November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

I'm thinking a lot about my family today. I haven't spoken to my parents since January but I normally wouldn't see them on Thanksgiving anyway. But as I'm hanging out in my apartment baking pumpkin bread and making green bean casserole, I'm reminded of my father's side of the family, big dinners at Grammy's house and weird German desserts.

I grew up with a lot of German vernacular that was poorly pronounced and never spelled out or written down. I've actually been a motivated baker lately (like baking my own birthday cake) so I set my mind to trying to track down recipes of some of the things I grew up eating that I actually liked. There were the molasses Christmas cookies that used to be my favorite, Lebkuchen, and an anise and nutmug dessert called Gesundheitskuchen which is more like a cake but is baked in a loaf pan and sliced like bread. None of the recipes I found online were exactly what I remembered, but I think I've become a good enough baker to fiddle around with the ingredients to try to replicate my grandmother's version, which had been replicated by my mother after she became absorbed into my father's traditional German family.

Especially after my grandmother died when I was 10, Thanksgiving (or any other holiday for that matter) with my family was never really about home and hearth. I do have fond memories of waking up to the smell of the turkey already cooking, of my father carving it and doling out the crispy skin for us to snack on, of eating whatever we wanted and as much as we wanted, all washed down with grape juice to mimic a sophisticated dinner experience. But mom always acted like it was a huge bother and never enjoyed herself, and made us feel guilty for all the effort she put into it. And it was almost always just the four of us, four people who didn't get along with each other, eating in silence.

Besides, this time of year, I am missing my father's brother, my favorite uncle. He died about a year ago at Thanksgivingtime and I still feel guilty for not going to Syracuse for the wake or funeral. I couldn't deal with seeing my parents. I hope, wherever he is, that he understands and forgives me.

I chose to spend today alone, despite a genuine invitation from Maria's family, because I've been too stressed at work, travelling too much for work, and not sleeping enough. I wasn't sure if I was going to cook and didn't want to have any plans today, but so far it's turning out ok. I'm cooking about half a turkey dinner, with turkey roulade contributed by Murray's, stuffing contributed by Edith, and green bean casserole and mashed potatoes made by me.

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