By: Peggy Henderson
With Christmas starting earlier every year at the retail stores (Christmas trees at Costco before Halloween, anyone?), Thanksgiving seems to have become the overlooked holiday.
Not at my house. I refuse to even begin to think about Christmas until the Monday after Thanksgiving. Black Friday? No. I stay home. My teenage son looks forward to Thanksgiving more that he does Christmas. Why? The food, of course! He has been asking me for weeks if I was going to be cooking his favorites again this year. When I made an experimental apple pie a few weeks ago, he came home from school, inhaled a deep breath, and smiled. “Smells like Thanksgiving,” he said. “I can’t wait for Thanksgiving.”
Thanksgiving at our house isn’t a huge family gathering. We’re all pretty much spread out around the world, so it’s often just our immediate family. The last few years, it’s just been my husband, kids, and me. But I still put out the big spread and all the fixings – Turkey, sweet potato casserole with marshmallows (ok, too sweet for me, but my husband wouldn’t be happy without it), green beans, mashed potatoes, and home-made cranberry sauce. And of course, pumpkin and apple pie for desert.
What could me more American, right? And I’m not even an American citizen. Growing up in Germany, we didn’t have Thanksgiving. I don’t have the memories of cinnamon and pumpkin spice, and sitting at a large family table. Apple pie, any kind of pie, was foreign to me. (I’m still more of a fan of cake than pie, but on Thanksgiving I make an exception)
One of the foods that absolutely can’t be absent from our Thanksgiving table is home-made cranberry sauce. The boys eat it like candy. I make a double batch than what the recipe calls for, because otherwise there wouldn’t be any left at dinner time. Here’s the recipe that I’ve been making for years:
1/2 pound fresh cranberries
fresh zest from two oranges
fresh zest from a lemon
1/4 cup fresh orange juice (from the orange you just zested)
3 tbsp lemon juice (from the zested lemon)
1/2 cup sugar (I use a little less)
1 tspn vanilla extract (I like a bit more)
2 cups water
3 tbsp cornstarch
Put cranberries, orange/lemon zest, orange/lemon juice, sugar, vanilla, and 1 1/2 cups water in a saucepan and cook over medium heat.Bring to a boil and cook until cranberries pop (about 10 minutes). Dissolve the cornstarch in the other 1/2 cup water and add to the saucepan. Reduce heat, and stir constantly until mixture thickens. Cool completely, and serve. The smells in the kitchen from this is wonderful!
When a reader asked me a few months ago if I would write another holiday story in my Yellowstone Romance Series, I immediately thought of Thanksgiving. I had already done a Christmas story, so this Thanksgiving was my logical choice this time around. I wanted to write a heartwarming story of family, while showcasing Thanksgiving in a setting when and where the national holiday of Thanksgiving wasn’t even known yet.
I hope my story will remind readers of feelings of home and family that Thanksgiving evokes, even as I have some fun with one of their favorite characters from the Yellowstone books. I had to re-read a lot about the customs and daily lives of the Sheepeater Indians for this story, and I found a couple of gems in my research that I simply couldn't pass up to include in the book.
Here’s the blurb and a quick excerpt from my Thanksgiving short story, A Yellowstone Season of Giving
Yellowstone … Winter of 1850
As the days get short and the nights turn cold, and the season changes from fall to winter, Daniel and Aimee Osborne gather the family for their traditional Thanksgiving meal. It’s a time to reflect on the year’s good fortunes, and to reminisce about days gone by.
Join them around the hearth for the holiday, as memories are shared, and a story is retold of how one young hunter won favor with the woman of his heart during a past season of giving.
The moment Daniel opened the door to Sarah’s cabin, he and Aimee were greeted by loud voices. The warm home was filled with the rich aroma of roasted meat mixed with the succulent smells of various dishes Sarah was known to prepare – greens she’d gathered in the mountains, potatoes they brought from St. Louis during the summer, and wild grains. Daniel stepped aside to allow Aimee to enter ahead of him, and he removed her heavy coat, hanging it on a peg near the door.
Kara and Emily rushed up to them, wide smiles on their rosy cheeks.
“We’re just waiting for you, Grandma and Grandpa,” Kara said, her blonde hair braided down her back. Unlike her sisters, twelve-year-old Kara liked to dress in britches, which did nothing to disguise that she was blossoming into a beautiful young woman.
Daniel smiled. Chase would soon have his hands full, fending off suitors for his four daughters. Although he loved and doted on his girls, relief had been evident on Chase’s face when his only son, Kyle, had been born two years ago. He was no longer the only male in his house.
Kara reached for Daniel’s hand, and ushered him to the head of one of several tables that had been set up in the center of the main room. Elk Runner and Little Bird were already seated, along with Summer Rain. There was an empty seat next to her, obviously intended for Samuel.
Daniel glanced around the room, a satisfied smile on his face. His three oldest granddaughters mingled with Elk Runner’s grandchildren who were close in age. The younger ones, including Sarah’s youngest daughter, Hannah, sat at a smaller table.
Chase and Samuel brought in large trays piled high with meat, and took their seats. Chase held Kyle on his lap, and the toddler stuck his hand into the gravy dish. Chase managed to pull it away just before Kyle would have tipped it over. He stood, and handed his son to Sarah, who wiped his dripping hand with a cloth.
Chase grinned, and raised a cup. “Now that everyone’s here, we can eat,” he said loudly. Everyone cheered, and steaming bowls of meat and vegetables were passed from person to person, and from table to table.
Here’s wishing a happy Thanksgiving to all my friends at Sweetheart of the West!
Peggy L Henderson is a laboratory technologist by night, and best-selling western historical and time travel romance author of the Yellowstone Romance Series, Second Chances Time Travel Romance Series, and Teton Romance Trilogy. When she’s not writing about Yellowstone, the Tetons, or the old west, she’s out hiking the trails, spending time with her family and pets, or catching up on much-needed sleep. She is happily married to her high school sweetheart. Along with her husband and two sons, she makes her home in Southern California.