Students’ Thanksgiving Tales

Students%27+Thanksgiving+Tales

Jude Palliser, Michael Freitag, John Reinker, Adam Rolwes

The other week, Mr. Woodcock’s senior Creative Writing class took up the challenge to write their own original short stories about a Thanksgiving dinner. Students touched on several different themes in their stories, such as the details and allure of the great feast, the social dynamics between family members, the effect COVID-19 has had on families and their Thanksgiving dinners, and much more. Senior students Jude Palliser, Michael Freitag, John Reinker, and Adam Rolwes wrote excellent pieces of work about a Thanksgiving dinner. Here are their short stories. Enjoy!

A Story of Thanksgiving

By Jude Palliser

From the juiciest turkey to the canned cranberry sauce, Thanksgiving earns its spot on my favorite holiday list. It’s the only time in the year where you can casually mix your entire plate full of food. I know for some foods this would be gross, but the point is Thanksgiving tastes amazing. I know Thanksgiving sometimes brings some tough interaction with family, but only focussing on the food, it’s a solid holiday. 

The turkey needs to be cooked right, if not, too much gravy is going to get involved. Don’t get me wrong, gravy is pretty tasty but I don’t want to drink it. Turkey, the source of protein in the meal, has a strange role in the meat department. It can replicate lots of the other meats but it isn’t the tastiest of them all. Since I don’t eat red meat, turkey and chicken have been my source of protein for the last year. I can say that turkey definitely gets old. At first, it’s good on a sandwich but then when it’s supposed to be a substitute for ground beef, that’s when I draw the line. Turkey is very important to Thanksgiving because there are not very many other occasions where turkey is the main course. In my opinion, when the turkey is prepared properly there is nothing that outshines it on the table. 

Mashed potatoes are another example that needs to be prepared properly if they are going to be edible. There are two extremes that can ruin mashed potatoes. First, if the mashed potatoes are overpowered with chunks that get caught in my braces, I hate it. If the mashed potatoes are too creamy or milky, they are terrible. They don’t taste right and the texture is unbearable. That “Mash Potato Medium” is the term coined by my grandma to describe the perfect potatoes. Chunks of potato should be present but make sure they are small. If too much milk is poured, might as well just start boiling another batch. On the plate mashed potatoes, in my eyes, are the glue of the plate. They house the gravy and are easily mixed amongst the rest of the sides. 

Green bean casserole is a very controversial subject for lots of people. Although it’s cliche, “you either love it or you hate it.” I happen to love it so it works out. I have always been a fan of green beans, but I strongly disliked mushrooms for the longest time. Green bean casserole is made with green beans, cream of mushroom soup, and fried onion chips. Fried onion chips are delicious, but for the longest while, I could not get over the cream of mushroom soup. Then one day I was rummaging through my pantry and that’s all we had left. I sadly dumped it into a pot and turned on the burner. As the soup cooked I began to really like the smell. Then when I tasted it I realized that I actually liked it. This year is the first year that I have tried the green bean casserole and it was amazing. On the plate, it sticks off to the side because I don’t love it mixed with the other sides on the plate. It is such a savory dish and I wish it wasn’t solely bound to Thanksgiving. 

The final dish is not my favorite dish but I love how it smells. The candied yams are great smelling but I cannot eat the sweet potatoes without gagging. The combination of the squishy texture and the orange color makes sweet potatoes one of my least favorite foods on this planet. The smell is absolutely amazing. The mixture of cinnamon, sugar, and toasted marshmallows on top is a cologne that I long for. Not actually, people would think I’m crazy. Candied yams belong off my plate, but I’m all game if they’re behind me freshening the air. 

Thanksgiving is a time when family comes together, and although this year was different, I’m still extremely thankful for all of the people who are there for me and support me when I’m in any situation. I’m also thankful for the food! The food is definitely a necessary aspect of why Thanksgiving is amazing, but nothing tops the importance of seeing your family. 

Thanksgiving at the Freitags’

By Michael Freitag

As I am watching TV with my younger cousins, I smell the scent of roasted turkey and fresh Texas green beans filling the house. Despite COVID, many of my family members were able to fly in for the holiday. Currently my house is filled with aunts, uncles and cousins from Washington, Texas, and Kansas. The Chiefs are playing the Seahawks and the game is currently tied 14-14. I’m rooting for the Chiefs but my cousins from Seattle desperately want the Seahawks to win. My other cousins from Texas quite frankly don’t care who plays. If football is on, they’re happy. 

