Reclaiming Thanksgiving

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Pumpkin-Orange Flan

Thanksgiving has long been my favorite holiday, a time of year I begin to anticipate once Halloween is over – phew – with the pumpkins and Indian corn still decorating the front porch.

Six years ago, however, I lost my beloved mother to cancer over the long holiday weekend. There was no turkey that year, and Larry and I spent our days at the intensive care center of San Diego Hospice. Since then, I have struggled to battle against intense feelings of sadness and loss during Thanksgiving.

I am determined this year to “reclaim” Thanksgiving and enjoy the richness of the holiday. I want to mark it in new and special ways that will remind me of all the gifts and goodness I have in my life today.

We will be eating a bit more lightly, celebrating our recent weight loss. I simply don’t need to make a pumpkin cheesecake – and I can give the turkey enchiladas a miss as well. Believe me, it will still be a feast and we will be groaning as we push back from the table.

This year, our dear friend Jan will be celebrating with us. Jan knew my parents well, and shared many holidays that included Larry’s mother and other family members. These small gatherings have become a pattern during the holidays and I have come to accept and even treasure the ease and intimacy of a smaller table. I will still set the table with my mother’s and grandmother’s lovely china and crystal, but we are likely to wear jeans. Jan has a particularly outrageous turkey t-shirt she wears to celebrate the day…We will eat when we are hungry and maybe squeeze in a beach walk over in Coronado.

But back to the menu, I may give pie-baking up this year. I’m not a huge fan of pies and Jan will make a magnificent one that Larry will drool over. (What is it about Midwesterners and pie?) I do like pumpkin custard, though, and might throw together a Pumpkin-Orange Flan.

Many years ago, I took over the gravy-making, simplifying the recipe first my grandmother and then my mother prepared every Thanksgiving. I whip up a cognac-flavored gravy in about 15 minutes that is quite decent. A couple years ago, I broke with family tradition and made a cornbread pan dressing. The women in my family always prepared a turkey stuffed with dressing, and used Pepperidge Farm packaged mix. I make cornbread and love the crunchy-topped stuffing. I think my turkey roasts more evenly – and more quickly – stuffed only with some onion, garlic, fresh herbs and our Meyer lemons.

Finally, I am planning to say a few words when we are seated at the table, expressing my love for so many people who gave me so much in my life. Then, I will turn to Jan and to Larry and tell them how thankful I am to be with them, celebrating my favorite day of the year.

Happy Thanksgiving –


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39 Responses to Reclaiming Thanksgiving

  1. Dorothy at Shockingly Delicious November 15, 2013 at 9:06 am #


    • Liz November 15, 2013 at 9:14 am #

      Thanks, Dorothy – enjoy the holiday with your lovely family.

  2. Stephanie, The Recipe Renovator November 15, 2013 at 9:12 am #

    Enjoy the day, Liz!

    • Liz November 15, 2013 at 9:15 am #

      Ditto, my friend – Happy Thanksgiving.

  3. Laura @ Family Spice November 15, 2013 at 9:13 am #

    I love this post, Liz! And the title is perfect. You must reclaim Thanksgiving. We are all thankful for the loved ones in our lives and for those who are no longer with us. xxooxx

    • Liz November 15, 2013 at 9:16 am #

      Thanks, Laura, and for encouraging to write about what I feel in my heart. I trashed a perfectly good post in favor of this one and have no regrets.

  4. Mimi November 15, 2013 at 9:37 am #

    As our lives move forward and change, we all have to learn to take joy in our present while remembering the joyful times of the past. Happy Thanksgiving, Liz. Thanks for setting an example to light the way for us all.

    • Liz November 15, 2013 at 9:44 am #

      I couldn’t agree more, Mimi, the Thanksgiving grieving stayed with me way too long.

  5. Jayne November 15, 2013 at 10:43 am #

    Lovely post Liz! I hope you have a great meal, it sounds like it will be perfect! Happy Thanksgiving xx

    • Liz November 15, 2013 at 11:07 am #

      Thanks, Jayne – are you cooking an English turkey this year?

    • Jayne November 15, 2013 at 10:04 pm #

      I’m actually not cooking for Thanksgiving this year, we are eating out at a pub that’s celebrating, (with turkey). The pub is called the Mayflower and it’s where the pilgrims set off on their journey to America!

  6. Elizabeth November 15, 2013 at 11:31 am #

    Okay, I cried reading this. Lovely post.

    • Liz November 15, 2013 at 12:57 pm #

      Happy Thanksgiving to you and Gabe, my friend –

  7. SallyBR November 15, 2013 at 1:34 pm #

    Wonderful post!

    I am glad you are reclaiming Thanksgiving, enjoy the good times and remember all the good times past too.

    I am all for a light-er celebration, so your pumpkin orange flan is more than welcome ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Liz November 15, 2013 at 1:43 pm #

      It is comments like yours that make me feel fairly certain I can, indeed, reclaim the holiday. Thanks –

  8. LIz November 15, 2013 at 5:57 pm #

    Oh, I’m so sorry for your loss…I know this will be a tough holiday for my MIL as we lost my FIL this year. I do love Thanksgiving, though, and you will be celebrating in the true spirit of the day!

    • Liz November 16, 2013 at 7:03 am #

      Yes, some years are more difficult than others – so sorry for your family’s loss.

