Turkey and Mincemeat Pies, Oh My

I came upon this wonderful painting by a painter named Doris Lee, done in 1935. It is identical to my great~grandmother’s kitchen in Small Town Northern California. As a very young child, this is the same memory that lives in my mind to this day.

thanksgiving-doris lee painting  

It was a trip we made only on Thanksgiving. Perhaps my father detested the ritual or, more likely, his uncles in attendance. No matter, it was an exciting day for a little girl of 6 like myself.

Entering her old Victorian house on Main Street,  the wonderful smell of baked pies, the fat turkey roasting along with everything else she had been cooking for days, came steaming out the front door on an olfactory wave. I would run through the creaking screen door, through the front parlor toward the back of the house and her kitchen.

I have little memory of her house except the floorboards that creaked, but her kitchen was the heart of the place and where I wanted to be. Amazingly it looked exactly like this Doris Lee painting, complete with the pie~rolling table, the strange green wallpapered walls AND ceiling, the single light fixture, the checkered floor and the big black wood stove.

The few large women donned in their full aprons in cotton calicoes and lace trim, with straps that crossed in back. There were never any babies in wicker high chairs nor women who were thin!

One year, perhaps the last meal I enjoyed there, we arrived a day early, staying with my grandmother who lived down the road. (Practically my entire extended family lived in this small town.) I walked over to visit my great~grandmother, catching her “in the act”.

Can you guess what it was she was doing?

She was chasing turkeys and chickens she kept out in her chicken yard. I noticed her axe had been sharpened and laid next to the chopping block, a large old tree stump.

She lived alone.
The story went my drunken great-grandfather wandered off years ago never to be heard from again. As they had lived in Gualala, a small logging village high above the sea, it was rumored he fell off a cliff.
Apparently nobody went searching…

She did everything herself.
She cussed about “damned Yankees” and loved to ┬ásmoke her “Southern” mother’s small pipe laced with cherry tobacco, rocking in her chair on her front porch, watching the world go by. In looking back, I think she did exactly as she pleased!

turkey man

Including this fascinatingly sinister deed.

Children tend to be drawn to this kind of thing if given half a chance. She turned to me, her face red and sweating. She tended to be very Scotch and of a no-nonsense demeanor. She simply announced this was to be our dinner tomorrow, in lieu of explanations.
She may have had a flair for the dramatic as well. She asked me to corner “that damned turkey.”

What I remember is blood, her many cats and the strangeness of the headless fowl stumbling in circles. I don’t recall feeling much of anything ┬áelse since the mean turkey didn’t seem to suffer at her hands.

Afterward the turkey was set to steam in a huge pot on the “canning” stove she kept on her back porch. Boiling made it easier to pluck the feathers clean.

It was time for us to undertake a sweeter chore and we headed to her berry patch, picking bowls of sweet berries for the Thanksgiving pies. Simple as that.

Shall I tell you about her mincemeat? 


 ~reposted almost every Thanksgiving holiday since about 2009~

Categories Art

13 thoughts on “Turkey and Mincemeat Pies, Oh My

  1. What a fabulous slice of family history. I doubt we shall look upon their like again, more’s the shame.

    1. Agreed! She was quite the character and lived to be 98! xo

  2. Love this recounting. One of my Grandmothers killed chickens…..chopping block in the back yard, etc. I watched. She fried two chickens each day…..chicken even for breakfast. Tough old bird.

    1. Two chickens every day is a lot of chickens! You left me wondering if she used the feathers for pillows mattresses and duvets? Probably is my guess. I hope you had a lovely holiday! Apologies I haven’t been online much lately… life has a way of getting in the way.

      Does that make US tough old birds? ­čśä

      1. Yeah…tough old birds indeed. Hard won. My grandmother was dirt poor and lived in rural Tennessee. She raised chickens and a few pigs for personal use as well as selling the eggs. That and her veggie garden sustained the family. The chickens ran free in a huge chicken yard. They fed the entire family on mostly chicken. She fried the chicken and made milk gravy at 5am every morning. No indoor plumbing. The food was all farm fresh, so good, honored and prepared with much love. A hard life I am sure.

        1. Indeed there was much love in living close to the land by necessity. I think there had to be to survive.. I remember milk gravy, it was my father’s favorite, tho I never understood why! Maybe because I don’t do dairy very well!! You think? ­čśî It’s sad in ways that so much of what we were is lost yet I don’t want to live without my bidet!! INside my water closet!! ­čśä

          Have a wonderful sunday, dear Gretchen! ÔŁĄ´ŞĆ

  3. I enjoyed reading the story just as much this time as the other times. I hope it was a good holiday for you.

    1. Dear friend, it’s lovely to have you as a friend all these years we’ve been hanging out around here, isn’t it? I’m taking a break from online til after the 1st of Jan but always here via email for you should you want to say hello. Have a wonderful holiday to come… New years day is my favorite for a bunch of reasons! xox

  4. I hope your Thanksgiving had memorable moments if not as colourful as that headless bird!

    1. It was quiet this year and always I find that a little depressing… I look forward to the beginning of a new year. I hope you have a lovely holiday season, Joss. xxx

  5. Great story…those were the days… My grandmother and grandfather raised chicken and rabbits. The also grew apples, pears, plums, cherries, strawberries, raspberries and currants. And potatoes, carrots and peas. The whole family had to help picking when everything had its season. I wish i had had a good camera then…In every bush you would find a berry picking face, hands all read or black…and the small grandchildren would occationally run wild and throw over the full buckets. My mild grandmother never got angry, but silently helped recovering tha lost berries.
    Now I hope you will have a great, great Christmas and get fully recovered from your nasty fall. I will look at your wonderful garden once more…

    1. Have a wonderful holiday, dear heart. I plan to have a peaceful, quiet Christmas painting and packing up stuff I need to give away.
      see you in 2016!

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