Rochelle Frank, born in Long Beach California, was feature editor of her college newspaper. She married, had two sons, and continued to write while teaching in elementary schools, creating original teaching materials for her own classes, and gathering ideas for future children’s books.
Upon retirement she moved to the western Sierra foothills and wrote feature articles for local publications. Rochelle now often volunteers to lead tourists astray by giving tours at at the local gold rush history museum in Mariposa, California. She has always loved to read cookbooks, and still–occasionally — cooks.
Here’s what she has to say about American Thanksgiving:
What is American Thanksgiving?:
The reason that Thanksgiving is such an important Holiday in the U.S. is that the tradition goes back to the English and other Euorpean dissidents who came to the ‘new world’ to practice their religion freely. The fact that they survived and had a hopeful harvest was reason enough to give thanks to God. Americans, even those who do not consider themselves particularly religious, look back on the event as part of their early patriotic heritage. Freedom of religion– or freedom to be free of religion, freedom to pursue their own prosperity, freedom to assemble, to gather as a family , and freedom to share their fortune with others, seems to be a big part of the American experience.
Thanksgiving, to Americans is about family. It is also about patriotism based on the idea that a king could not tell people what to believe. It is important in the U.S. because we are thankful for our national ideals and individual freedoms. In that way it is considered a special patriotic holiday. Often it is about religion and the recognition that all of our blessings– national, personal and material– are God-given.
Then, when you add football– how much more American can you get?
What do you like about Thanksgiving?
The continuity: The gathering of the people I have known all, or most, or even just part of my life. The newer ones are special to the ones I have known longer, the young ones are the future extensions of the family. As I grew up there were gatherings of all the extended family, aunts, uncles, cousins… and sometimes a few people w had never seen before. it wasn’t unusual to have 20, 30.. even more. Often the kids had a special table to themselves, away from the others where we ere free to put black olives on all of our fingers and be free from the usual civilized constraints of grown-up etiquite.
The sharing: People bring a special dish to share. There is a long lesiurely meal around a very long table during which we continually pass dishes, taste, compliment each other on the food and share stories of past thanksgivings. We remember the people who are no longer here and are thankful for the memories of holidays past and the things the last generation taught us.
What is your most memorable dish?
Some of the memorable dishes are not always the best. When I was a young bride my aunt, who was a fabulous cook, asked me to bring ‘a vegetable’ to thanksgivng. In our family, usually everyone contributed something, and I’m sure she thought she was not giving me a big challenge. I brought cooked carrots which were not particularly memorable. That would not have been bad, BUT my aunt also had a bowl of cooked carrots which had been simmered in chicken broth, glazed with butter and sprinkled with fresh minced parsley. Needless to say, my carrots paled in comparison.
I also remember the Thanksgiving that my sister burned her peanut-butter soup that was served in mugs as a walk-around accompaniment to appetizers It was AWFUL!!!– my kids will never forget it.
What makes your Thanksgiving special?
Though there are a lot of holiday foods and activities that seem ‘traditional’ , I think there is a lot of variation. Some of the variation is regional, but it also varies from famliy to family. Part of the reason for this is that the U.S. and Canada are nations of immmigrants. My husband and his brother expect to enjoy some of the foods that reflect their German heritage, so my sister-in-law and I do our best to duplicate some of their mother’s recipes.. sauerkaraut, red cabbage, potato salad, plum cake, and others… find their way to our tables at Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Here is one of those German recipes that is also truly American:
“I have done this a number of times. It can be made a couple of days ahead, but only keeps about 5 days and doesn’t freeze well. This is not a problem. It is yummy and dissappears quickly.”
Turkey Liver Pate– appetizer.
- 1/2 lb butter
- 3/4 c sliced scallions
- 1 med clove minced garlic
- 1 lb turkey and/or chicken livers
- 4 T. cognac or brandy
- pinch of mace, cloves, nutmeg and 2 pinches of thyme.
- 1 1/2 t. of dry mustard
- 4-5 pinches of ground pepper
- salt– depending on saltiness of butter.
Heat half of the butter in a skillet, adding the garlic and scallions. Saute lightly until tender. Add a little more butter to the skillet and saute livers untill just firm to touch. When you take them out of the skillet they should be firm on the outside, but still pink in the center. Put aside in a small bowl. Add cognac to skillet and scrape up any browned bits. when liquid is warm ignite the cognac. (Keep a skillet lid handy in cas ethe flame gets too scary.) When the flame dies , pour the liquid over the livers.
Chop about 1/3 of the livers coarsely,; set aside. Put the rest of the livers in a blender jar or food processor with the remaining butter and spices to blend smootly. Combine the chopped and blended livers with scallions. Mix well and check to se if salt is needed. Pour into a small deep dish or mould. Chill till firm.
Slice or use a knife to spread on crackers, bread, etc.
This is easier than it sounds—- and people are always impressed that you actually MADE it instead of buying a liverwurst. Also it gives people something to do, (Spreading it on crackers) while you are doing your finishing touches on dinner prep.
Another holiday recipe my German husband expects is “Silze” — kind of a jellied meat ‘head cheese’ made from pig’s feet. I will not offer this recipe, but the directions are some of my favorite because it starts with “Wash your feet thouroughly with cold salt water….”