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Illustration by Gregg Bender/The Journal Gazette

Memories to be thankful for

Thanksgiving memories can be sweet – that best-ever pie Grandma always made – or ridiculous – your cousin shooting a bird off a telephone wire and your aunt and dad cooking it (ahem). But those memories are full of family, love and some of the best, most mouth-watering aromas imaginable.

We asked some local folks to share their favorite food-related Thanksgiving Day memory. Enjoy their stories, and may your holiday celebration this year be full of the stuff “Remember Whens?” are made of.

My grandmother, Agnes Witmer, would always make tapioca pudding and homemade pumpkin pie. My cousins and I would always line up around Grandma’s table eagerly waiting for the dinner to be served. To this day, no one can make tapioca pudding to taste like it did when my grandma made it.

– Alana Jacquay DeLong, Leo-Cedarville

My side of the family is Ukrainian immigrants. When I was little, I remember a ton of food on the table, the buffet, the card table and in the kitchen. There was traditional Thanksgiving food as well as all the Ukrainian favorites.

My baba (grandma) could really cook! Cabbage rolls were always on the table, borscht and vareniyki (some people know them as pierogi) stuffed with either cabbage or mashed potatoes and onions. My mother would make them stuffed with blueberries and sprinkle them with sugar. Baba would fry up some chicken wings just for me. The entire family would sit around the big table. Yes, even us little ones got to sit with the adults.

After dinner, my grandpa would take his accordion and play Ukrainian folk music. It’s not exactly a Norman Rockwell picture, but it was family coming together and giving thanks.

For (my husband) Todd and me lately, we are starting new memories. We became vegan last year and are also gluten-free. This is our second Thanksgiving where I become creative. It’s a challenge to relearn cooking, but it’s an adventure now. I just printed off a recipe for baked tofu that has poultry seasonings and will taste “chicken-y.”

– Nina Young, Fort Wayne

My recently deceased mother used to poke whole cloves into oranges and then string them up with ribbon when we were small kids. They used to last for weeks and made the whole house smell fantastic. They’d shrink up into these rock-hard petrified globules of potpourri that could then be used as ornaments if desired. Now that I’m an adult, I try to do the same for my little one, but the oranges usually end up getting moldy instead.

– Mindy Harrold, Fort Wayne

The food-related memory that I have during the Thanksgiving holiday is my sister Diane’s sweet potato pie. When I was young, my family celebrated Thanksgiving dinner together. Being the youngest of 10 children, it was something that I looked forward to, and everybody looked forward to Diane’s sweet potato pie. Around this time every year, I get a taste for my sister’s sweet potato pie.

– Joe Jordan, Fort Wayne

Our family tradition starts with the prepping of our meal all day into the early a.m. the day before Thanksgiving. My mother and I still spend hours upon hours preparing recipes that have been passed down for years. Everything from flames of burnt toast falling at the bottom of the oven to turkey juice exploding all over the kitchen has created special effects of rolling smoke clouds that never seem to leave, even with open windows. (I also remember) smoke alarms going off, which requires removal from the wall to stop. We’ve witnessed everything from grease burns, blistered fingers and feet and flour- and food-covered bodies, as well as kitchens that take days to finally get clean.

– Angie Kurek, Fort Wayne

I am not a huge fan of pumpkin pie, but my Grandma Foster always made a bunch of them for our big get-togethers, and it was tradition to have one. To this day, I am not sure if anyone liked them, but we all ate them. She passed away when I was 19, and now one of my cousins has picked up the tradition of preparing the pumpkin pies.

– Amber Recker, Fort Wayne