A Southern California Thanksgiving

By Susan Straight

From: L.A. Times

Turkey DayWho told the story first? The story of Native Americans bringing food to the Pilgrims, who were hungry, weary, wary neighbors in Plymouth — roasted fowl, gourds, corn and fish?

The traditional Thanksgiving turkeys of my Southern California childhood, awkwardly big birds on my mother’s Formica counter, frightened my siblings and me. We were meant to pull out the frozen neck and guts and heart, to watch as women put stuffing into the most undignified cavities, and hours later to watch as men wielded huge shivering electric knives to slice off the legs.

As an adult, I eventually abandoned the turkey, yams and cranberries. One Thanksgiving we had 12 people with very little in common but politeness and nowhere else to go, and we served crab legs and shrimp enchiladas. Another Thanksgiving I hosted a backyard potluck with friends of a daughter who wasn’t even home, along with very small children who had no interest in the food but wanted to play with my chickens — which were not on the menu. It remains one of my favorite Thanksgivings: Live birds. Not dead. Salad and enchiladas and ice cream.

The rigid menu doesn’t matter, and neither does the day — that arbitrary fourth Thursday in November. But the spirit does: the spirit of thanks, of course, as well as the somewhat less noted spirit of giving. This is Southern California. We harvest all year; the cornucopia is not fall-oriented. We should give all year too.

I have lived in my former orange-grove farmhouse since 1988, and the generosity of the neighbors native to my street began immediately and continues now. Mine is the kind of neighborhood where the old concept of the Welcome Wagon was unofficial but strictly observed in the past, and we brought brownies or cookies to new residents. That doesn’t happen quite so automatically anymore, but many of us are still old-fashioned. Read Rest of Article Here


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