Some of my fondest memories are of holidays spent at my Mamaws’ Thanksgiving tables.
Living in East Tennessee Appalachia we had a fine family tradition that spread across two mountain valleys.
My parents and I lived on the outskirts of Rogersville, Tennessee, Mamaw Manis lived in Choptack and Mamaw Williams was further out in Poor Valley.
The mailing address for all these places was simply “Rogersville,” but each of the areas around there had its own name known only to locals.
The Manises were the church going type and liked to have the family over for supper right after church.
Even though we didn’t go to church on Thanksgiving, we kept right on with lunch meal get togethers at Mamaw Manis’.
For me that meant play time with Cousin David and Anna, the kids of Uncle Carroll and Aunt Carolyn who lived downstairs in Mamaw’s basement.
The other kids were second cousins, children of Cousin Teresa and Robin who were closer to Mom and Dad’s age, or so it seemed at the time.
These second cousins were babies, to be indulged a while and then ditched to their parents’ keeping while we moved on to funner pursuits like mud pie making and tree climbing, too dangerous for babies.
We’d visit at Mamaw Manis’s until after the post lunch snooze played out on the living room couch, and then head over to Poor Valley – sometimes with the whole family in tow for the evening meal and festivities.
Mamaw Williams and her brood of 8 were the opposite of church going, and liked to stay up late watching Hee Haw and Dallas, and on special occasions, picking and grinning in the living room with all the furniture pushed back against the wall.
L-R: Uncle Herschel Williams on banjo, Kim Williams on guitar, Larry Williams on bass from one of their last jams at Mamaw's- video credit Cousin Mike Williams
There were stand up and table top ashtrays overflowing and beer bottle and wine cooler strewn tables as far as the eye could see.
We kids ran in and out of the house playing everything from touch football to the epic after dark hide and seek games that ended in hot chocolate warming dew drenched, grass stained knees.
Here at Mamaw Williams’ the ladies clucked in the kitchen for days preparing baked turkeys and hams, yams and mashed potatoes, pies and homemade candies of delightful variety not found in any store.
The “damn divinity” candy was always a harbinger of winter holidays, because no one relished making it any other time of the year.
It was a confectionary delight consisting of some mysteriously sugary white concoction swirled with peanut butter into a log and then sliced to create a pinwheel effect.
That’s what we called it, pinwheel candy, and it was my favorite.
Made in massive batches and packed into empty Danish cookie tins between sheets of waxed paper, there were many variations on this theme depending on whose house you were at.
Some people’s peanut butter was creamier and others dry – sometimes the white part was too sticky or gooey to grab, or sometimes it was thick and plump (my favorite) or thin and flat (less favorite, but still good.)
This year I will give a go at Divinity 2.0 using almond butter instead of peanut butter for a modern twist. I’ll share the results with you in a few weeks.
In the meantime, here is my Thanksgiving meal plan for our family and friends this year, inspired by all those holidays spent at Mamaw’s.
· Turkey – roasted and stuffed with veggies and citrus
· Ham – bought at Sprouts, the spiral cut, sugary glazed kind
· Stuffing – baked separately, not in the bird
· Mashed potatoes – from scratch, naturally
· Broccoli casserole
· Green bean casserole (traditionally made by my bonus daughter)
· Sweet potato casserole (yes with marshmallows and brown sugar)
· Rolls (trying homemade ones this year – pray for me)
· Cranberry sauce (from whole cranberries, easy)
· Pecan and pumpkin pies (with homemade crust)
· Cherry yum yum (that’s what we call cherry cheese cake in hillbilly land)
· Ambrosia or watergate salad (I haven’t decided yet, but you don’t need both)
· Can of corn
· Can of peas (because they go so well with mashed potatoes and corn)
· Drinks – bottled water, ginger ale, iced tea, coffee
What a feast! Good thing we have a good table full coming to eat.
Blessings to you and your family for this Thanksgiving holiday, and the rest of this year’s holiday season.