Our Thanksgiving in the Country

November 24, 1972 on 7:00 pm | In Bryants, Holidays | Comments Off on Our Thanksgiving in the Country

Our second Thanksgiving was in Montross with Steve’s family. It was the typical Bryant Clan holiday gathering. Everyone shows up at my mother-in-law’s house around 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon. They just straggle in according what else they had going on that day, bring food, and will be spending several hours together.

Most of the “menfolks” were up before dawn and headed out to the woods for the first day of deer hunting. The women got kids dressed and fed breakfast, and then started cooking whatever food they were bringing to the family feast. Everyone has their signature dish that they bring. As a new member of the family, I’m a little on the fringe of being included in this. I decided to bake homemade yeast rolls – as far as I know, no one else in the family does baking other than cakes and pies. Helen has been roasting turkeys and country ham for days ahead of time, to free up the oven for the rest of the goodies that need to be baked today.

People arriving are split by gender and age. The kids are dispatched to the back yard or the barn, the men sit around the TV in the living room, and the women are in the kitchen or setting up the table in the dining room with the china and silver from the dining room china cabinet. The table only seats 10, so the meal is divided into 3 or 4 seatings. As soon as the majority of people have arrived and the food is done, the 10 oldest men are invited to sit at the table and are served. They are starved by now, having been up so early and out hunting. The turkey is not carved at the table – Helen does that herself in the kitchen. The women bring bowls of food to the table and plop servings down on each of the plates, keep the tea glasses filled and bring seconds to anyone who asks for them.As soon as a plate is empty, it is whisked away and washed by hand for the next round.

When the first seating of men are finished, the rest of the men and the older kids are seated and served. Again, the women serve the diners and as the kitchen starts getting cleaned up and the serving bowls thin out, the younger children are put in the kitchen around the kitchen table and fed. Again, as soon as the plates are empty, they are washed and dried and made ready for the next seating.

Finally, the women eat. They put all the rest of the food in the middle of the table and help themselves to what they want. Somehow they never run out of the food and there are actually leftovers to put up and send home with people. After the women have eaten, the table is completely cleared and re-set for dessert. A big pot of coffee is brewed, Harvey Bryant drinks endless coffee and it is a must at every meal. Along with the coffee and sweet tea, there is an assortment of baked goods from which to choose. They always have sweet potato pies rather than pumpkin pie, because they grow their own sweet potatoes. There are also pecan pies and since they needed coconut for the sweet potato pie, Helen also used the coconut to make her famous and most divine, melt in your mouth, white layer cake with coconut frosting.

No one leaves empty handed. Leftovers are wrapped in tin foil or saran wrap and there is plenty of turkey and ham for everyone to have sandwiches the rest of the weekend.

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