A Catholic Thanksgiving, Oklahoma-Style

A Catholic Thanksgiving, Oklahoma-Style

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by Donna Sue Berry

If there’s one thing Americans do right, it is Thanksgiving Day dinner.  

But how do Catholics celebrate this national holiday? Here in Edmond, Oklahoma, we think starting the day off with Mass is always a good idea — where we thank God for the freedoms that we have enjoyed in these United States, and pray for those who have fought for our right to be free.

The Day

Rain or shine, the cooler weather we wished for all summer is now here, and the brightly colored fall leaves have all but fallen from the trees.

There would be a sort of sadness except for the fact that Thanksgiving Day is almost here!  Once October is past and football season is in full swing, there’s anticipation that the next big thing is just around the corner and plans begin for big family gatherings.

There's plenty to do, mostly involving lists and plans.  Lists of foods to be served. Lists of grocery items. Seating plans to accommodate everyone who may show up.

In 1621, the Pilgrims in Plymouth, Massachusetts colony celebrated a harvest meal, the famous first Thanksgiving here in the New World. In 1863, during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln made it official, proclaiming a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.

There's plenty to do, mostly involving lists and plans.  Lists of foods to be served. Lists of grocery items. Seating plans to accommodate everyone who may show up.

The Bird

WILD TURKEYS WERE PLENTIFUL FOR THE PURITANS IN MASSACHUSETTS – and although we have 'em here in Oklahoma, too, this Catholic cook prefers the store-bought kind. (IMPORTANT HINT: Let your bird thaw out completely before cooking!)

BAG YOUR BIRD to save the cleanup after many hours of slow-roasting.

The Thanksgiving Day ‘Turkey’ has been an integral part of the celebration  ever since those old Pilgrims first sliced into theirs. Now, although there are those hunter-gatherer types who bring home a bird after a trip into the woods, in my household it’s always a trip to the grocery store.  

Although there are those hunter-gatherer types who bring home a bird after a trip into the woods, in my household it’s always a trip to the grocery store.  

Crunch time

EVEN RANCHERS can be useful in the kitchen in the run-up to Thanksgiving Day dinner.  Here, Joel Doc shows off his ‘light' hand in making the perfect pie crust.

Everyone who enters my kitchen during this time gets put to work! Usually there are pecan pies, pumpkin pies, and cakes to be made, but there is nothing ever so good as a homemade sweet potato pie. (Editor's Note: Regina readers will be delighted to know that Joel Doc Berry's family recipe can be found below.)

Everyone who enters my kitchen on the day before Thanksgiving gets put to work!

The Table

AND THEN THERE'S THE HAM, without which no Catholic Oklahoma Thanksgiving would be complete.

 

SCRUMPTIOUS CORN BREAD is always made in an iron skillet.

Our Thanksgiving table would not be complete without mashed potatoes, cornbread dressing, ham, sweet buttered corn, green beans, cranberry sauce, various salads, and hot rolls with sweet cream butter.

The Blessing

When everything is prepared, family and friends seated around our table, we light our candles. After a Catholic grace in which we say ‘Thank you to Almighty God for our many blessings’ — we begin this most American of feasts!

 

HOME COOKING DOESN’T GET MORE AUTHENTIC

than Archie Bee’s Sweet Potato Pie

Donna Sue's Note: Archie Bee Fisher was the granddaughter of slaves. Her grandfather was set free by my husband Joel’s great grandpa –they were Methodists –and earned a living on his ranch in east Texas. Archie Bee was born and grew up there and eventually became a paid house maid. She helped to raise Joel, and he literally did call her his ‘Mammy.' This was a term of endearment and as such was treasured by Archie Bee.  She and Joel’s Grandma Carter taught Joel to cook, sew, and quilt. His Grandpa Carter taught him to run a ranch, buy and sell stock, and break horses.

My husband is a man of many talents. However, in trying to pull this recipe out of him, I almost had to call in the troops. He doesn’t cook by recipes!!! 

Filling

1lb to 1 ½ lbs. of sweet potatoes, depending on size of your pie pan

1 can of condensed milk

1 cup brown sugar

3 eggs

1 tsp. cinnamon

¼ tsp. Mexican vanilla

Bake sweet potatoes in oven at 350 degrees until done. Peel and then mash sweet potatoes with a potato masher in a large bowl.  Add condensed milk, vanilla and cinnamon and mix. Then add brown sugar and eggs, (one at a time mixing well).  Depending on the sweet potatoes, if the mixture is too thick, add heavy cream to thin it.  Pie filling should be a little runny. Sprinkle crushed up pecans on top of pie.  Pour into pie crust and bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes.

  

Pie Crust

½ cup lard

½ butter

2 cups flour

Pinch of salt

6 to 8 Tbsp. of ice water

In a large bowl, loosely cut lard, butter and salt into flour, and then put into freezer for half an hour. Next take the loose dough out of freezer and cut it well, adding the ice water to form a ball.

Divide the ball into halves and wrap in saran wrap.  Place in refrigerator for 4 hours. If making only one pie, you can freeze the second ball of dough until needed.  Roll out one ball of dough and put into pie pan. Add filling.

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