Saturday, November 28, 2015

Singleton reflects on childhood memories of country Thanksgiving meals

George Buster Singleton
(For decades, local historian and paranormal investigator George “Buster” Singleton published a weekly newspaper column called “Somewhere in Time.” The column below, which was titled “An event to remember: Thanksgiving breakfast with syrup, biscuits and fried meat” was originally published in the Nov. 27, 1986 edition of The Monroe Journal in Monroeville, Ala.)

I don’t mean to be critical of anyone or any place, but those of you who haven’t celebrated a Thanksgiving in a country surrounding have missed a great event in your life.

Celebrating Thanksgiving would usually start around Wednesday, the day before. Things would begin to take shape, such as company coming, preparation of the food, and the many other things that had to be done before the Thanksgiving meal was served.

If the weather was agreeable, a long table between two sweet-gum trees in the corner of the yard would be where all the eating activities would take place. If the weather chose to be otherwise, the dining room would suffice.

Always, along about this time of year, the winding down of syrup making was taking place. On Thanksgiving morning, there was almost always one last cooking of syrup to be taken care of. This cooking would start around 4 a.m. As the cooking progressed, preparation was being made for the much-looked-forward-to Thanksgiving breakfast.

All menfolks and children would gather around the syrup pan, where the hot syrup was cooking, so as to be available when the delicious hot syrup was ready to drain out into the waiting buckets. Two or three would go up the hill to the house and bring a couple of dishpans of freshly made hot biscuits, along with two or three pans of homemade butter. Another pan of fried lean meat would also be a part of the breakfast menu.

If you have never participated in a breakfast like this, I feel very, very sorry for you. The piping-hot syrup was poured over the biscuits and butter. Coffee was served from two huge pots that sat on the fire that cooked the syrup. A side order of the thin strips of lean meat was added to complete the meal.

Picture a small boy of 10 with a plate full of syrup and biscuits, the butter already melted from the heat of the just-cooked syrup. Add a tin cup of hot coffee and three or four strips of the fried, lean meat, and you have total, absolute contentment.

Many tall tales and yarns would venture forth during the morning meal beside the fire. But they all sounded good to a small one who was listening closely to every word and believed beyond a shadow of doubt that they were true.

As the last of the syrup was sealed in the cans and the fire died down, the older of the group would gradually wander up the hill toward the house. They knew that the main event would not be long in coming, and each sought a place to sit down and wait on the benches under the sweet-gum trees.

The Thanksgiving meal was something to see. The heavily laden table was swaying in the middle from the weight of the baked hams, turkey and dressing, sweet potato pies, cakes of all sorts and many, many other dishes too numerous to mention.

To one who had, not too long before, eaten his fill of hot syrup, butter and biscuits, not to mention several pieces of the delicious fried meat, the Thanksgiving table had lost much of its luster.

But then there was the afternoon; if you played your cards right, you could always con an older sister into bringing you an afternoon snack. And after all the company had gone, one could eat for a week on the food that was left over from the Thanksgiving feast. Cold turkey and dressing, not to mention sweet-potato pies, are almost as good as hot syrup, fried lean meat and hot biscuits.

 (Singleton, the author of the 1991 book “Of Foxfire and Phantom Soldiers,” passed away at the age of 79 on July 19, 2007. A longtime resident of Monroeville, he was born on Dec. 14, 1927 in Marengo County and served as the administrator of the Monrsoeville National Guard unit from 1964 to 1987. He is buried in Pineville Cemetery in Monroeville. The column above and all of Singleton’s other columns are available to the public through the microfilm records at the Monroe County Public Library in Monroeville. Singleton’s columns are presented here each week for research and scholarship purposes and as part of an effort to keep his work and memory alive.)

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