Thanksgiving is a celebration that was for many years far removed from my Novembers. Not recognized as a holiday in Japan, the fourth Thursday of the eleventh month is there just another day of the week. Naturally, for all the years before moving to Japan, big holiday feasts in late November were a regular part of my year, and like most Americans, I always looked forward to them. This first Thanksgiving since returning from Japan has been a time with the old friends that have been mentioned in these pages over the past week. Those friends have done a great job of reacquainting me with the food and customs of this old Pilgrim holiday.
Thanksgiving happens twice in one week around here. Thursday was day number one in Walker, about twenty miles east, where we went to partake of a grand turkey-spread with all the fixings, and also to visit with old friends. We waddled home from there after several pounds of turkey, sweet potato casserole, stuffing, green bean casserole, rice and gravy, salad, and a whole array of pies. Friday was a rest day, but it all started over again on Saturday with another and almost as big Thanksgiving dinner for the more immediate family. Once more the tables and counters were loaded with all the traditional favorites, but this time with a special cherry pie that to my tastes was a big cut above the average. The pie had a tart flavor, far cry from the dominant sweetness of most pies, and since I was around the house watching my friend Dee make all the pies, I got a few shots of the process, and later begged for the recipe. I know nothing about baking pies and have not tried making this one, but I have eaten the pie and can vouch for its more than merely cherry flavor. Dee does a good job with it.
2 cans of pitted tart cherries
2 Pillsbury ready-made pie crusts (long red carton)
⅔ cup of sugar
3 tablespoons of cornstarch
½ teaspoon of almond extract (optional)
About 2 tablespoons of butter
MAKING THE PIE:
Drain the cherries, but reserve the juice from one can. Put the cherries and juice in a saucepan, stir in the cornstarch and sugar and cook over medium heat—stirring continuously—until thick and clear. Pour the cherries into a bowl and stir well, adding the almond extract if you choose to. Flour your working surface and roll out one of the pie crusts, using a rolling pin on it just a little. Place it in a pie dish with the edges draped over the sides; trim where necessary. Next, pour the cherry mixture into the pie dish and spread it evenly; dot the cherries with butter. Roll out the second pie crust and cut it into strips a little under an inch wide. Lay the strips across the cherries weaving them into a lattice. Crimp the edges with a fork and bake at 350° for 30-40 minutes, or until you have a golden brown crust and bubbling red cherries.
And there’s a delicious cherry pie, Billy boy, Billy boy.
Raymond's lagniappe . . .
Those Thanksgiving days started early. And always the talk: Uncle Roy and his sugah die-bee-tees, cousin Sue marrying a Thibodeaux boy from Louisiana, Jimmy Gaines (a third cousin) having a spell with his heart and only forty-two. With the women along the sides fanning away any flies, the homemade wooden tables were stretched out end to end and bore the marks of countless gatherings, when hot dishes slipped off crocheted table pads and darkened the varnished surface, dishes of black-eyed peas and butterbeans and field peas and okra and platters of boiled crabs and fried chicken and bream and bass and rabbit and squirrel and boiled crayfish, bowls of strawberries and cream churned from cows milked before dawn, lemon and egg and coconut and apple and cherry pies. Later there were buckets of homemade ice-cream and fireworks at dusk, the lighted punks held by all the older children like fireflies in the evening air. --- excerpt from Swimming Underwater