  9. heidi November 15, 2013 at 7:30 pm #

    we all have much to be thankful for and though there are always sad times as well, i think we have to do our best to move forward, even though it’s hard. at thanksgiving, i always feel the loss of my best friend and for several years found it hard to enjoy the day. i have realized that this is the way life goes and i want to celebrate my friend, the one whose favorite holiday was thanksgiving and how funny that he would end up passing that same time. i miss how much fun we always had that day, irreverant, siily,way too much food[ which was always eaten by the inevitable guests we had] dancing after the first [ and not only meal] laughing, telling stories [ and creating new ones while we were at it]. yes, i still think of him but it has gotten easier and new stories have come along to join the ones we told so many times and we all make a toast to those who have gone before us and especially, freddy.

    • Liz November 16, 2013 at 9:22 am #

      I agree, Heidi, we need to celebrate those we lost, in whatever manner they would have celebrated.

  10. Carol Sacks November 16, 2013 at 3:29 am #

    Lovely post, Liz. Hope you and yours have a special Thanksgiving together.

    • Liz November 16, 2013 at 7:02 am #

      Thanks, Carol, and hope it is a happy celebration for you and your family.

  11. suzanne November 16, 2013 at 10:59 am #

    Good for you LIz, have a wonderful holiday and congratulations on the weight loss. Your flan looks delicious.

    • Liz November 16, 2013 at 1:13 pm #

      Thanks so much – hoping to just maintain my weight through the holidays – tough job.

  12. Wendy Read November 16, 2013 at 8:47 pm #

    I love looking at your gorgeous flan Liz! I hope you have a fabulous holiday this year. Sending warm thoughts ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Liz November 17, 2013 at 7:48 am #

      Missing you, Wendy – we need to catch up. Happy TG!

  13. The Wimpy Vegetarian November 17, 2013 at 7:46 am #

    This is such a beautiful post, Liz, and a wonderful reminder of the importance to be thankful even in the midst of memories of loss. I am thankful for our friendship, and will be with you in spirit at your beautiful table. (I also want a piece of your fabulous Pumpkin-Orange Flan!!)

    • Liz November 17, 2013 at 7:48 am #

      Thanks, Susan – Happy Thanksgiving to you and Myles –

  14. Priscilla | ShesCookin November 19, 2013 at 3:28 pm #

    So sorry for your loss, Liz. I’m glad to hear you’re at the point where you can reclaim the joy of the holidays. Our Thanksgivings and Christmas gatherings were clouded by the loss of my both my FIL and BIL during the holidays, and it just takes time. Beautiful post. Trust me, you won’t miss the pumpkin pie cheesecake or cheesy enchiladas ๐Ÿ™‚ Happy Thanksgiving!

    • Liz November 19, 2013 at 3:43 pm #

      Thanks, Priscilla, the writing always helps – Happy Thanksgiving!

      • Liz November 19, 2013 at 3:44 pm #

        I love cranberries, Steve, and hoard bags of them in my freezer this time of year – thanks.

  15. Lisa keys November 20, 2013 at 5:20 am #

    When it comes to the loss of our loved ones the holidays are some of the most difficult times. Using your moms china and crystal are a wonderful way to celebrate her and nurture your soul. Best to you, Lisa (

  16. Gerlinde/ November 20, 2013 at 9:04 pm #

    This is a beautiful post and I’m glad you are reclaiming Thanksgiving and moving forwards. After cooking Thanksgiving dinners for many years my husband and I will be in Rom eating pasta. Maybe next year I will reclaim Thanksgiving. Have a wonderful day and enjoy!

    • Liz November 21, 2013 at 7:48 am #

      Rome! I spent a Christmas there many years ago when I was a student living in Provence – enjoy.

  17. sippitysup November 23, 2013 at 10:33 am #

    The secret to life is relishing the best of it and balancing the worst of it while coming through it all a stronger person. I know you’ll have a great holiday. GREG

    • Liz November 23, 2013 at 1:28 pm #

      I agree, Greg, but sometimes easier said than done, at least for me.

  18. Gisele akaLA2LAChef November 25, 2013 at 8:55 pm #

    I, too, lost my mother a week after Thanksgiving two years ago, and do get sad at this time. For years, I have worked all Thanksgiving week, the busiest week of my work year, including long hours of Thanksgiving Day. The year Mom died, I took an hour out of my day to join my family for Thanksgiving dinner, and am so glad I did, not realizing ( looking back, realizing I was in denial) we would lose her so soon afterwards. This year will be my last of working on T’day, and I look forward to reclaiming my holiday. I agree with Greg, Liz. You need to give yourself a great holiday.

    • Liz November 26, 2013 at 6:57 am #

      Gisele, today is the anniversary of losing my mom. I am thinking of her as I begin to prep for our celebration. Remembering you and your mom – Happy Thanksgiving, my friend –

  19. Dana @ Foodie Goes Healthy December 9, 2013 at 11:38 am #

    I understand how you feel. Beautiful post. I hope you enjoyed your new tradition and that you can see from all these responses how many people care about you today. Warmly, Dana

    • Liz December 9, 2013 at 12:01 pm #

      Thank you, Dana, I actually did pretty well over the holiday, except for throwing out my back exactly as I had done the previous year…LOL.

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