Thanksgiving
Cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie and friendly hands make up Thanksgiving. COURTESY ELEMENT5 DIGITAL ON UNSPLASH

Sure, it’s easy to ask “what are you thankful for” around Thanksgiving time. But we thought it might be more interesting, and fun, to ask what your traditions and memories are. Here’s a few we got; those that we could not fit will run online. Please comment and post your own, too! Did the electric knife go kerplooey? Does your family, like the Pearsons on “This Is Us,” have a hot dog tradition? We want to know! 

— compiled by Gwen Orel

That was the thanksgiving…

…it snowed. 1989. First year in the big house. And our oldest, then our only, was just a bit over 1.  —Debra Galant, Montclair resident

…I got ambitious. It was my first vacation home from grad school, and I decided to make a lot of dishes from Bon Appetit. Gravy made with sherry. Whipped potatoes with gruyére cheese. Pearl onions, shelled and made by hand (which by the way: don’t bother. Birds Eye). Too late I realized that all my sides were white. —Gwen Orel, culture editor

…when dinner wasn’t so easily served. In the fall of 1984, I had just turned 6 and we had just moved north from the suburbs of Lubbock, Texas to the wilds of Northern Michigan, landing on 80 acres of farmland that belonged to my mother’s family. Apparently, we were farmers now, and we had the canned vegetables, goats, chickens, geese, and ducks to prove it. But my parents were struggling financially, and that was why we had moved up there in the first place. But, there were ducks. That spring, we had brought nearly a dozen freshly-hatched ducklings home and watched them in their tiny, gray and yellow feathered glory.  We watched them follow each other around, paddle on the water in the outdoor trough we nicknamed “the pond,” and grow even more. At summer, one had taken sick and it had broken my heart to watch its demise.I was congested the afternoon that I cried on my mother’s lap, “my ducky! My ducky!’ as she soothed me.And yet, there we were on Thanksgiving a few months later about to roast one of that same ducky’s siblings.I watched as my mother plucked every feather from that bird.I can’t remember if I protested or not. My love of ducks might have been challenged by my need for food on that day. But what I do remember is that I learned valuable lessons that year about farming and how it ties into life.  —Grace Williams, Montclair Local stringer

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READ: THANKSGIVING DAY DINNER SERVED AT SALVATION ARMY

READ: THOUGHTFUL MONTCLAIR GIFTS THAT GIVE BACK

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…I tried to be bold. I’ve been cooking holiday dinners for decades, to the delight of family and friends. Last year, I broke the rule and introduced new food items. Tried-and-true works best, but I get bored easily. The very expensive and busy Turducken with sage and sausage stuffing left my guests cold, and the kiddies were horrified when I explained how turkey, duck and chicken are deboned and layered onto each other. Never one to leave well enough alone, I also prepared Tofurkey for my fellow vegetarians. It was squishy and tasted like turkey scrambled eggs. Eww, and no thank you. So, this year it’s going to be an array of carbs, crudites, cake and Chardonnay. I could just shortcut it and make stuffing and pumpkin pie. That’s what Thanksgiving means to us.  —Robin Woods, Montclair Local’s “Robin’s Nest”

It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without…

…my cranberry sauce concoctions. —Adam Anik, photographer

…board games. The best way to kill time before turkey is with board games. This year we grabbed several games at NY ComicCon from Deepwater Games, and we’ll probably buy more on Black Friday because they donate a game to a Children’s Hospital for every one we buy. They’re short games, usually a couple of hours for anywhere between one and four hours and you can always find something to keep everyone occupied no matter the age or maturity.  —Andrew Garda, sports reporter

…faith, family, and friends.  —Mayor Robert Jackson

…three people fighting over when the turkey is done. —Kathryn Waggener McGuire, owner/director, Clerestory Fine Art

…creamed onions and mashed rutabagas. My husband is our holiday cook, and he takes care of nearly everything on the menu. Onions and rutabagas aren’t part of his tradition, so I make them. I always make lots so I have plenty for our day-after turkey pie (with mashed-potato crust). —Elizabeth Oguss, Local Listings editor

…sharing and caring for family, friends, neighbors, and people in need. These are values shared throughout the world, and ideally practiced every day. We in the United States celebrate these values through our wonderful national holiday of Thanksgiving. Some Montclair residents devotedly provide lunches or dinners or distribute food for modest-income people through houses of worship and, in our town, the Human Needs Food Pantry. As important as the nourishment is the camaraderie of people sharing in the preparing and dining of meals. Through this long weekend, sports fans will spend hours munching platefuls of entrees and snacks while football games monopolize their TV screens. However, Thanksgiving weekend is one of the year’s best occasions for savoring delectable movies on television. There’s a feast of memorable movies from tonight, Wednesday, through Sunday.Among all-time faves are the the classic “The Wizard of Oz,” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and “A Christmas Story” (apropos of the holiday shopping season, which began around Halloween).For these holiday diversions, I give my modest thanks.  —Mark S. Porter, Montclair resident and Local stringer

