By Jackie King
Thanksgiving is a favorite holiday of mine, and being thankful is no problem. Years ago, without even knowing all of the perks that would be included, I gave birth to a delightful baby girl who would grow up loving to cook! Her name is Jennifer King Sohl, wife of a Tulsa Firefighter and mother of redheaded twins, a boy and a girl. She not only cooks Thanksgiving dinner for me, but for our entire family and a few lucky friends.
Jennifer and I wrote a book together titled DEVOTED TO COOKING that featured true family stories. One that was told to me by June Butts, seems perfect for Thanksgiving Day.
|L to R Jackie King, Jennifer Sohl and Guest|
MEMORIES OF PAPA PEELING PECANS FOR THE GRANDKIDS
“We called our grandfather, Papa,” June Butts, now a grandmother herself, said. “Back in those days different generations of the family lived in the same house, and it was wonderful to grow up with an older person telling you stories and teaching you about the generations past.”
The comely woman smiled and the faraway look in her blue eyes told me she had transported herself back to South Texas and a simpler life, sometime in the 1950’s.
“We had a pecan tree and Papa peeled pecans for the kids. We’d sit in a circle at his feet, listen to his tales, and eat the perfectly shelled and halved nuts as he passed them around.”
“Peeled pecans?” I asked, trying to imagine how such a feat might be possible. “How could he do that?”
It was Thanksgiving Day and I had been invited to join June’s family for a traditional dinner of turkey, dressing and all of the trimmings. We were sitting around the table drinking coffee and savoring that mellow sated satisfaction that fills a group of friends during happy times.
“With his pocket knife,” June said.
“His pocket knife?” I asked. “You’re kidding.”
“I’m not!” June’s robust laugh was typical of a woman who was Texas born and bred. “He peeled those pecans just the same way you’d peel an orange. He’d slice off the top and the bottom, cut slits around the nuts and then just peel off the hulls. Those pecans came out in perfect halves and he’d hand them to us kids.”
“That must have been one sharp knife,” I said, wondering how he kept from cutting off his fingers.
“That it was,” June said. “And he could peel those nuts really fast. Sometimes he’d peel enough for Mama to make us some pies.” She sighed with remembered pleasure. “Mmm—mmm—mmm, those pies were good! We never had much money, but we had happy times, anyway. God was always good to my family.”
“I’ll bet you learned to cook from your own mother,” I said.
“Sure did. Mama and Daddy had eleven kids, and I was helping stir up dinner as soon as I could hold a spoon and stand on a stool to reach the table.”
It happened that we were drinking Texas Pecan flavored coffee. I took a sip of the hot brew and savored the rich flavor. Pecans, family and holidays equal pure pleasure, I thought. Everyone sitting at the table owned their own cell phones and most had computers, but some things never change. The memory of “peeled pecans,” outranked any of the electronic pleasures available to any of the diners.
Only the delicious food that we shared stayed the same.