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Hominy Day

One of the very best things about Thanksgiving is simply being with family. I am so thrilled that for Thanksgiving 2017 we will have our son Will, his wife Christi, and their three children, William, Thomas, and Mattie, our granddaughter Amanda Evans, her husband Jared, their five children Candi, Hailey, Caitlin, Charli, and Kaison, and our grandson Charles D Reeves all with us. There will be laughter, chatter, games and teasing–and lots of good smells and eating. One of the children will tell the Pilgrims’ story. Charles will pray. And then he’ll carve the turkey cooked on his new Primo grill (our first time doing a turkey on the grill, praying hard!)

So why did I title this blog “Hominy Day”?

We’re not having hominy for Thanksgiving. Maybe corn, not hominy. But thinking about “being with family” brought me to thinking of the togetherness my birth family experienced all the time, one day, for example, being “hominy day.”

If you arrive at your answer as to whether you like hominy by how that anemic hominy in a can tastes you need to taste my mother’s homemade hominy. Not that it’s still available. But wow! That was good stuff. The memory is delicious.

It wasn’t that easy to make. Simple, yes, but not easy.

First you had to have corn. Dry corn. Off the cob, of course. So you had to grow the corn, which required a lot of hot field work, but which also gave an opportunity for word games and philosophying and teasing to the rhythm of hoes clicking. Harvesting dried corn is a rattly, somewhat itchy proposition. Then there’s the shucking. And there had to be some for the cows. So sometimes Dad supplied corn for such a big family by buying some by the bushel from a neighboring farm. I loved it when Mr. Loggins came in the fall with a horse drawn wagon full of dried corn, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, and purple crowned rutabagas (not my favorite, but they were pretty).

We didn’t have a corn sheller. Well, we did too. Seven, eight, however many of us were at home. Sometimes we shelled corn in the barn. That was like a party. We had competitions to see how many of the fuzzy red cobs we could pile up, or someone told a wild story, or we ended up in a cob fight. If you’ve never shelled dry corn with your own bare hands you don’t realize how you roll the heel of your right hand over the hard kernels forcing them off the cob to rattle down into a bucket. And, yes, your hands do get sore before they grow tough. Sometimes we all shelled corn at night in Daddy’s study while Mamma read to us from a really good book like Lorna Doone or Tale of Two Cities.

So one day it would be time to make hominy.

The dried corn kernels would be placed in a very large pot, covered in water with a lot of soda, maybe half a box, added. The soda makes the tiny piece of husk detach from each kernel leaving a cute little hollow groove. The soda also turns the kernels a pretty golden color.

The hominy had to cook all day until the kernels were no longer crisp or hard or tough. They would be soft like little tiny pillows but not smooshy like boiled potato.

Then came the last operation late in the afternoon, usually very cold in November. We had to wash the soda out of the hominy so it wouldn’t be bitter. We did not yet have running water in our kitchen. The hominy washing job had to be done at the spring where there was plenty of water to wash and rinse and rinse and wash the hominy back and forth between two buckets. It was cold but it was fun. You never heard any more hilarity and cackling. If there were a minor accident such as someone spilling some of the precious product and having to pick it up grain by grain, that was just cause for more laughter.

Mamma welcomed us back to the cozy kitchen and promptly began to prepare hominy for our supper. She put butter in an iron skillet and piled the skillet full of hominy. Once she’d cooked it for about an hour it was ready to serve. There was never any left over! But of course Mamma had more hominy not yet fried ready to last several days. As we enjoyed that golden hominy we chattered over various interesting happenings of the day, other than hominy making–a sighting of strange tracks on a sandy beach of Ramble Brook, a discussion on how far away the moon was and its relation to Venus, or the discovery of Boleta mushrooms on Firewood Heights.

As I write this the wind picks up speed and our wind chimes play a merry jingle. I’ve been baking pies, making freezer rolls, stocking up on butter, extra coffees, making cornbread for the dressing, purchasing “the bird,” etc. etc. No, we won’t have hominy for Thanksgiving. And, yes, I am thankful for running water in the kitchen! But mostly I’m thankful for my family and that we will be together–laughing, teasing, telling stories and loving each other.

Happy Thanksgiving, All!

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.” Psalm 100:4 (KJV)


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Harvest of the Forest

Some of us were sitting by a fire the other evening knitting Christmas bells and picking out pecans and we started talking about the first Thanksgiving. We remembered what a hard year that had been for the pilgrims. Because of their faith in Jesus Christ and their desire to worship Him freely, they had left behind all that was familiar to them and here they were in a new place with crude houses, no carriages, no friends down the street, and almost no food.

