Many of us have family Thanksgiving traditions that have been passed down through the years. Others who have moved around the country and lost family connections may have established their own traditions that have become a part of their new families.
Regardless, it is usually enjoyable to experience Thanksgiving in whatever ways that have been a part of our lives. My earliest memories of the day are going to my grandfather's home on my mother's side of the family. She was from a large family, and after they all got married and had children, it was a fairly large group. For several years, our great-grandmother was alive and enjoyed the day with us.
It was probably a typical Thanksgiving with all kinds of food. Meats usually included ham and chicken. Turkey was too expensive back then. One dessert that was always on the table was a big prune cake. My grandfather's favorite dessert was prune cake, so it was a requirement.
They lived on a hill, so when there was snow, which seemed quite often, we would take our sleds and slide downhill. There was a creek at the bottom and, if the sledding was good, we had to turn before we got to it. Otherwise it was a cold, wet trek back up the hill into the house to get dried off.
Back in my younger days, growing up in northern Trumbull County, there were many things we did not have. But there was always plenty of food on Thanksgiving. And we always had enough food on the table as we were growing up. In some ways, though, it was different from today's foods.
Dad either had an animal to butcher for our meat or bought beef and pork by the half. Mom then had the job of cutting up and preserving that meat. Our refrigeration was a big, old ice box, so much of it had to be canned or salted and smoked. My memory says it was always good and we had enough.
Potatoes were usually bought in 50-pound bags from a local grower, so they were of all sizes and had to be paired before cooking. But we knew they were real potatoes. Vegetables were canned sometimes from our own garden, but more often Dad bought quantities from local sources. Mom then had to can those. Prepared foods were unknown.
We are very fortunate these days. We can go to the grocery store and find food of all kinds and prepared for us in so many different ways. When we think of Thanksgiving, we need to give thanks to all those who grow our food for us. Also are all those along the way that get that food to the processor who puts it in forms we enjoy. Then credit also goes to the grocery store where all that food is displayed attractively and easy for us to buy.
While we have so much to be thankful for, we have several groups in our society that don't understand what today's family farms are like. Today's family farms are more environmentally friendly than farmers of years ago.
Dr. Jude Capper from Washington State University has been studying what is called the "carbon footprint" of livestock. She found that from between 1944 and 2007, the carbon footprint to produce one gallon of milk has been reduced by 63 percent. Beef cattle farmers have reduced it by 18 percent from 1977 to 2007.
We can be thankful that our family farms, both large and small, are concerned about the environment. In fact, they were taking steps to improve the environment before others in our society were concerned.
So on this day of Thanksgiving, if it has been a day of rest, I hope you enjoyed the Thanksgiving parade on TV and spent more time with family.
Parker is an independent writer for the Tribune.