Nov. 19-Dec. 2, 1999
Guide cites U.Va., Casteen for leadership and character development efforts
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Cancer Center fosters world-class research and clinical care

Slingluff team developing melanoma vaccine
The Academical Village in the Internet Age
What's in the water in Charlottesville?
Internet, the media and politics
In Memoriam
Thanksgiving staples: warm food, warmer memories
Hot Links - Plymouth Colony Archive Project
Conference maps spread of nuclear weapons technology
Artisans Bazaar set for Dec. 3-5

horn of plentyThanksgiving 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.

In 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.

President 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.

To mark the occasion this year, Inside UVA asked a random group of U.Va. staff and faculty to share some of their favorite Thanksgiving memories.

Pete Gillen
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.

"The 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."

With 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.

Casteen 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."

He 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?

Shamim Sisson
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.

"Because 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.

"The 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."

Cynthia Johnson Polly
Director of Writing Lab and Lecturer in English,
University of Virginia's College at Wise

"Though 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."

Jonathan Kates
Director, University Bookstore

"My 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, ŒPlease, 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.

"Thankfully, 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 good idea."

Craig Goodman
Lab Specialist Advanced, Cardiology Lab

"My 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 that year.

"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."

Heather Warren
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."


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