Then we remembered the Indians.

The colonists were riddled with disease and illness as they faced the elements of their new place. Half of them died the first six months, many before they ever disembarked from the Mayflower. Sometimes there were only six or seven able to be up and take care of the sick. But the ones who survived until the fall of 1621, having been helped by a few Indians, harvested a crop, learned how to peel mussels off rocks at the shore and how to recognize good things to eat in the forest.

So, recognizing how blessed by God these few were, William Bradford, their governor, called them together and announced they would have a three day celebration to show their gratitude. They would thank God for the blessings of life and freedom and food. The feast was attended by the scrappy thirty to fifty colonists (reports vary) and ninety Wampanoag Indians. The Indians, while camping at the feast, went out hunting and provided five deer for the occasion (a noble contribution, I’d say!).

After our fireside conversation, I began thinking about the foods the pilgrims might have discovered in the deep dark woods.

I’m thinking about the harvest of the woods we could find in Georgia. There were grapes if you could get to them. Sometimes the vines twisted high, very high, in the trees and someone had to shimmy up and shake the grapes down for pickers below. There were beautiful greenish scuppernongs turning beige if they were ripe. There were the larger muscadines, dark purple and so sweet it’s a wonder any of them arrived at the house in our bucket. In South Georgia I learned those were called bullises and that South Georgia cooks also made grape hull pies as my mother did. Then there were fox grapes. Now those were some sour grapes, tiny and sour! They grew in clusters on vines that wrapped around sweetgum, dogwood, whatever. Mamma didn’t turn down much, but she said we could have the fox grapes. We played a game to see who could eat the most before puckering up.

Speaking of puckering, I wonder if the colonists found persimmons in their new place. Maybe persimmons are more abundant in the south. Anyway, how beautiful they are, the color of apricots mixed with a little orange maybe? And so delicious when they’re mushy ripe or made into pudding. But don’t bite into one when it’s firm and glistening. It will turn your mouth wrong side out! I’ve never heard that the pilgrims had possum at their feast so maybe there were no persimmons either, because those two seem to thrive together. (A possum in a persimmon tree with a hound dog and two boys on the ground and the moon at full is a story about to happen.)

Hickory nuts were abundant some years but they were almost impossible to extract from the very hard shells. I guess you’d have to be as hungry as the pilgrims before you’d resort to hickory nuts. But squirrels like them. And I imagine the pilgrims could really dig in to a good squirrel stew–on days when visitors hadn’t contributed venison so graciously.

Now we sometimes call Thanksgiving “Turkey Day.” The pilgrims could have had turkey at their feast. There were plenty of wild turkeys like the gaggle of turkeys Charles observed recently ambling along a slow country road. He stopped his truck and delayed his trip to relieve a bloated cow long enough to watch the seven or eight turkeys. But the pilgrims didn’t know yet about “Turkey Day.” So they might have had pheasant or ducks or even swan. William Bradford did send four men on a fowling expedition so they must have had fowl of some kind.

The Indians, particularly Squanto who could speak English because he’d been kidnapped to England and returned, helped the pilgrims know what they could grow, how to fish, and how to hunt. What might have been in their garden that first year? According to Edward Winslow whose journal gives us a record of that first Thanksgiving, the peas didn’t do well, dried in the bloom, but turnips grew and onions and corn and pumpkins, even spinach. They would have had little or no flour or sugar left so they couldn’t make pies. One speculator thinks they cut a pumpkin in half and roasted it.

They had, no doubt, a bountiful feast. Whatever they had was far better than they enjoyed every day. They were grateful and they celebrated for three days. The children’s revised textbooks, chronicling the event, say the pilgrims were thankful but do not add to Whom they were thankful. But Edward Winslow was an eye witness and he said that the one true living God was the One they worshipped.

We sit in our comfortable houses enjoying the warmth and glow of gas logs and the scents of pumpkin pies, cornbread dressing and a turkey roasting. I think about the colonists and the Indians who had no idea we would still be commemorating that day 400 years later. They didn’t know that more than a hundred years later a president named Abraham Lincoln would pronounce a day of Thanksgiving as a national holiday. They set the stage for us. They showed us that grateful people are survivors. Grateful people are joyful people. The more hardships there are, the more room for gratitude.

