staples: warm food, warmer memories
Next week, millions of Americans
will travel some distance to gather with loved ones at the table
to celebrate Thanksgiving, renewing a tradition that dates back
to the ancient Greeks, who celebrated the harvest festival of
Thesmosphoria each autumn. The ancient Romans, Chinese and Egyptians
were also among the many cultures who celebrated a day of thanksgiving
after the harvest, usually involving some sort of feast.
the New World, English settlers and Native Americans likely first
shared a harvest feast in Virginia in the early 1600s, a decade
or so before the more celebrated event in Massachusetts, said
professor Jeffrey K. Hantman, an archaeologist who studies the
area's Monacan tribes. "It was symbolic of the episodic cooperation
that settlers depended upon," he said.
Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the first nationwide day of Thanksgiving
in the U.S. in 1863, and the date was finally formalized as the
fourth Thursday in November in 1941.
mark the occasion this year, Inside UVA asked a random group of
U.Va. staff and faculty to share some of their favorite Thanksgiving
Men's Basketball Coach
John T. Casteen III
Last year, University President John T. Casteen III showed his
support for the U.Va. men's basketball team not only by attending
a preseason tournament in Fairbanks, Alaska, but by inviting the
group to have Thanksgiving dinner with him when he found out they
planned to stay in Charlottesville to practice.
players really appreciated it. It was a lovely afternoon,"
remembers coach Pete Gillen, who began his first season with the
Cavaliers last year, his 14th year as a head coach. "A lot
of teams never meet the president of the university, much less
eat with him, especially with a prestigious place like this. ...I
told him it's a great honor to be invited."
15 players, three managers, five coaches and a few wives added,
there were about 25 people who spread out in different rooms of
Carr's Hill. They enjoyed a traditional Thanksgiving meal, catered
by the Boar's Head, and "pretty much cleared the table,"
according to Casteen, who in the past has hosted international
and other students unable to get home.
could've taken up that kind of invitation several years ago in
his student days. Staying at U.Va. over the break to finish an
exam, he decided to eat at a Corner establishment, the White Spot.
There was a full house, he remembers, and "hot dogs all around."
probably won't face that problem this year while cheering for
the women's basketball team -- they're playing in Hawaii. The
men's basketball team will also enjoy an island climate, playing
in a tournament in Puerto Rico. Gillen said he wasn't sure what
kind of meal they'll be having -- seafood, maybe?
Assistant Dean of Students
"When my sister and I were growing up in Montgomery, Ala., we
looked forward to the great adventure of the four-hour train ride
to Mobile to spend holidays with our extended family of grandparents,
aunt and uncle, and two cousins. We have great memories of those
times and have been fortunate to be able to create new ones together
as we four cousins have grown up and each made our own families.
we are geographically scattered now and our far-too-busy lives
preclude getting together very often, one of my favorite Thanksgivings
was eight years ago when our four families and my aunt and uncle
gathered here in Virginia, at Wintergreen, to celebrate this special
holiday. Of course the best part was the 'Big Chill' nature of
it: time spent in board games, walks, and real conversations among
and between all the possible combinations of individuals as well
as gathering for preparation, clean-up, and enjoyment of a series
of festive meals.
weekend was topped off by the spectacular early winter display
of fog thick enough for us to play hide-and-seek in and a Thanksgiving
morning's light through trees whose coating of fresh ice made
them look like glass."
Director of Writing Lab and Lecturer in English,
University of Virginia's College at Wise
I have many happy memories of Thanksgiving, I do have one particular
favorite. For my family, usually, most of the time is spent on
preparing food and/or traveling, which consumes much of the day.
"However, Thanksgiving in 1975, at my aunt's in Appalachia, Va.,
turned into more than cooking, eating and driving. Upon arriving
at her house, snow flurries began. We all thought that it was
a wonderful novelty to have snow on Thanksgiving, although we
did not expect much to come from it. But as the day progressed,
it continued to snow and to pile up. After finishing dinner, we
then realized that there was too much snow to go anywhere, and
there was not a snowplow in sight. Suddenly, there was a house
full of stranded people. What to do?
"In the end, we spent the day playing records, singing, dancing,
playing games and nearly finishing all of the Thanksgiving food.
When the snowplows did clear the road, we were reluctant to depart.
We had a wonderful, happy time, and I am very thankful to have
that memory of my family and our white Thanksgiving together."
Director, University Bookstore
childhood Thanksgivings in Massachusetts were sizable affairs
attended both by immediate and extended families. Each family
brought at least one hot dish and a dessert, all displayed on
a large, banquet-style table. Of course, Thanksgiving dinner did
not begin until the last family arrived.
"Waiting for the family stragglers and then for the meal to begin
was a subtle form of torture for the children. My brother, sister
and I became particular experts at removing the [lids] on the
dishes, carefully picking at the food and then covering our fingers'
tracks so that no would notice. I am pleased to report that I
retain mastery of this skill.
"One year, I can't remember which, at the front and center
of the banquet table amid the green beans, creamed spinach, and
mashed potatoes stood a glistening ring of Jello suffused with
a strange and wondrous assortment of stuff. Everyone, even the
adults, ignored it -- that is, until my mother [the creator of
the mold] pleaded with us, Please, just take a taste.' It was
different, and even though many of the younger kids left blobs
of it on their otherwise empty plates, the adults praised it to
the heavens. My mother became emboldened by her success and immediately
instituted the Jello mold as a family tradition. Depending on
the year -- and my mother's sense of daring -- it became the highlight,
or low light, of our feast.
my mom is still a very important part of the Thanksgiving celebration.
Like the Queen Mother, however, she has passed the Jello mold
crown to my sister. I am still trying to decide if that was a
Lab Specialist Advanced, Cardiology Lab
father is a hunter, and one year, when I was 10 or 12 years old,
he brought home a wild turkey he'd killed. My mother had already
fixed one from the store, but he made her throw it away and cook
the one he'd brought home. We had Thanksgiving dinner for supper
"In recent years, my family has been meeting my sister's
family at a Civilian Conservation Corps cabin in Ligumere, Pa.
There's no running water, so we have to wash the turkey outside.
It's really rustic -- the CCC cabins have a smell of being used
since the 1930s, and we sleep on bunk beds."
Associate Professor of Religious Studies
"My husband and I like to go up to the mountains for a hike on
Thanksgiving morning. One year I had injured my knee, but it seemed
to have gotten better, so we piled in the car, took our little
camping cookstove, a bottle of wine, some crusty rolls, cranberry
sauce, and a can of Spam.
"We hiked up the Priest [in Shenandoah National Park], and
the top was submerged in clouds. It was so foggy that drops of
moisture were adhering to our wool caps. Then the clouds lowered
and we could see the mountaintops -- they looked like islands
in the clouds. We cooked our Spam, and were very grateful for
the beauty of the mountains, and that I had the physical means
to go up there."