My grandparents never had much money, but they would always throw the biggest Thanksgiving dinner they could manage, and invite everyone they cared about. There were often more than 40 people at the table in the house in the Avenues.
The best job at Thanksgiving was setting the places at the long table that stretched from the dining room to the middle of the living room -- it was a table top on a couple of saw horses, but with Lida's linens and the good china, it looked lovely. If you were well-behaved and careful, you were allowed to help lay out the silverware. There were two long wooden benches that ran the length of the room on either side of the table. Younger folks usually sat on the benches. Read on to find out why.
Grandpa was in charge of picking the bread for the stuffing a day in advance. If you were very good and careful, you could help with that too.
This was a big group: the Postons, the Zaros, the Lynches, the Karas, the Weilands, the Crosbys, plus all the kids, plus sometimes a priest or two, plus sometimes the Terheydens; plus sometimes the Jensen brothers (Al and Doc); and sometimes Ray Bishop; and sometimes Auntie Joy and Uncle Blackie Puglesa, Sheriff of Lake County.
There were very, very complicated seating arrangements (descriptions based on reminiscences from years past):
1. Uncle Ed and Aunt Loretto had to be in chairs with backs--otherwise if they were sitting on a bench, when they had too many drinks they would lean back, and fall off the bench.
2. Auntie Eleanor could not sit next to Uncle Bob Weiland because of his roving hands and other things.
3. Auntie Helen could not sit next to Uncle Bob Weiland because of his roving hands and other things.
4. Auntie Dodie could not sit next to Uncle Bob Weiland because of his roving hands, etc., etc.
5. Uncle Freddie could not sit next to Auntie Louetta because of amorous undertakings that developed with wine (as opposed to roving hands, etc., etc.).
6. There was someone Auntie Joy could not sit next to, but nobody can remember now who that was.
7. Uncle Bert had to be in a place where he had room to do the carving. He was always in charge of carving the turkey.
8. Grandma did not like the bottles of red wine to be too near the far end of the table where grandpa would sit.
9. Grandma and Auntie Dorothy and Auntie Helen had to be near the end of the table near the kitchen because they needed to get into and out of the kitchen. Auntie Louetta usually did not join the ladies in the kitchen -- sometimes she had had too much wine by then. Grandma always sat on the piano bench at the end of the table closest to the kitchen. Good girls got to sit next to her.
10. The stuffing and the mashed potatoes had to start at the opposite end of the table from Uncle Bob Weiland (he of the roving hands) because otherwise he would eat them all and not pass them around and they would be gone before the turkey came out.
11. When the priests came, they would have the places of honor, right alongside grandpa. If this were the case, the wine was really kept far away from that end of the table.
12. In those days, instead of bringing a bottle of wine for the hosts, guests usually brought along a bottle of bourbon.
12. The kids were sort of spread out and squeezed in where there was room, and sometimes if the big table was too crowded at the breakfast room table.
There was an interesting article in the New York Times yesterday about bosses giving away turkeys to their employees. Check it out.
Papa likes to tell us the story of the year that his father got a turkey from his boss for the holidays--only it was alive!! He had to bring it home in a sack, and they left it in the hallway still in the sack and the children were too afraid to go into the hallway with the turkey in the sack. They were discussing what to do with it, when one of the neighbors came over and said "Give me the turkey. I know how to take care of it." She had grown up on a farm and knew how to "take care" of turkeys and chickens, and other things too. So she "took care" of it and cleaned it and then they made a big turkey dinner for everyone!
. It is almost Christmas. How do I know? Because the mailman just brought us the box from Spain! Every year, our abuelos, Rafael and Concha, (abuelos are grandparents in Spanish) send us a big box of Christmas goodies from Spain. There is always an assortment of turrón, mantecados, and figuritas de mazapán, which Rafa likes best. This year there is also a box of cortadillos de cidra for Papá.
The tradition still exists in Seville of handmade sweets, and there are cloistered convents in the city that sell these handmade sweets as part of their livelihood. The nuns live in seclusion and prayer, and part of each day is spent in handiwork, such as sewing and embroidery, or book-binding, or making sweets or jams. These products are then sold to the neighbors, who come to the convent door to place orders through a screen. The attendant places a box of sweets at the door and the neighbor leaves the money there and carries off the box of goodies.
This year our big box of goodies also held clothes for the boys, and new slippers, and some presents, which we haven't opened yet!
"Catching a movie along with good food and fun friends often beats a wild night out. Why not enjoy a brisk ride in a horse carriage or a fine wine from a good year. You love life and don't feel the need to live it in fast forward. You are really hot because you're already so cool with your life. "
Our siblings understand us like no one else does. (Unless, of course, they don't.)
Siblings share the formative years with us. And they share the longevity of memories with us.
They remember the same jokes, and they have different perspectives on the suffering. (Except, sometimes, they don't.)
Who else remembers why you had surgery 22 years ago? Who else remembers what you looked like at 13 even though you think you've destroyed all the photos? Who else covers for you at parties when you are laughing so hard that everyone in the room is looking at you? Who else knows how to make grandma's cheesy-mayonnaise toast hors-d'oeuvres? Who else picks you up at work when your water breaks and takes you to the hospital? Who else tells you lies so that you don't worry about the truth?
My grandmother and her sister were orphaned as children, and developed such a strong bond because of it that their children were as close as brothers and sisters for many years.
My mother and her brother have remained close despite the geographic distance between them for 40+ years. No one laughs at their jokes as much as they laugh at each other.
My father and his brothers just lost their mother, and although they are old-time cowboys who don't show emotion, their bond is strengthened in knowing that their collective memories keep her present with us.
My sister and brother and I, well, I've said much of it already.
Rafa and Louis hugged and hugged and hugged each other after two weeks apart.
The big boys are home! When Louis woke up at 6 this morning and saw Papa, he shouted PAPA, PAPA, PAPA! and jumped up and down on the bed.
They brought home a suitcase full of lentils and cookies.
We celebrated with hot potato and apple soup, of course, so they could eat something warm after 22 hours of traveling. It went like this:
Peel and roughly chop one onion, one apple, and four large potatoes, and bring to a boil in 4 cups of chicken stock. Leave on low heat for at least 45 minutes until potatoes are falling apart. Puree until smooth. Stir in one teaspoon of curry and 1/2 cup of cream and serve to hungry and tired boys.
Today we're making carrot, mushroom, and barley soup for lunch, Luisito and I. This is how we did it:
Saute 2 chopped shallots in 1 tbsp of olive oil and 1 tbsp of butter with a pinch of lemon zest and a pinch of thyme. Add 8-10 medium-sized chopped carrots, and 1 cup of sliced mushrooms and saute until the liquid is released.
Add 1/2 cup of barley, rinsed, and stir to coat in the oil and liquid. Add a splash of wine for flavor, and then 4 cups of homemade chicken stock.
Simmer for one hour before lunch. Maybe blend it into a puree, maybe not.
A zaguán is the entryway into a house. In typical Andalusian houses, the zaguán is a smallish, dark passage inside the doorway that leads in turn to the larger, light-filled interior patio. In Seville, in the heat of summer, zaguán doors are left open so that passersby can take refuge from the sun and heat for a moment before continuing on their way.
We live in the Sunset district of San Francisco, where the fog wins out over the sun most days, and the search for refuge from the heat is a distant memory. Even so, we would like to share our home with you and our stories of growing up in Seville and growing up in San Francisco.