Have a wonderful feast even if it’s not straight from the forest and field.

Happy Thanksgiving!



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Preparing for a Feast

The big question this week is are you ready for Thanksgiving? Yes, I’m ready for Thanksgiving! But I’m still working on the menu and creeping up on the big day with preparations along and along. I know what folks mean when they ask the question. They want to know if I’ve killed a turkey or smoked a ham; they want to know if I’ve baked pumpkin pies yet; and have I picked the greens and dug up the sweet potatoes and creamed the corn. Truth is, I’m fairly ill prepared judging by standards of long ago. But among the many things I’m thanking God for are grocery stores nearby, electric ovens, mixers, microwaves, a refrigerator and, most of all, a family to cook for!

Another thing I’m thankful for is the actual time of preparation. Isn’t it fun! The anticipation is almost as good as the real thing.

That moment when you sit down at the loaded table is certainly special, when everyone shares one thank you and you hold hands for the blessing, when a small person pipes up with “When are we going to eat?” and the man of the house begins carving and the first joke breaks the moment of reverence…that’s what it’s all about. But…wait….

There’s the squirreling away of the very best nuts for the pecan pies, the cutting of the pumpkin and freezing in measured batches for pies, the jelly making, the studying of recipes, the decisions, baking homemade rolls to keep in the freezer, along with pumpkin bread and cranberry bread. And then the last week’s preparations.

Last night Charles and I had a cozy time in the kitchen making cornbread for dressing and sautéing onions in butter. Still recovering from shoulder surgery, I asked him to help since the cornbread simply wouldn’t be as good if not baked in the iron pan, too heavy for me right now. It seemed like a sacrilege to pull out hot cornbread and not even eat any but about the time he dragged it out of the oven his phone rang and he had to dash off to save a snake-bitten dog. The bread was cold and not quite so tempting when he got back about 9:30. This morning I had fun crumbling the cornbread into fine crumbs.

My mother would be shocked to see me buying bags of turnip and mustard greens already washed and chopped. But I hope she would be pleased that at least I’m going to cook a big pot of greens. She would also be disappointed that I’m not putting a big piece of pork or at least bacon grease in the greens for seasoning. But they’ll be healthier for us and quite delicious cooked with a handful of chicken bouillon cubes. I used to help my mother washing the greens, leaf by leaf, rinsing about three times to be sure all bugs and grit were gone. She had far more patience than I do!

My mother-in-law was known at family gatherings for her generous, beautiful dish of creamed corn. I’ve watched her grating the corn laboriously, ear by ear, and freezing it in preparation for Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc. When she became unable to cream the corn herself she’d buy frozen sleeves of it and most folks didn’t know the difference when her dish appeared on the table. It was always empty when dinner was over. So I’m buying the corn to prepare as nearly like hers as possible.

Thanksgiving Day would not be complete without preparation of a big fruit salad, fresh if possible. Mamma’s was always laced with mayonnaise, a robust gorgeous salad of mostly apples and oranges, raisins and nuts, sometimes with coconut grated on top. I like to put red grape halves in the salad and sometimes I add canned peaches and pears diced. A can of crushed pineapple gives the salad substance without mayonnaise and the pineapple keeps the apples (and bananas if you use them) from changing color. The fruit salad is the most fun when about three of us at least take part in making it. The occasion always germinates hilarious stories and comments. Probably the laughter makes the salad better!



I  love to make pumpkin and pecan pies, two or three of each. A few years back Charles began cutting the pumpkin up for me, then I mash it and prepare it. It never occurred to me that it might be unusual to make pumpkin pie from fresh pumpkin until a year or two ago when someone asked me “Just how do you use a real pumpkin for pies?” I do not normally puree the pumpkin so it’s not as smooth as the canned pumpkin you buy. I mash it within a lick of destruction with a potato masher so that it’s smooth but with a little texture. The smell of pies baking is heavenly, especially if you use plenty of nutmeg.

Am I ready for Thanksgiving? My heart is. But there’s still preparation to go. And the best part is the children coming home, and the rest of the weekend–shopping with my daughter-in-law, “doing” a 47th birthday with our son, playing with the kids, setting up the nativity scene in our front yard. I love the sound of a basketball bouncing in our driveway, and the whir of bicycle wheels making turns around our circle. I can’t wait!

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!

“Enter into his gates with thanksgiving and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.” Psalm 100:4







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