Wednesday, November 22, 2017

I've Never Had Green Bean Casserole

Thanksgiving at the Johnson household - circa 1969
I know it is a shocking statement to many: "I've never had green bean casserole" and really it doesn't really bother me.  It doesn't look all that appetizing and I certainly wouldn't want to give up any of our current Thanksgiving favorites.

I never remember a time where I didn't spend Thanksgiving with family.  I realize that I am very lucky and that it might not always be the case.  They are multi generational events with grandparents sharing the table along with aunts, uncles, siblings, cousins, nieces and nephews.  I can remember during my childhood listening to stories at the feet of my great grandmother's (Sophia Dollar Friddle & Nettie Moody Shearer) and Aunty Jones (my mother's godmother - Glenthora Stranahan Jones).  The three ladies were all of an age.  Mom Friddle (Sophia Dollar Friddle) was born in 1894, Granny (Nettie Moody Shearer) was born in 1890 and Aunty Jones was born in 1889.  They talked about riding the stagecoach to Waha, ID.  Granny lived down by the Snake River on the Joseph plains.  It was a two day trip to Winchester (this drive today takes about 35 minutes) and then another two days to where Granny lived.  Darn near a week to travel between home and the nearest larger town.  Their stories helped me gain a love for history and for family history.  They had memories that stretched back to the 19th century which seemed quite amazing to a little girl in the late 1970's.  The last time I really visited Granny was on Thanksgiving 1979.  Mom Friddle had died earlier that year and it was the first time that Grandma Cappy had her new home in Clarkston.  We spent Thanksgiving at her house that year.  Grandma Cappy was worried about her mother-in-law, Granny, getting too tired.  She insisted that Granny lie down for a nap.  I think Granny probably gave her equivalent of an eye roll...but she gave in and told me to come with her.  I think I was 12 years old.  I laid on the bed with Granny and held her hand.  She called me her "little Betty," because she said I reminded her of my mother when she was a little girl.  I wish I remembered more specific memories of that moment...but it is a sweet memory - laying on that bed and holding her hand while she told me stories and asked me about her life.

I think we only had a few holiday dinners at Grandma Cappy's but everything switched back to our house for Thanksgiving.  My mother (Betty Tannahill Johnson) never went easy on herself or us.  We were all put into action, peeling potatoes, cutting vegetables, doing dishes and setting the table.  Everything had to be just so...Mom didn't want to leave anything to chance.  My grandmother would bring the pies and after they arrived, my grandfather would adjourn to the living room for the easy chair, peanuts and football.  Grandma would sit at the chair at the bar and visit with my mother while she and the rest of us flew around to do her bidding or hide out so she couldn't see us.  That certainly didn't last long :) It wasn't too much longer, in fact the last years Grandma was alive when Mom took the pie duties back because it was too much for Grandma.  Mom did it on her own that first year, but by the next year, she involved me and the year after Grandma died, the pies became my job!  I was 18 years old!

The last year we had Thanksgiving with Mom was just about a month before she died.  We went over to my brother's house and had a lovely Thanksgiving.  Mom insisted that we do our own turkey the next day, so everyone came over to the house for a second Thanksgiving...Mom said that she wanted to the leftovers.  That was the first time I had ever attempted to do that large of a meal on my own.  Usually, I had had Mom's involvement and guidance - but her health simply wouldn't allow her to do too much.  It is funny, I think of that day with a has taken time to change that memory from sad to bittersweet!

We now gather at my brother's house.  My sister in law should have been my mother's daughter.  I see a lot of my Mom in her., especially on the days of these big holiday dinners.  I contribute the pies - the job I have done since I was 18 as well as family salads like Eggnog, Grandpa's Crappy Salad, and the candied sweet potatoes.  The Eggnog is a jelled salad that is a bit boozy and definitely not low fat.  My niece christened what I used to call Dad's salad, Grandpa's Crappy Salad.  It is lemon jello, whipped up with cream cheese and small diced celery.  It is not a family favorite...mostly my Dad - but he deserves a little spoiling.

It is funny, I have seen people list Green Bean Casserole as a staple at their Thanksgiving table...I have never had it.  I have had my share of the canned cranberry sauce...but I usually make it.  It tastes better.  So on this Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I will bake the pies like I have done for 30 years.  I will make the Eggnog that are special to my siblings and I, as well as the salad that my Dad loves.  I suppose you could say that those our Thanksgiving food traditions.  I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends.  I think there are some family spirits who are with us and enjoying the sharing of memories, food, and family togetherness!
Aunty Jones (Glenthora Stranahan Jones) and my sister.  Probably around 1982 or so.
My guess is that was at one of our first holiday dinners at our house.  Granny is sitting on the end.  Dad is holding me with Chris and Bub sitting between.  Grandpa Gwen is at the end.
Dad and Grandpa most likely watching football.  Usually a container with nuts in a container between them.  They were comfortable companions.
I have a lot of pictures of my great grandmother - but not so many of the way I remembered her.  This was taken in the early 70's with her children. 
Claude on the left, Mom Friddle, Jack and the Grandma Cappy on the end.

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