One year, at the advice of her butcher, Grammy decided to get a capon (kay-pon). What’s a capon, we asked. The answer? “A really big chicken.” Of course, that began a dialogue between my dad and grandma that went something like “You have a capon? I thought you had a coat on.” And so it continued (more than once).
A capon is actually a neutered young rooster, which results in a larger, more tender and flavorful, and less gamey bird than traditional hens (and is probably more than I want to know about my dinner). As I recall, it was good, but I can’t say that my taste buds were particularly discerning at that age.
It’s been many years since my Thanksgiving holiday including something besides turkey. But I know a few folks who have enjoyed ham, steaks, lasagna and even hot dogs on Thanksgiving.
In this season of Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for a small moment in time that brought me back to North Carolina and a new beginning. Many years ago, when I lived in Detroit wrapping up a career and a first marriage, I was saved by a wonderful collection of essays by poet Donald Hall. I was perusing books in an Ann Arbor bookstore when I spotted something marvelous. Theoriginal 1985 publication of Fathers Playing Catch with Sons: Essays on Sport (Mostly Baseball) had an illustration of the old Durham Athletic Park on its cover, a welcome sight to a Durham Bulls fan trapped in a Michigan winter.
My earliest Thanksgiving memory actually takes place in foggy ole London town many, many years ago (I think I was still rocking the ‘90s bangs at that point). Anyway, I was enrolled in an American Community School, so come November, we learned about the early settlers and their harvest feast known as the first Thanksgiving. I was assigned to pilgrim duty that year and can still vividly recall the outfit I was forced to wear, the food I happily devoured and the boy whose attention I tried so desperately to command.
Fast forward a decade or two (technically two and change), get rid of the bangs, and here I sit, counting down the days until I hop on a plane to be reunited with my family in Austin, Texas, to celebrate another Thanksgiving. Being a “foreign” family we don’t have any tried-and-true traditions that have been passed along over the years. Instead, we have adopted our own and are always happy to throw a new one into the mix.
My childhood memories of Thanksgiving include family visits to both sets of grandparents, all of whom lived in St. Louis, Mo. which was only a 2 hour drive from our home. Thanksgiving eve, if there is such a thing, was always spent with my dad’s side of the family and Thanksgiving day at my mom’s side of the family. They say opposites attract and well … that was certainly the case with my parents.
We would have ham at the Johnsons and turkey the next day at the Barrett’s. We played cards and crammed into the Johnsons bungalow in the evening and dressed in our best with room to roam at the Barrett’s very large home the next day. Although the atmosphere was like night and day, the core value of family togetherness was the same at both houses. We told stories, shared jokes, gave thanks for things that had happed throughout the year and ate way too much.