Thanksgiving Means Memories

November 24, 2011 § 4 Comments

In the spring of 1978 … that’s November in the southern hemisphere … all of the missionaries from the US studying at the Escola do Portugués e da Orientação in Campinas, São Paolo, Brasil, decided to come together for one large Thanksgiving Dinner. We invited all of our Brazilian professores e professoras, and other missionaries from the UK and Canada also studying at the school.  

Turkey, Yumm!

Our traditional menu included turkey and dressing, giblet gravy, sweet potato casserole with marshmallows baked on top, green bean casserole, salad, yeast rolls with butter, cranberry relish, pumpkin pie, and other deserts.

I volunteered to bake a turkey and make cornbread and sage dressing, and giblet gravy. As soon as I got back to my apartment, I called Mom and Dad … collect. They promptly declined the call and hung up. Yikes you say? No, that was our signal. In those days, we found it cheaper for them to call me than for me to call them. Within five minutes, we were on the phone talking turkey. Mom promised to send me her recipes. I promised to journal the whole experience in a letter. We blew kisses into the phone and said our “talk to you Sunday nights” and hung up.

True to her word, Mom included her guidelines and recipes, complete with her secrets of success, in the 8 x11 envelope in which Dad sent the latest Sunday sports pages (he did this each week I was on the field, bless him).

I had no trouble finding the ingredients. Turkey was a favorite in Brazil and the birds came in all sizes. But what size to buy? My little oven was about half the size of a standard US model and powered by bottled gas … heat settings in centigrade!

I called Mary Burt—veteran missionary and go-to person for all things culinary. She recommended a 10-12 lb bird, the heat setting, and timing. The rest was up to me.

Cornbread & Sage Stuffing

On the day, I presented a nicely browned bird with cornbread-sage-stuffing-ala-Mom, two quarts of giblet gravy, and two pecan pies made with my horded pecans (brought in my crate from Texas!). This was my first Thanksgiving culinary effort and a success. I was proud as a peacock!

Pecan Pie

I learned something about serving buffet in Brazil, too. Brazilians love to eat and wanted to taste everything, even every pie and cake! The old hands knew this, and cut my pies into bite-sized pieces, along with all the rest of the deserts.

Dona Aidé, my private lesson teacher, and my other professoras, wanted all my recipes. I had come prepared, as Mary Burt had forewarned me, and made copies. Well, after all, Dona Aidé had taught me how to cook arroz brasileiro (Brazilian rice) and how to order carne moida (ground beef) at the butchers!

[BTW, if you are ever in Brazil and want to make hamburgers, order half a kilo (app. 1 lb) not a kilo and a half (3 lbs!).]

These days I seldom cook on Thanksgiving. Once we discovered that Cracker Barrel serves a special Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings, including pumpkin pie, we started a new family tradition—we let CB do our cooking! (No carcass to boil for stock; no leftovers to get freezer burn before we remember to use them!)

Today we watched most of the Macy’s parade, drove to CB and ate our sumptuous dinner—all that great nap-inducing food we love—and then took a drive through the newest construction areas of The Villages. Now comes football and naptime!

We also Thanked God for all of our blessings—good health, good friends, loving family, the freedoms we enjoy in these United States, and our armed forces around the world who go in harm’s way to preserve them.

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day and that you have had a great year to give thanks for … I know I have.

In closing I’d like to share with you my favorite hymn of thanksgiving …

“For the Beauty of the Earth”

For the beauty of the earth,
for the glory of the skies,
for the love which from our birth
over and around us lies;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

For the beauty of each hour
of the day and of the night,
hill and vale, and tree and flower,
sun and moon, and stars of light;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

For the joy of ear and eye,
for the heart and mind’s delight,
for the mystic harmony,
linking sense to sound and sight;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

For the joy of human love,
brother, sister, parent, child,
friends on earth and friends above,
for all gentle thoughts and mild;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

For thy church, that evermore
lifteth holy hands above,
offering up on every shore
her pure sacrifice of love;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

For thyself, best Gift Divine,
to the world so freely given,
for that great, great love of thine,
peace on earth, and joy in heaven:
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

To Family & Friends Everywhere!


§ 4 Responses to Thanksgiving Means Memories

  • Wonderful story–and one of my favorite hymns. Thanks!

  • I live in the land of turkey-carcasses-to-boil and better than that, leftover pumpkin pie-for-breakfast. This is my favorite food holiday, and this year we celebrated with our daugther, Josie, and our grandson, Matthew.


  • After cooking a 24 pound turkey last month for an early Thanksgiving dinner with family in Florida, we opted for your current plan: the Parade, (followed by the dog show and Miracle on 34th Street) and then out for dinner. It was perfect.
    Thanks for sharing, and a blessed holiday season to you and yours.

  • Donna Beard says:

    Your Thanksgiving story is wonderful. As always, your stories bring back fond memories. Our Thai daughter-in-law experienced her first Thanksgiving meal here in The Villages a couple years ago.
    This year my husband and I drove to Clearwater to spend the weekend with our son, Brad. We watched the Macy’s parade and then off to the Country Harvest Restaurant where the only food served on Thanksgiving is the traditional meal. The food is served family style. Our son is able to take home enough leftovers to enjoy for several days. We refused the green beans cooked with srewed tomatoes (the tomatoes change the flavor) but everything else was great. We are also thankful to God for our many blessings, good health and wonderful friends and relatives.
    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours.

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