I want to watch the game but the delicious aroma is getting stronger and stronger. I go up the stairs and discreetly peek into the forbidden and protected room of the kitchen. My one job is to entertain my cousins and to not come into the kitchen while my mom and sisters prepare the four course meal. The temptation is too great. I creak open the basement door and look into the kitchen. I see my sisters going back and forth between each dish, making sure everything is going smoothly and not over cooked. I watch as my mom checks the temperature of the turkey and my sister, Sarah, slides the loaded mashed potatoes into the oven. My mouth begins to water and I know that if I step one foot into the kitchen, my mother would blow her top. I sneak  one last look and whiff of the tantalizing foods that I so desperately want to devour. 

I overhear my dad laugh and jealously watch him drinking some beer and playing poker with my uncles in the side room. I mean I love football and all, but I would love to graduate from “little cousin duty.” I hear the sound of my cousins cheering and I sprint down the stairs to see that the Seahawks had just scored a touchdown. 

“Crap,” I say to myself. The players line up to kick  the field goal and the ball hits the left bar and goes out wide.

 “YES!” I yell, pumping my fists in the air. I see my Seattle cousins’ faces sadden in disappointment. The Chiefs could easily come back to win and they knew it. 

“Mike!” I hear my mom yell from the kitchen. “Come upstairs, the dinner is ready.” 

I give a sigh of relief. My prayers have been answered. I race upstairs with my little cousins following me like a pack of hyenas. I bust open the basement door and stumble upon a feast just waiting to be devoured. My eyes widen and my stomach begins to grumble as I look upon various foods presented on the table. Mashed potatoes, green beans, parmesan crusted cauliflower, cornbread dressing, spinach dip, fruit salad and the golden brown turkey glistened in the spotlight. I have been fasting all day just for this. Nothing could ruin or disrupt this dinner. Absolutely nothing. 

My dad gathers us around the kitchen table and gives his usual spiel of family coming together and how we should be grateful for everything. We finally say grace and get in line for the delicious buffet of elegant foods. I go straight for the golden turkey and pile it onto my plate. I gather some Texas green beans, loaded mashed potatoes, parmesan crusted cauliflower, a small portion of the cornbread dressing, a pinch of the spinach dressing, and a giant pile of fresh berries. 

My sister Rachel, gives me a stare of disbelief. “Wow, you gonna leave any for the rest of us?” she asks. 

As I walk back to my seat, I smile and respond, “The thought crossed my mind.” 

I look at the table and see my name written on a cute card on the chair second from the left. I sit down and take a seat next to Uncle Frank and across from me I see my Aunt Barbra’s name. 

“Uh oh,” I say to myself. “This could get ugly.” Although my Uncle Frank and Aunt Barbra are brother and sister, they only really see each other during the holidays and it is usually an absolute blood bath. They have polar opposite political views, and they are both outspoken and very very very loud. I have no idea why my Mom placed them right next to each other and with me in the middle. I must have done something horribly wrong to deserve this. 

The first few minutes into the meal everything goes great. The food is superb and everyone is having a good time until Uncle Frank drops the bomb. 

He turns to me and says loud enough for the entire table to hear, “Do you want to hear the stupidest thing that happened when I was at the supermarket today?”

 “No,” I say under my breath.

 He continues, “I was picking up the pies but I was in a rush and forgot to bring my mask. And I was like, oh well, COVID is a hoax anyway, I don’t need one. So I started walking in and this guy stopped me and said that I couldn’t come in because I didn’t have a mask. So I said to him, ‘relax, son, I don’t have Corona and it’s not real anyway so we have nothing to worry about.’ But that dumb idiot still wouldn’t let me in. So don’t blame me for not having any pies tonight, blame the U.S. Government. I’m telling you, Biden is not going to do jack squat for the country. All he’s going to do is make us all lock down and completely ruin the economy.” 

Aunt Barbra, who has been surprisingly silent this entire time, suddenly quips back, “You know Grandma died from COVID, right? COVID is NOT a hoax. It is very much real. The reason we have over 250,000 deaths in America and the economy is hurting is because of idiots like you who don’t think it exists.” 

“Bull crap,” my Uncle responds. “She did not! She died from pneumonia!” 

My aunt is in tears at this point, “Yes, she had pneumonia, but COVID is what killed her!” 

My dad tries to intervene, “How about let’s talk about something else huh? Maybe something besides Grandma or COVID?”

