the ubiquitous french-fried onion rings on top. Their mashed potatoes dripped with butter and they always had candied sweet potatoes unlike our baked ones.

"Dessert always included several pies, not just pumpkin. She taught me to put cranberry sauce on a turkey sandwich and introduced me to pink catawba wine, among other things.

"Susan and I had been friends for 48 years until I lost her suddenly and unexpectedly this year [last year]. We were the yin and yang of friends. She was short and I am tall. She was a talker and I am a listener. She was glib and sometimes I stutter. I'm a great speller and she wanted to know what good a dictionary was to someone who couldn't spell. She saw the forest and I see the trees. We shared a sense of humor that borders on lunacy and stayed friends through geographical separation due to her sheer determination in continuing to write to a less-than-faithful correspondent. I feel blessed. You know, I think it's going to be a good Thanksgiving after all.

"I know Susan would be delighted with my sharing her Port-Wine Gelatin Mold Recipe with you. For those who celebrate, Happy Thanksgiving!"

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