Every November, Splendid Table on NPR talks turkey. On one of my many trips between Mazama and Winthrop this past week with NPR playing in the background, a few words of the interview that was taking place caught my ear. Turning up the volume, I pieced together the story of Ann Kim, a Korean immigrant who became a James Beard award-winning pizza chef in Minneapolis: an all-American story, for sure.
The title of the series is “Discovering Thanksgiving with Four American Chefs.” Chef Ann Kim described how 95% of her childhood meals, after arriving in the United States at 4 years old, were Korean. Thanksgiving was a rare opportunity for her family to eat a fully Westernized Thanksgiving meal, orchestrated by an American uncle. He was concerned about Ann and her sister being ostracized for being “other” — Asian in all white Scandinavian country (since then, much more diverse). Ann spoke of her desire to be “the same” as other students at school had shamed her for her lunch of rice, dried fish, kimchi and gim (seaweed).
I grew up with an absence of all holidays, an “other” of sorts. We didn’t celebrate anything that was considered pagan or worldly because of my mother’s religion. However, there was a loophole in the doctrine when it came to Thanksgiving. My father, who was head of the house and provider of our food, was an unbeliever. If he provided a turkey on the fourth Thursday in November, we could eat it. Hallelujah!
Coming home from ice-skating on the lagoon, our house was filled with the intoxicating aroma of roasting turkey and soon the table was set with dressing (complete with giblets), cranberries, green beans and mashed potatoes. There was no special giving of thanks and no one else except our immediate family at the table, but it felt wonderful to be the same for once. I was even allowed to save the wishbone to make a wish later after the bone had dried.
There are many reasons why Thanksgiving seems to be a widely beloved holiday. What remains a constant for the love of Thanksgiving — no matter what culinary delight graces the table — is the joy of gathering with family and friends while enjoying a scrumptious meal. Other reasons include: reminder of things to be thankful for; kickoff to the festive holiday season (Christmas at the End of the Road!); not religious, so unites rather than divides; not super commercialized; no gift-giving involved; plenty of football to watch. The list goes on. Here in the Methow, one can go ice-skating on Thanksgiving!
I was curious to hear a Thanksgiving story from a Mazaman. Julianna Owens, owner of Riverside Avenue Barber & Salon and Mazama resident, provided the perfect opportunity as I sat in her chair while she gave me what she calls “fresh hair.”
Julianna grew up in South Carolina, where large family dinners replete with Southern cooking were traditional, so Thanksgiving was that family dinner on steroids. She told a legendary family story that was a reminder of another side of Thanksgiving. Her aunt always brought a family favorite: Boston cream cake. On one occasion, a family spat occurred and Aunt B. picked up her dessert dish, ready to storm out. Sweet Grandmother, who never said a bad thing to anyone, now said what everyone was thinking, “Don’t take the cake!” Aunt B. even laughs about it now.
Julianna talks of a variety of Thanksgivings she has experienced over the years. Oftentimes, it’s been a Friendsgiving where a group of friends gather to be thankful, eat, and socialize. She says it’s very fun to make a dish that you wouldn’t usually make. Favorites of hers are banana pudding pie and sweet potato marshmallow casserole.
On other occasions, Julianna traveled to Southern Utah to rock climb and attend legendary Creeksgiving. In the 1990s, a group of climbing friends began gathering in the Utah desert at Indian Creek for rock season’s last hurrah and a time to give thanks. Creeksgiving was born when they added a meal of turkey and some pie. It’s now a full-blown potluck feast with activities such as relay races and dance competition: the Burning Man of the climbing community.
Thanksgiving Day is also an opportunity to share bounty and goodwill with those who have less or maybe just no one to share the day with. In the Methow, the Methow Valley United Methodist Church provides a free community Thanksgiving dinner at the Winthrop Barn from 11:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Every year, Hank’s Harvest Foods in Twisp offers a free turkey and other meal additions with a completed progressive stamp card. This year, the Mazama Country Inn is offering a family-style dinner feast for a cozy gathering of any who would rather someone else cook and clean up!
However you spend Thanksgiving, take a moment to be grateful for those things that bring joy to your life in the Methow!