 “You stay out of this Bill!” my Uncle yells. “You always play the peacekeeper but not this time. But ohhh no. Not this time.” 

I notice my sister’s dog, Butters, trying to pull down the remaining turkey. But I don’t say anything, as I continue to watch Barbra and Frank. 

“Come one Frank. Just not now. We’re eating for Chist’s sake. Just sit down and we can eat.” my dad says.

As the banter continues, the turkey gets closer and closer to the edge of the table. Uncle Frank climbs on top of his chair, clearly drunk out of his mind, and starts yelling about how Trump will rule this country and no one can stop him. 

“It’s all one big scam,” Uncle Frank screams, waving the champagne bottle in the air. “The democrats will turn our great country into a communist state!” 

“Oh for the love of god, SIT DOWN Frank!” my dad yells. CRASH. Butters successfully took down the turkey and everything else with it. The green beans and fruit salad all fly into the air and land on the ground. The other dogs come rushing into the dining room and hit Frank’s chair so hard that he comes crashing down to the hard oak floor, smashes his forehead on the table, bonks Aunt Barbra in the head with the champagne bottle, and a bone in his leg loudly snaps. Well, that’s karma for you. Don’t talk politics at Thanksgiving. 

Cranberry Sauce: How I Cheated The System

By John Reinker

“If you don’t cook, you clean.” These words have haunted me throughout my entire life. This rule, which is one of my mother’s favorites, banishes my father and me to the kitchen sink after every dinner. With a plate encrusted with slimy bits of unrecognizable food in one hand and a soap covered sponge in the other, I pay my dues. Since a typical dinner consists of just my mother, father, and I, this is often only a minor inconvenience. Thanksgiving dinner, however, is anything but typical. With a meal that is five times bigger than normal, plus the increased attendance due to my two sisters, the cleanup is atrocious. 

At first, my concern was at a minimum, as the four of us would do a fine job repairing the kitchen after my mother’s tornado of cooking had been through it. But this year, I began to hear whispers of dissent. My sister Madison planned on preparing the turkey, while my sister Rachel was going to make a sweet potato casserole. They may have thought that they were clever taking on cooking roles in order to escape their cleaning duties and leave me shipwrecked in a sea of dishes (I already knew that my father would be hibernating on the couch following the feast). Well, I called their bluff. For the first time in my life, I was going to contribute to Thanksgiving dinner.

My contribution? The greatest cop-out meal of all time: cranberry sauce. It was simple – just throw all the ingredients into a pot and throw it on the stove – but it was all I needed to claim my get out of jail free card. Since everyone was cooking a dish, we would all have to take part in the cleanup. With my limited experience, I got to cooking. Into the pot went two bags of cranberries, water, orange juice, ground nutmeg, ground cinnamon, cinnamon sticks, maple syrup, and some very poorly diced Granny Smith apples. I stirred my concoction of crimson red marbles and placed it on the stove. Click. Click. Click. The stove roared to life, and I felt a gust of heat hit my face. 

The cranberries began to soften and pop like paintballs, but instead of shooting paint, they shot drops of boiling water at my face. I tried my best to avoid the mini geysers while I stirred, but every so often my body would stiffen at the feeling of a needle being shoved into my forearm. Over time, the once soupy and dark red mixture began to solidify into a brilliant, scarlet red sauce. By the time I was finished, the wondrous smell of cinnamon had enveloped the entire kitchen. I poured the sauce into two large mason jars and stuck the blood-red containers into the fridge for cooling. 

When dinner time came around the next day, I proudly marched up to the dining room table with my cranberry sauce in hand. Wanting to make my contribution known, I slammed it down between Madison’s apple and cloves smoked turkey and Rachel’s cinnamon and pecan sweet potato casserole. And so, the feast began. I shoved a spoonful of cranberry sauce into my mouth, and I was truly surprised at how good it was. The maple syrup was an excellent substitute for sugar, giving the sauce a hint of maple to go along with the cinnamon. The cranberries and apples melded together perfectly, creating something of a tart apple sauce. We stuffed ourselves until we were paralyzed. When we finally recovered and began to clean up, everyone helped. No man was left behind – even my dad. With the help of cranberry sauce, I had dodged a bullet. As I loaded the dishwasher with champagne stained glasses and gravy covered plates, I silently celebrated my victory. 

A Thanksgiving Dinner

By Adam Rolwes

“Can you believe those Democrats?” 

