As a kid, I always greeted the arrival of Thanksgiving with boundless anticipation. Years later, those fervent recollections have long but faded and more than ever I relish in these humble traditions. Far beyond an elaborate meal, each year the table is set with nostalgic memories and gratitude for the good in life – a feeling that remains long after the last roll is plucked from the basket.
I’m routinely transported back to my Grandmother’s farm kitchen – a place I’ve surely reminisced about in these pages before. Here, there wasn’t a lot of money or fancy tools, but honest to goodness home cooked love. In preparation for the annual meal, my Gma’s stove was warm long before the rising sun. I remember her sibilant whistle during prep-work, this sort of high-pitched hiss she would match to whatever was crackling from her vintage cassette player. Using her wood burning cook stove, she methodically prepared dishes for our Thanksgiving celebration. Seating provisions were slowly built throughout the morning and dinner arrangements were an amalgam of tables; a chunky drop leaf, soft-top card, and folding table all made up the menagerie. It was by no means extravagant, but nonetheless and more so, a well-remembered meal prepared by those who loved me most.
In the days following Thanksgiving I would stay at my grandparents, habitually piling into their boxy Ford LTD to patronize mom-and-pop stores that peppered Northcentral Pennsylvania. The Ben Franklin and Davis Variety stores – my favorites – served as a near endless discovery of seasonal goodies, crafts, housewares, sundries, and jewelry. I was entrenched with affection for visiting Main Street shops and perhaps it’s that fondness that led us to Wilbraham this month. Owned by Sherry Taylor Coulis, Oh So Pretties Handcrafted Gifts serves as a nod to local, independent retail. Nestled in the rustic plaza of the Wilbraham Shops, everything beyond this door is handcrafted and made from regional artists. This November, Sherry is celebrating five years of business and we stopped in to celebrate this authentic gift shopping experience. In Stafford, Sonia Taylor-Smith is making a positive impact through a self-started Community Family Pantry and we met her on Main Street to discover how she’s assisting local families in need. In Ellington, we tasted sweet success at Gerry’s Donuts, a long-lived (and loved) shop cranking out some of the most amazing homemade confections. We also tracked down some unique “Go Local Picks” for the upcoming holidays, sampled tasty appetizers and got to know one special girl and her chicken.
I was lucky enough to have enjoyed my Grandmother’s company into my 20s. Even though she has passed on, her spirit – among others – are very much a part of my proverbial table. Using a selection of her vintage kitchen utensils and pumpkin roll recipe, I will continue the ritual again this Thanksgiving, a legacy I hope to celebrate for years to come. No matter how modest, the festive season serves as a souvenir for tangible memories and I hope the weeks to come serve as a memento of your own interconnectedness. Happy Thanksgiving!
Amber Wakley is the Editor of Go Local Magazine and Thanksgiving is her favorite meal to cook for others. Even more than the food, she looks forward to a full table of family and friends.