When I was a child my Thanksgivings were spent at my grandparents. I attended two Thanksgiving dinners, one just a few hours later than the other. My paternal grandparents served a sit down dinner with tablecloths and polished silver. My maternal grandparents served a buffet with paper plates and a scramble for spare forks and spoons. One was polite exchanges and tales of relatives and friends long absent from this world. The other was multiple conversations all going at once, the worries and joys of those present bursting forth in a loud medley of voices. As a child I was eager to take it all in – including the food.
I'm from Oklahoma and my family's food of choice is a variety of traditional Southern dishes with some Tex-Mex and barbeque thrown in for good measure. At Thanksgiving we have roasted turkey, baked ham studded with cloves, cornbread and sage dressing, mashed potatoes, giblet gravy, green bean casseroles, candied sweet potatoes, cranberry relishes, Jell-O molds, homemade yeast rolls, a variety of pies (at least one being pumpkin) and iced tea.
Iced tea is a staple in the South. No household is without it. I grew up drinking iced "sweet tea." You might have to reach a certain age to drink coffee, but "sweet tea" was deemed suitable for all ages. Babies were given bottles filled with the sweet, cold liquid.
Some time in the late 70s, the custom changed to unsweetened tea or artificially sweetened tea. But I've noticed in the last five years or so, "sweet tea" seems to be making a comeback. If you walk into a restaurant in Oklahoma today, you'll be offered a choice. I sweeten my tea with Equal now, but I remember the sweet tea of my childhood with great fondness.
To fix sweet tea – boil about six or seven cups of water, then add three large Lipton family-sized tea bags. Let the tea seep for 20 minutes, remove the bags. Pour the still hot mixture into a pitcher containing 1 to 1 ½ cups of sugar. (I have heard of people boiling the seeped tea and sugar, but that's not how I learned to make it). Stir well. Add cold water to make one gallon of liquid. We would make one or two gallons of tea a day, sometimes more if we were expecting company.
One of my favorite Thanksgiving side dishes is the following:
1 pound of cranberries
1 orange, peeled
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1 cup of drained pineapple
4 teaspoons lemon juice
1 cup chopped apple
1 cup of sugar, or less according to taste
2 packages of cherry, or raspberry gelatin
Put orange and cranberries through food chopper. Mix orange-cranberry mixture with nuts, pineapple, lemon juice, apple and sugar. Dissolve gelatin in 2 cups hot water. When gelatin has cooled slightly, add fruit mixture and combine. Pour into molds and chill until set. Serves 12.