I walk through the aisle of my favorite market and it hits me. Sunflowers, apples, squash and the smell of cinnamon piped throughout the store. I close my eyes for one minute and I can feel my heart swell with the warm thoughts of Thanksgiving. This must be what heaven smells like, I think to myself. Until I get hit in the leg with a furry object. I didn’t even notice the beautiful little girl that dropped her stuffed bear at my feet. Her daddy excuses her new game that she has discovered to make strangers become fast friends. I am brought back to reality and shuffle through my purse for my shopping list.
The thoughts of families fill my head the rest of the afternoon and evening. Strangers can become friends, confidants and even family. My family has always been blessed with wonderful neighbors. One couple, for instance, has been “adopted” by our children as their chosen grandparents. We have been living in the same house for 25+ years and they have truly helped raise my family. They have put up with late night chatty campfires, broken windows, even minor explosions, when a science experiment went awry. They have taught our children everything from tennis to work ethics and a love of nature. Bill and DA have shared almost every Thanksgiving with us for 25 years. This year, however, they will be celebrating the holiday with their three wonderful sons and their families in California.
Every year after our annual feast, Bill and DA would coach us out of our food coma into the chilly fall afternoon to work off some of our dinner. We reminisce about our hikes up Grandads Bluff or through the river marsh. We even compare the years we went sledding instead because of a beautiful fall snowfall or biked under a warm November sunset. One thing that does always remain the same, however, is our Thanksgiving meal. DA always makes three different pies to satisfy everyone. Along with the pies, she makes her cranberry relish and her amazing warm dinner rolls. Just to add to the festivities, Bill and DA bring libations for all to enjoy. They bring their favorite wine and, in days past, sparkling cider for our children. Now they bring extra wine and less cider. Some years, DA would also bring this extremely simple Native American corn chowder. I guess, in reality, Bill and DA supplied most of our feast! We even had to store our turkey on their porch one year because it was too large to fit in our refrigerators, and bake it in their oven because it didn’t fit in ours. It was a gift from Cardinal Burke that he called a “thanksgiving emu” because of its mere size.
The family will once again move all of the furniture out of the living room and replace it with our dining room table, kitchen table and any available folding tables. Our daughter Callie will cover them with our golden table clothes and make place cards for everyone. Over the years, we have added extra chairs for our children’s friends and our ever-growing family. We always keep an extra chair and place card for an unexpected guest. This year, though, we will have a little more room at our table. Not only will Bill and DA not be joining us, but our oldest son Robby, his wife Nicole and our grandson William will not be coming. Our son Robby is in the Navy assigned to nuclear submarines and is getting ready for his next big deployment. Even though they will not be with us physically, they will be with us in prayer and Thanksgiving blessings. Our table has been blessed with people from all walks of life, mainly thanks to our children’s open invitation. We may not all celebrate the one true Mass, but we join in prayer and give thanks for our friends, family, country and the blessing of having each person in our lives. My Thanksgiving wish for all of you is that you do the same; find gratitude in all things and give thanks together, just as Jesus invited all to His table.
By Cathy Cooper,
Coordinator of Dietary and services for the Holy Cross Diocesan Center
Photography by Monica Organ
Dried corn chowder
1 cup dried corn (see directions below*)
2 cups cold water
Soak corn in water at least 2 hours or overnight and save the water to cook corn
Cover and cook on low for 1 hour
Add ¾ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon honey
½ cup half and half
1 cup vegetable or chicken stock
Before serving, lightly puree— leaving some texture
Garnish with fresh sage
*To dry corn *Plunge shucked and desilked corn into hot water for 5 minutes and then drop into an ice bath. Cut corn off cobs and dry in the oven for about 2 hours at 275, stirring every 20 minutes until golden and dry.
This is the most basic base. Some of my favorite liberties that I take with this chowder is to puree one small jar of roasted red peppers, 1 tablespoon of Old Bay seasoning, 2 tablespoons of dry Sherry and 8 ounces of fresh crab, lobster or shrimp. You can also add 2 roasted poblano peppers finely diced.