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Booknotes Memories (1): Childhood
By GEORGE SOTER
My mother grew up in Vresthena a Peloponnesus mountain village where they had lots of chestnuts, pine nuts, and currents (rarely turkeys, but lots of chickens, ducks, and geese to stuff), so her traditional stuffing included her Hellenic standbys. In Chicago, where she early on wound up, her Chicago Vresthena cousin Andonia (who’d been carried to Ameriki as an infant, her accent and cuisine reflected her pre-Chicago upbringing in Boston) made her traditional stuffing with oysters (as rare in 1920’s Chicago as turkeys in Vresthena). Thea Andonia’s annual Thanksgiving search and resultant stuffing featured the bi-valves; my mother’s continued to star chestnuts, pine nuts, and currents (all almost as rare in Chicago, then, as oysters).
These little culinary histories led each year to respective family turn-downs of Thanksgiving invitations (“Who ever heard of oysters! Po, po, po!” “Chestnuts are so old country! Phooey!”) These annual November arguments reigned among my cousins and me, so that we never had extended-family feasts on the great American family-feasting holiday. I now love raw oysters but still prefer chestnut stuffing in our big bird. But oddly, I miss those noisy, endless, pointless, excited, loving arguments over chestnuts vs. oysters. Lots of other memory stuffings to miss, too.