Rachael Van Horn
Woodward, Okla. —
For Gary Lemmons of Laverne, there is nothing like the memories that his wife, Oleta, has created by her energetic and thoughtful display of kindness when her family comes to visit during the Thanksgiving holiday.
“Early in the morning on Thanksgiving Day, she goes out to the garage and has all these skillets and an electrical strip and she makes all the sausage and eggs and pancakes, everything,” he said. “She does all the cooking out there so she doesn’t wake anyone up. And then she comes and gets me and tells me to wake everyone up because it’s ready.”
Every family has their own tradition for holiday meals. Perhaps central in many homes is the way a turkey is prepared by whoever is the chef.
Perry Davis makes a paste with butter and fresh herbs, Rosemary and Thyme, as well as salt and pepper.
“Then I get it in my hand and I push that under the skin of the turkey and spread it over the meat,” Davis said. “With what I have left on my hands, I rub that all over the outside.”
Davis said she always uses a browning bag and when the turkey is done, she cuts open the bag and browns the skin on top of the turkey until it is golden.
“But you really have to hear about my stuffing recipe,” she said. “I take two boxes of Stove Top Stuffing, add a can of water chestnuts and a can of mushrooms and then I bake it. I don’t put it in the bird, that’s just a bacteria thing with me.”
Laverne Farmer’s Cooperative administrative manager Kristine Wells likes to put butter all over the turkey and bake it while pulling it out every hour and basting it with the drippings.
“Of course, if you talk to a lot of women, they probably have a glass of wine or two while they are doing this,” she said. “I’m just sayin’ that’s a lot of work, so you probably need a glass of wine.”
Wanda Jones washes her turkey very well, throws it in a browning bag, salts the inside cavity a little and puts it in the oven at 250 degrees, she said.
“I leave it there for about four hours. It’s that easy,” she said. “Course, Clarence’s (husband) sister used to make a paste with butter and flour and she would spread that all over the turkey and it gave it a crust. That was good too.”
Treasured memories are usually what keep cooking traditions alive. That is true for Melva McDaniel when she remembers her mother, Meda Mae O’Hern.
“My mother would just cook the turkey in the morning and she would pull it out and we would always be there with a spoon to taste it,” she said.
Through the years though, the good ol’ turkey has lost some popularity with local folk.
For Margie Brace, since turkey is not on the menu, preparation of homemade chicken and noodles is the fare that all 38 of Brace’s family members look forward to, she said.
Thanksgiving is a special holiday because it represents a simple attitude that requires no last minute shopping or even large preparations.
For many, like Brace, the event is a chance to forget the stress that seems to own so much of our lives and sit with family.
Brace starts days before hand with a whole dozen of fresh eggs and makes a batch of fresh noodles, she said.
The she simmers the chicken in a special chicken broth that has seasoning in it already. After the chicken simmers until it is tender, she bones the chicken, adds the noodles she has made ahead of time and frozen, to the broth in which she simmered the chicken.
For Brace, the most rewarding part of all that work is having her large family, four children, seven grandchildren and 15 great grandchildren around the same table.
That idea was mirrored by Lemmons, whose family numbers 21 now with all the grandchildren and great grandchildren, she said.
“We just stack them like cord wood at night for sleeping,” he joked.