“We Thank Thee, God”

Holiday Reflections – by Edna Eby Heller

Thanksgiving Day! “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all benefits.” For three hundred and thirty years, Americans have had a Thanksgiving day. Since 1621, great men have seen the need of such a day. Governor Bradford sent four men into the forests to shoot wild birds. “We will hold a harvest feast of Thanksgiving,” he said, and invited the Indians to rejoice with them for the harvest that was beyond their expectation. Since that day, generation after generation has had cause to rejoice and be glad. 

The celebration of this holiday centers on the festive table, that is literally loaded with the bounties of the earth. When you look back to Grandma’s Thanksgiving table, did it seem to you that she made everything that she could think of? What did you like best? Was it really the turkey, or were you “just plain fascinated” with the variety of food?

There are certain things that are very typical of a Thanksgiving dinner. They somehow belong to it. Woud the menu be complete without celery? On many tables, it stands high in the center of the table in the prized cut-glass celery dish. But, no matter, high or low, there must be celery.

The only pies I can remember of eating on this occasion are the traditional pumpkin and mince. Or, it could be that I have lived in too small a world. Maybe the folks in Schuylkill or Northampton counties have an altogether different idea of a Thanksgiving pie. Could be! Even the Dutchmen differ! 

Up to this point, I haven’t mentioned a thing about the filling—but let me assure you that I have not forgotten. Was I saving the best for last? It IS quite an interesting subject indeed. There is nothing monotonous about filling. You might season it with giblets, onion, celery, saffron, parsley, marjoram, rosemary, sage, thyme, but never all of them, please. We want it well flavored  but bland. There is no set rule for fillings as to proportions, but, keep it light and only slightly moist.

The fowl stuffings commonly found on the Pennsylvania Dutch table are the Bread, Potato, Oyster, and Chestnut fillings, sometimes two at a time. One family always has the front part of the turkey stuffed with Oyster filling and the back filled with Potato. That sounds good to me. 

We Dutchmen like our filling so well that we don’t always wait for holidays or special occasions to serve it; we don’t even wait for the fowl. On, no! Just give us a pork or beef roast and we are liable to put a casserole or filling on the same menu; we just turn filling into the frying pan, cover it, and let it rise in its own way over medium heat. Stuff it, bake it or fry it, no matter, it is still a filling dish that fills you up and sticks to the ribs. So on with the filling! 

Edna Eby Heller, “’We Thank Thee, God;’ Holiday Reflections,” The Pennsylvania Dutchman, 4, No. 7 (November, 1952): 3.