Families plan Thanksgiving gatherings | News

Traditional turkey and ham dinners are in the works in many kitchens this week, as families and friends gather to count blessings and reminisce about festivities past.

Both the weekend before and after November 24th there will be people gathering as everyone tries to find time to come together. In-person dining has become more valued since the COVID-19 pandemic forced the separation, and some people still wear masks in public places.

Shoppers at grocery stores were picking up supplies for cakes, toppings, and all things traditional fare at their weekend potlucks or gatherings.

The journey may be near or far for a meal. Some people always look forward to hunting, and games are also part of Christmas activities in some families.

Jodi Coward called fried green beans the best food there is, and she said they’re especially delicious when paired with bacon. She will cook the side dishes for her family.

“We will have turkey and ham, I will also make the rice and broccoli casserole. We will go to my mother-in-law’s house. She makes the best desserts: cheesecake and a Ding Dong cake from scratch,” Coward said.

In some homes, men are the best cooks, or at least the ones who cook the meat. As Shawna Shirrel’s 8-year-old son Zechariah sat in the basket eating McDonald’s fries during a recent Christmas shopping spree, he eyed the frozen turkeys. That got his attention.

“I look forward to being with family, especially since COVID; that’s what it’s all about, being together again,” Shirrel said.

She says that her husband, Danon, is the best cook.

“He makes turkey, deviled eggs. I like to make the dressing, and we let the kids make cookies, pies, and pies. They like to cook, so I let them. They are 11 and 13 years old,” Shirrel said.

It can feel wonderful or strange for the younger generation to step up and cook after decades of being the head cook.

Sharmon Hunter, from Stilwell, was attending a meeting in Tahlequah recently, so she stopped by a store for some Thanksgiving necessities. His daughter-in-law, Christie Hunter, will cook the meal, including turkey, ham and traditional dressing.

Hunter has two sons and his daughter will come from Kentucky.

“We will all be together. I have seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren,” Hunter said.

After the meal, unless it’s too cold, they’ll play Corn Hole, which Hunter often watches. He said that children like to play.

Wanda Hakes, from Lost City, isn’t cooking dinner, but she is making a cake.

“My daughter is preparing the food: turkey and dressing, all the traditional foods. I’m baking a pecan pie and a coconut cream pie,” Hakes said.

She is ready to be with her family again. She has nine grandchildren and some great grandchildren as well.

“I like my family to get together. We get together for Thanksgiving, Christmas and birthdays. There are three of my children left,” Hakes said.

Her mom and grandmother used to cook traditional foods and she learned to cook from them.

Asking people what they expected brought more smiles as they pictured their loved ones, past and present.

David Cornsilk looks forward to spending time with his five grandchildren.

“I have a new one; she is 2 months old, Zaylie Jae. It will be her first Thanksgiving,” Cornsilk said.

Cornsilk said his son-in-law is a great meat cook and he’ll smoke a ribeye.

What Cornsilk misses most about Thanksgiving is the elderly who have passed away. She also misses her grandmother’s cakes.

“She made some great fruit pies – cherry and apple, and one of the best pies she ever made was the raisin pie,” she said.

Since Cornsilk doesn’t cook, he usually buys cakes.

“I usually have wild onions in my freezer, so I can make traditional Cherokee food, because you have to pass that culture on to kids,” she said.

One of her favorite memories is about a time when she cooked for her parents.

“My parents came from Tahlequah to Oklahoma City to have a Thanksgiving meal with me,” Cornsilk said.

Many people will travel this year.

Sarah Miller, of Tahlequah, will celebrate Thanksgiving with her family at Poteau. Her grandmother, who used to play dominoes with her parents, died two years ago, so she misses her a lot.

“I make our pumpkin, apple, and Millionaire pies. My sister, Samantha, makes turkey and dressing. Our kids get together and we make construction arrangements that morning, and we maintain them,” Miller said.

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