When I think about it, I don’t really have a set-in-stone Thanksgiving destination.

There is usually turkey, stuffing, etc. but since my grandma passed away over a decade ago, I’ve bounced around from locale to locale. At least one Thanksgiving I stayed home by myself (by choice). I spent many years going to a significant other’s family Thanksgiving dinner. One year I hosted my friend and uncle; before they arrived, my mom had to come over and help me make gravy. (It’s true; I used to make horrible gravy. Then again, maybe I still do….)

Further bucking tradition, depending on what the rest of my family is doing, it might be a duck-dumplings-sauerkraut Thanksgiving. Admittedly, I’m not a very good Czech: have never cooked a duck, and my kolace are like hockey pucks. I do, however, eat sauerkraut straight from the can. But I digress.

Thanksgiving is about storytelling -- no, not my delightfully ornery Uncle Randy’s banter, and the turkey definitely does not stand up and say “gobble, gobble.” The Thanksgiving tablestuffs tell us stories and kindles memories. When I get out my Grandma Votipka’s silver, I remember always helping her set the Thanksgiving table. There are still place cards I made as a kid in the velvet-lined box – paper turkeys colored with crayons and coated in glitter with guests’ names on them.

Speaking of my grandma, I also have the dish she always served green bean casserole in. I can’t remember if I acquired it before or after her passing, but I always feel special when it circulates around the table. Pair that dish with green beans my mom and I grew and canned ourselves earlier in the year, and you get near-perfect servings of green bean casserole.

One Thanksgiving was in sickness and in health. My Aunt Janet had foot surgery, so I helped prepare some of the family’s Thanksgiving meal. Janet might have been laid up, but that didn’t stop her from helping. If you know her, I doubt you are surprised. I distinctly remember her chocolate-pecan pie, and making my cranberry sauce (which has Shiraz and orange peel in it – yum). It was a treat to cook on her fancy range – there’s something about steam and smells filtering into that shiny metal hood.

Many Thanksgivings required a relish tray – raw carrots, black olives, pickles, raw broccoli, pickled herring, celery sticks and some type of dip. For some reason there was always a lot of broccoli and celery left. I always ask the host if I can bring something – hopefully something elaborate and challenging. On one occasion, I was asked to bring a relish tray and was horribly offended.

Also, if you ever want tasty rolls from the bakery in Exeter, be sure to order them ahead of time – or buy them off the shelf a month before and keep them in the freezer until their time comes. Getting delicious rolls from the bakery cannot be a last-minute endeavor. Trust me, I’ve learned that lesson.

All of these delicious memories… it would make sense for me to get hungry as I write this; instead, I thirst for good company and plenty of Thanksgiving stories.

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