As my family and I prepared the Thanksgiving menu, my mom reminisced about Thanksgivings of yore. Specifically, she recalled the holidays gone by when we gathered around the table to feast on the Thanksgiving squirrel.
While you take a moment to digest that information, I should let you know that by “we,” I mean the rest of the family, because I wasn’t born when these epicurean banquets were held.
Anyway, Mother said that back in the day, she and Daddy couldn’t afford a luxury like turkey. So, they ate chicken or squirrel at Thanksgiving. The chicken would have most likely been born, lived, and died on the property or in the vicinity. Or it could have come from a store, from where it would have been purchased whole. It would have later been cut up into various body parts because they couldn’t afford individual poultry parts, either.
The squirrel, on the other hand, would have come from the nearby hills. After its death, it would have spent some time on an oversized safety pin Daddy used to transport his game.
In addition to chicken or squirrel, Mother said the meal would have included potatoes, beans, and other vegetables and probably some sort of bread. They would have finished the meal by enjoying homemade pie for dessert.
Mother said she might have made dressing on the chicken, but she never served stuffing on a squirrel. Having never stuffed dressing inside a turkey or a squirrel, I can only speculate as to which task would have proven more problematic.
Since she seemed content with the chicken and squirrel, I asked why they switched to turkey for Thanksgiving. She attributed it to following a fad and noted, “We fell into a rut.”
“We didn’t grow up eating turkey,” she reiterated. “I never had a turkey until, golly, I don’t know when I first ate turkey.”
Reconsidering, she added, “Growing up, the only time I remember anybody eating a turkey was when my grandma made one. They killed it and hung it on the clothesline.”
I’ll let you figure out for yourself why they hung the deceased turkey on the clothesline.
This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.