Saturday, November 29, 2008

Family Traditions~New and Old

Happy Thanksgiving!

This has got to be up there as my top beloved holiday. When I research my family, I always think about how they lived, what they ate and what kind of traditions they shared. I don't know how to separate tradition from the print records and I just love to combine the two in my research.

I have many fond memories of Thanksgiving from my childhood with our home filled with wonderful aromas, boisterous laughter and chatter, running children in and out of the house and the blare of the TV with any number of football games playing that day. I guess the maxed out senses tapping into the smell, sound, sight, taste and feel of Thanksgiving has lasted with me to adulthood because as an adult, I always try to recreate a small part of what I knew as a child and young adult.

Andrea Christman - View my 'Thanksgiving 2008' set on Flickriver
This year, we hosted the Christman family. Bill & Alice joined us from Stuarts Draft, VA and we put them up in our guest room. John, Diane and Nick came over from Annapolis. Nick was home from his Freshman year at Towson University. Our dear friends and neighbors, Bill & Julie, came by for dessert, coffee and wine and lots and lots of laughing on overstuffed tummies.

The 28-pound turkey that Bill and Alice brought lasted several days and along with our main Thanksgiving meal, brought us turkey sandwiches, turkey leftovers, turkey soup and take-home for John & Diane! Yummmmmm yummmmm....

I dragged out family recipes, favorite cookbooks and dog-eared, old November magazine issues from Southern Living and Bon Appetite. Jerry and I had fun wandering up and down the aisles of Rodman's Disount Gourmet Grocery Store and Shopper's Food Warehouse trying to find the special ingredients of the recipes that would make up this year's menu to share with our family. This is something that we enjoy doing together and we really look forward to the times that together we can entertain our family and friends in our home.

Our menu for 2008 Thanksgiving was this:
  • Turkey (a la Jerry)
  • Gravy (a la Jerry)
  • Celery, Apple and Walnut Dressing (old 1981 "Holiday Recipes" Cookbook) 
  • Fresh Cranberry Relish
  • Brown-Sugar-Glazed Sweet Potatoes with Marshmallows (Southern Living)
  • Green Beans with Bacon (Kempf tradition)
  • Mashed Potatoes (must have)
  • Refrigerator Pan Yeast Rolls (The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook)
  • Mile High Lemon Pie (Martha Stewart)
  • Tiramisu (From Italian Cooking School in 1997)
  • Snickerdoodles (Oma's Recipe)
  • Molasses Cookies (Oma's Recipe)
  • No-bake Peanut Butter Cookies (Mom)
I am blessed that my husband is a talented cook and loves to entertain and he just takes over on many kitchen duties. I love to bake and am a collector of recipes and cookbooks, so this Thanksgiving was a blend of Christman and Kempf tradition. The above reference to "Oma" is my sister-in-law's grandmother. When Oma was alive, I remember visiting her with my sister-in-law and she always had a fresh loaf of bread (or two or three) ready to give you on your way home! She was a wonderful lady and excellent cook and I enjoy using her recipes and sharing them with family and friends. I first baked the lemon meringue pie for my "Poppie" and almost ate the whole pie himself! I think of him whenever I make this recipe and now that he is no longer with us, the memory keeps him close. My grandmother (Poppie's wife) was a great cook and I remember her pies well! I stumbled upon the refrigerator rolls before I was married and made them for several Kempf Thanksgivings. They remind me of my Grandma Kempf as she made her annual "New Year's Bread" every December. It is kind of an Alsatian Kugelhopf, although we didn't realize it until Jerry and I visited Alsace, France after we married. New Year's Bread is a sweet bread with raisins and almost every family in my home town has the recipe. It is great with coffee and hot chocolate on New Year's Day!

Jerry and I feel blessed to be able to provide for our family and to have the ability to recreate new traditions for ourselves. Our Thanksgivings have blended into a holiday that reflects the both of us. We usually cannot be with my cousins, family and friends in Texas (because of the distance and hustle-and-bustle of holiday travel) and the football is not as relentless in this home. It may look, sound, smell, taste and feel a bit different from what I remember as a child, but if you pay attention to the details, there is a connection to things from our past and a  familiarity to everything we do!


  1. We've always enjoyed our New Year's Bread mit parisa and drucken Alsacer wurst from LaCoste Meat Market. And we never miss a holiday turkey dinner without your Grandma Lucille Kempf's cranberry salad loaded with cherry Jello, cranberry sauce, sliced bananas, a whole cup of pecans, sugar, hot water, orange juice, crushed pineapple and miniature marshmallows which you chill overnight in the fridge.

  2. For that big breakfast after midnight mass, you still have time to prepare the original Alsatian breakfast sausage pattie recipe:
    1 lb. ground pork
    1/2 TB coarse salt
    1/16 tsp ground ginger
    1/4 tsp sugar
    1/8 tsp cinnamon
    1/8 tsp ground cloves
    but go lightly
    1/4 tsp ground black pepper
    or more
    1/16 tsp ground nutmeg
    1/8 tsp garlic powder

    Combine and form patties which you fry in a nonstick pan.

    Black pepper, nutmeg, clove and cinnamon are known as quatra-epices, or French spice, which give our Alsatian sausage that special something. The Cajuns allude to the spices to go with pepper, onion and celery as the holy trinity in their Cajun cooking.

    Recipe from
    The Old Alsatian
    Joe L. Schott

  3. Thank you so much for the comments! I was on the computer last night when the first one popped up and I almost fell out of my chair! It was so good to hear from has been too many years! I was just speaking to Mother about our "brunch" for the tree opening and my husband requested Castroville sausage! I think I will suggest your breakfast sausage pattie recipe! Sounds delicious! We will be in town Dec. 26-Jan. 3. Maybe we will run into you one of those days!

  4. Humm...I am going to have to talk to Dad about that cranberry salad. I can hardly remember it! Thanks for remembering it! It wouldn't be a Texas meal without a jello salad--my husband just doesn't get it!!!! Is it a vegatable, fruit or what???

  5. It was a pleasant surprise running across your internet connection while we were researching the family tree and noted the Tschirhart photo which we originally obtained in a book, Germans in Texas. Anyway, it's a pleasant surprise to connect after all these years, and you are in an area near Fort Lee, Va., where we spent our first two married years like a long honeymoon. By the by, your ol' buddy Kathy is with husband and son in Surrey, England. Hope to see you over the holidays and maybe Jerry will want a peek at our published cookbook. Hugs.