Reckon lots 'o folks is thinkin' 'bout Thanksgivin'. Got yore assignment? What's on the menu up yore way?
Y'all know we's a clan, multiple families piling in from over yonder an' right heah. Dawgs an' babies, ole' folks too. It's a Big Deal. An evr'body is only happy iffin' their must-have dish is on the sideboard.
This year, Thanksgivin' is hosted by young clan kin in a city a little up from us. Know it'll be wunnerful. Uncle ain't sure (Turkey Day bein' held in his own backyard, most years).
It's been many a year since the turkey an' dressin' warn't our obligation. Nope. This year, we gits the greens an' acre peas (iffin' ya doan know acre peas, when ya' git to heaven they'll be on the table.) An' so, dear readers, thas' how come Uncle went to growin' his very own collard greens for the feast.
Uncle holds them greens like a bouquet of roses, "Belle!! Ain't these the finest ya' ever did see?"
Well, yes, they is. I be bound to admit these is the most perfect collards ever--oughta be, too. This fella babies his greens daily--sometimes twice a day, croonin' love song to 'em while they grow.
Looky--two grocery bags full.
Next we go to trimmin' them, jes' right--cain't have no stems a 'tall.
Uncle say, "Oh Belle, now these heah greens is the color of a healthy gator in spring time."(every fella had his standards)
After the greens is trimmed, given a broad chiffonade cut, we blanch 'em...
then toss 'em in an ice water filled cooler (to stop the cookin'), then load 'em in freezer bags until the day a'fore Thanksgaivin' when Aunty will cook 'em wif' a smoked ham hock (or two).
I can hear some of y'all grumble, "That's a whole lotta work for one day's feastin'." Reckon it is. But the love is in the doin' as much as the eatin', ain't it? Why, it makes family lore: "Y'all remember back in two-thousand an' twelve when Uncle Aloysius grew his own greens? I can still taste 'em in mah mind's mouth. Them were the days, huh? Long a'fore digital taste-o-meters."
But thas' not all--Uncle has been in a death match wif' the squirrels over his pecans--them varmints vexed him one year too many, so he wrapped aluminum 'round the tree trunk, called in the tree trimmin' boys, cut back branches that wuz kissin' the oak tree, thus eliminatin' leafy bridges to his coveted pecans ( pee-cahns --ahh, that is, not pee-cans).
This epic battle looks to be a draw--squirrels git outa they nests earlier than Uncle, and the fat little theives scurry off wif' most of the fallen nuts a'fore Uncle saunters out to fetch the paper an' the nuts. Still, fer all his trouble, Uncle did git hisself sufficient nuts that we's gonna have us a pecan pie wif' our very own home grown nuts (of the tree variety).
Jes' when youse thinkin' thas' a lotta work fer a pie--an' youse right--now ya' gotta think, "Them folks is looney!" 'cause we's whippin' up a home made key lime pie too! (huh? I know, I know, key lime is not a Thanksgivin' -ish selection, but when ya' have a bumper crop of key limes, ya' make pie, thas' jes' all thar' is to it.)
We's gonna go to squeezin' an' freezin' --freeze the juice in ice cube trays so we'll have the juice year round.
Next door to the key lime is our two year old tangerine tree--it won't be throwin' ripe fruit for Thanksgivin', but come Christmas time, Aunty's table will have a crystal bowl of these heavenly jewels.
At t'other end of the back 40, up at the door of the dawg-pen garden, the poor kumquat is fightin' fer its life--the plumbago along the fence line is chokin' it---Aunty hacked it back durin' the summer, but the shrub is ferocious--an' mercy on me, I forgive it, for it covers a multitude of fences wif' its showy petticoats of true blue. I woan be the first to forgive a purty thang what makes up fer bad behavior by swishin' its skirts.
Still...by Christmastime the kumquat will sacrifice what remains of its former vigor to give us a decent spray or two of perfect globes to nestle in the fir an' pine and magnolia swags that dress the front parlor fireplace.
Iffin' yore family has the tradition of ambrosia fer Thanksgivin' an' Christmas, you'll know why tart -sweet citrus fruits are so considered "ambrosia"--it must truly seem the food of the gods in a long grey winter to peel back the sunny yellow jacket on a grapefruit an' inhale the citrus mist that bursts into the air: Clean and sweet with promise, something about citrus says "holidays" to me. Thas' a legacy of Pappy Cracker--whose own boyhood Christmases in Mississippi was sure to have an "apple, an orange an' a handful of nuts." An' ambrosia wif' shredded coconut.
The dawg-pen garden itself be forlorn. Aunty traipsed up an down the state most of September an' October, so it ain't no surprise that mah neglect gave the vines plenty of time to scamper over fence and post, pots and planters-- oh, the tenacious peppers glisten Christmas red in the early grey light, they survived all insult an' injury of abandonment.
See how the Bougainvillaea reaches for the oak limbs? An' iffin' y'all could zoom in enough you'd see the gold finches is heah fer their annual visit--tiny yellow breasted beauties flitting through the trees an' roses.
The pots of Marigolds keep the driveway cheerful--"a welcome we's glad youse heah," to visitors--or jes' Uncle comin' home at dusk-thirty.
Look over thar', across the lawn down toward the tangerine tree-- notice how the Sansanqua be peekin' out? It's the first of the Camellias to bloom. Aunty adores Camellias: They have the lovely habit of bloomin' in the shade, in the winter, just to remind ya' on the days that yore heart be overcast like the sky above, that thar's a heap more to be thankful fer than to worry over, iffin' ya' jes' take the time to notice the goodness in yore own backyard.
Well, now see how I done run on...an' on?
Uncle an' me wishes all y'all a delightful Thanksgivin'. Make time to call an ole friend or a family member y'ain't seen fer a spell...help in the kitchen, read a story to some chile nearby, an' play wif' the dawgs. Indulge in sweetness of heart as ya' fill yore tummies wif' the bounty of this great, blessed land. Y'all all truly does know in yore bones that blessin's start at home, in yore neighborhoods, at work, whar' ya' play an' be a friend to another soul. Let's us'uns make the community whar' we live the best we can make it. All over this dear country, if we does jes' that much--make our own communities a special place--thangs will recover. The original spirit of our Founders is under our noses if we but LIVE it.
An' iffin' any of y'all be passin' down this way, why ya' know we'll leave the light on fer ya'.