…family and friends. Family and friends are a big part of Thanksgiving. Every year on Thanksgiving, we invite our family members to come and celebrate with us. For Thanksgiving, we always have turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans, pumpkin pie and apple pie. When we are all at the table, and we have our food, we go around the table saying what we are grateful for. I am grateful for my family, my friends, food, water, my education, and for having a roof over my head. When everyone has said something, we start eating. When we finish, we eat dessert and talk. Another tradition that I have with my family is watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade every year in the morning. We always watch the big balloons hover over everyone on tv. It is so nice to do this every year to be grateful for what we have. I am so grateful for this and it was wonderful sharing this with you. —Sophia Roever, Montclair elementary school student

…turkey. Since Bradford wrote of how the colonists had hunted wild turkeys during the autumn of 1621 and since turkey is a uniquely North American (and delicious ) bird, it gained traction as the Thanksgiving meal of choice for Americans. After Abraham Lincoln declared thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863, turkey has become a common thing to find ( and eat) on Thanksgiving. You can even customize your turkey! For example, (true story)my sisters and I, all want a turkey leg on Thanksgiving. The problem is, turkeys only have two legs. So, my mom just gets a turkey with 3 legs. Problem solved! It’s called the magic of thanksgivin, — Valentina Roever, Montclair middle school student

…the great work of the many churches, charities, volunteers & organizations that prepare great Thanksgiving turkey dinners for so many less fortunate residents!  Montclair thanks all of them! —Bob Russo, At-large coucilman

…if I didn’t go to the nursing home to see the “Forgotten Angels,” as both my children are single, and I have no grandchildren. One child is living in a little village in Panama, in the crater of a volcano which has not erupted in 300 years, and I have a daughter who lives on the west coast and in retail, that timeless holiday has lost its charm.  My darling husband who had been in hospice, and supposed to die in seven days, lasted in a nursing home for seven years. Born in war-torn Europe, brought up under the Nazis, surviving communism and embracing democracy, he was the best patriot and pilgrim I ever knew; his favorite holiday was Thanksgiving. Fascinated with history and never knowing a turkey from a chicken, he loved the taste of a goose.  I never could get it right, let alone find one, but the nursing home chef, much to our surprise, along with the turkey, cooked him some part of a “goose” and even made treasured “goose fat.” As my darling is no longer with me, my children far away, I still go to the nursing home to visit the “Forgotten Angels” even though I know there will never be a goose on the table. I smile a silent smile and remember.  —Grange Rutan, First Montclair House resident, author, “75 Plus.”

…my cranberry relish. It’s not that it’s complicated to make. It’s not that my grandmother on my father’s side made it and it’s a family tradition (that would be my mother’s stuffing.) It’s because the cranberry relish is simple, refreshing and delicious. Sure, the turkey, by its sheer size and time in the oven, is the star of the table. Sweet potatoes, stuffing and green beans share second billing. But what about that small bowl with the red stew in it, lost among the giant serving dishes? Yes, the one that looks like a bowl of rubies topped with sapphires? That would be my humble cranberry relish. I make it with cans of jellied cranberry sauce and whole  berry cranberry sauce. Then I add the organic strawberries and raspberries we picked in June and July and then wisely froze, making sure to save enough for this Thanksgiving dish. When I open the baggies I smell summer. I am wearing shorts and a t-shirt instead of stretch pants, wool socks and a turtleneck sweater (and I’m still cold). After mashing these ingredients together, I add some dried cranberries for more texture. I decorate the mixture with fresh cut-up oranges and then sprinkle with pomegranate  seeds. Depending on how grown-up I feel or who the guests are, I may add crushed walnuts. I’m known as the soup maker in the family but  I wouldn’t be insulted if cranberry relish became my signature dish, too.  —Merrill Silver, Montclair Local stringer

…family, fireside chats, pumpkin pie and fresh cranberry sauce. —Cindy Stagoff, Montclair resident

…extending thanks to the hundreds of volunteers who truly helped make a difference welcoming immigrant families to our community this past year. It is both heartwarming and reassuring to know so many folks in our town are ready to welcome at risk families hoping to make America their new home!  —Peter Wert, hosting coordinator, Montclair Sanctuary Alliance