Kitchens everywhere have been warm and fragrant all week, with the scent of pies baking and other dishes in progress, as cooks get ready for traditional Thanksgiving dinners of turkey and ham.
This week, families and friends prepare to gather and count blessings. In-person dinners have become even more valued since the COVID-19 pandemic forced separation, and a few people are still wearing masks in public places. Travel may be near or far for a meal. Many families look forward to hunting and playing games as part of the holiday activities.
This week, shoppers in grocery stores were picking up supplies for pies, dressing, and whatever the traditional meals include during their get-togethers.
Delo Brannon was pushing her cart, and was just beginning shopping last Friday. She’s excited to see everyone get together.
“Our son lives nearby and our daughter and her family are coming in from Texas. She’ll bring her grown children. And we have great-grandchildren,” said Brannon.
Hot rolls are her specialty.
“I remember my grandma said hot rolls were her specialty. She’d say she was going out to make sure they weren’t burning, and when I’d go check on her, she’d be sitting there, eating one,” Brannon recalled.
She usually gets a turkey breast and makes dressing.
“My sister-in-law gave me a recipe for a pumpkin dessert, with a cookie crumb crust, and whipped cream and cream cheese. It is so good. And it fills a big aluminum pan,” said Brannon.
When the meal is finished, they like to sit and talk.
“I heard this saying about Thanksgiving – I don’t remember from where – but it goes something like this: It takes three days to cook, 30 minutes to eat, and the rest of the day to clean up,” said Brannon, with a chuckle.
Last week Pam Cloud, from Tahlequah, was shopping in Stilwell.
“We have a big dinner at my mom's house. We have turkey and dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, chicken and dumplings,” said Cloud.
Pecan pies are her contribution.
“My daughter Jennifer makes strawberry cake,” she said.
After the meal, they sometimes play games.
“The kids mostly run around outside,” said Cloud.
Donna Ketcher, from the Peavine community, was enjoying a pretty new store, decor, and items new to her, with John Mitchell.
Thanksgiving will be celebrated at the home of her daughter, Melinda Garrett.
“After all the hunters get back from hunting, we’ll get together. I have three grandkids and one great. He’s the first great-grandson,” Ketcher said.
She's making and taking dressing, sweet potatoes and Waldorf salad.
“Melinda is cooking a ham and her friend Jeri is making a turkey. They’re making pies: pumpkin, pecan and Dutch apple pie, banana pudding and chocolate sheet cake. Jeri has eight kids,” said Ketcher.
After the meal, they’ll watch ball games.
"Last year, we played golf before Thanksgiving, at Deer Valley in Kansas. There’s not a place to play around here that you don’t have to drive at least 30 minutes," she said.
“I’m happy as a clam about the new golf course the city is making here,” Mitchell said.
Many families have unique side dishes or desserts that are the stars among the traditional fare for Thanksgiving feasts, including a Cherokee dish.
The crock pot dressing Leann McLemore makes for her family is a must-have.
“They love it. And the kids like turkey and I like ham, so we have both,” McLemore said.
Whoever finds kanuche balls brings them to McLemore.
“They ask me to make it. I learned from my mother-in-law,” she said.
Her daughters make desserts.
“Emily makes whatever she finds online and wants to try. We’re her guinea pigs, but it always turns out pretty good,” McLemore said, laughing.
She looks forward to family time.
“That’s what’s important and this seems like the only time we can get together,” said McLemore.
Daughter Caitlin McLemore, 22, said it’s all about family time, food and hunting.
“I go with my dad, about 4 or 5 in the morning. I want to kill a deer; I like deer meat,” said Caitlin.
Mom said that after dinner, they have fun.
“My family, we play bingo,” she said.
Caitlin plays video games, she said.
Two people answered the online question on the Stilwell Democrat Journal Facebook page about the ways they make Thanksgiving special at their gatherings.
Mary Cannon said she has two pecan trees from which they gather nuts after dinner.
“After a great meal, we pick up pecans. Then we are ready for all the desserts. I’m so blessed and thankful. After that, everyone is tired and ready to pack up and go home. And I have the job to get the pecans cracked and picked out,” Cannon said.
It’s all about food and family for Misty Dress, who adds banana pudding to the favorites list.
“We like to eat dinner – turkey, ham, dressing, green bean casserole, mashed taters, gravy and another side – and then we sit and visit and just enjoy each other's company,” said Dress.
For dessert, they enjoy pumpkin pie, pecan pie and banana pudding.