This is how Cousin Jim (who just recently was allowed to sit at the adults’ table) chose to open conversation as the family sat around the Thanksgiving feast. You see Jim likes to cause trouble and is quite good at it.  He knew that to start a heated conversation, he only had to say that one phrase and Uncle Larry, a proclaimed radical liberal since 1982, would do all the heavy lifting for him.  

“What do you mean, Jim?”  Uncle Larry says with a look of false inquisitiveness.

At this point Uncle Chris (who happens to be as far right as Larry is left) states, “Well, obviously he’s referring to them trying to steal the election.”

“Oh come on you can’t possibly believe that.” Uncle Larry claims with a grin of amusement.

“Why not?  The evidence is all there. Have you heard of the Dominion scandal?”  Uncle Chris remarks as Jim sits back in his seat, watching his handy work unfold.

“Well, you can’t change the results now.” Aunt Ellen petitions, “Biden already thinks he won and to tell him he didn’t would be heartbreaking.”  

“Oh well then I guess D-Day was a bad idea because it hurt old Adolf’s feelings,”  teases her husband, Uncle Rick, a Vietnam War Veteran.

Meanwhile the kids’ table in the other room was talking about anything but boring old politics.  

“Now I think, if the Gorilla played his cards right,  it wouldn’t matter how many heads the Grizzly Bear had, he would beat him all the same.”  Chuck declares matter-of-factly.

“You’re crazy!” Rod states.  “The Grizzly bear has size and strength.”

“No way!” Shouts Margaret, “The Grizzly is much weaker than the Gorilla.” 

“Rod, you just like the Grizzly because it’s almost as hairy as you.” taunted Clair.

Rod subconsciously covers his recent post-pubescent growth of hair on his forearms and says,

“Well at least I don’t have a funny voice.”

“Oh yeah well at least I’m not a nincompoop!” shouts Clair.

“Nimrod!”

—————————————————————————————————

“Communist!” Uncle Hank shouts at fresh college graduate Cousin Frank, who just finished his explanation on how capitalism leads to distrust in American voting systems. Cousin Jim grins in amusement at the scene he just caused, as rewards himself with another one of his mother’s homemade rolls. At this point, Aunt Laura is trying to salvage what she could out of this “family bonding” experience and says, “Alright I think we’ve all enjoyed the discussion but let’s move on to something else shall we?” but her words fell on deaf ears.  

Then something happened that Jim was not prepared for. Grandma brought out her famous double chocolate pumpkin pie.  No one could resist this culinary masterpiece and in its midst the argument fizzled out. Not wanting to lose what he worked so hard to achieve, Jim turns to Uncle Larry again and innocently asks,

“Hey Uncle Larry, what were you telling me earlier in regards to Ford being founded on racism?”

But this statement, no matter how untrue or controversial, could not break the spell the pie had on the family.  Jim was losing his entertainment and was losing it fast.  

            —————————————————————————————————

“I wish Jim sat with us still.” Jack said as he dug into a piece of double chocolate pumpkin pie. “Why did he stop?”

“Because as soon as you turn 17, you get to sit with the grown ups.” Sally stated.

“What’s so cool about them? All they do is talk about boring stuff.” Joe complained.

“Hey guys watch this!” cut in Peter, demonstrating his skill of pulling a noodle through his nose and out his mouth.

“Quit that you’re disgusting!” scolded Sally, his older sister, “You’re getting boogers all over your food!”

“What’s so bad about that?” asked four year old Michael, “Boogers taste good.”

All Sally could do was let out an exasperated sigh.

Meanwhile, Jim was frantically trying to gather a topic that would cause a disruption but he couldn’t find any.  The economy? Not controversial enough. Sexism? No one would say anything about that as long as the other sex was present. Then he found it. The topic that would cause so much controversy that no amount of pie in the world could stop it. It might cause too much damage actually. It would be a risk but if it worked, the reward would mean true heated debates for the rest of the meal. And if he was lucky, he could see the veins bulge out of Aunt Edna’s forehead. He breathed in and said, 

“Have you guys seen Tom Brady lately? Talk about a has been.”

You could hear a pin drop.  In a family where half were from New England and the other half were devout Colts fans (sworn rivals of the Patriots), to make that comment was bound to destroy any semblance of a normal dinner. Uncle Larry simply rises silently and leaves. Aunt Laura shoots Jim with her signature piercing look. Jim just leaned back and prepared for the fun to begin.