In true Texas Thanksgiving fashion this past weekend, my 9-month-old discovered the beauty and joy of a smoked brisket. He followed it up with a healthy tasting of cool whip and I’m pretty sure he’s never going back to broccoli.
Every year after Texas Thanksgiving I arrive back in Kansas with my accent just a bit thicker, my tolerance for cold just a bit thinner, and craving all manner of spicy and exotic food I will not find here (tamales, kolaches, boudin etc.).
If we’re going to the paternal side of my Texas family further south, those cravings for tamales and kolaches will probably be filled right alongside the turkey at Thanksgiving dinner. If it’s my maternal side, we’ll be having brisket and wild game alongside the traditional offerings, depending on what my cousin’s husband has hunted this year (thankfully we were treated to jalapeno-stuffed, bacon-wrapped dove instead of the exotic bass he most recently captured in Brazil.)
All of this is pretty different from the Rapp side of the family I’ll see this week, but I’m no less excited about another round of great food and family time.
As I get older and more attentive to the nuances of family Thanksgiving celebrations (beyond just who made the best dessert that year) I am amazed at the individuality and intimacy that can be found this time of year.
“Oh, I’m not that close with my family,” you’ll tell me. And I’ll say to you it doesn’t matter.
I haven’t been truly home in Texas since Thanksgiving last year and yet it was like slipping into your comfortable old chore coat — it may not be the prettiest one you own, or your favorite, but it’s the right fit any time you need dependable warmth.
And, like any holiday for agriculturalists, Thanksgiving comes with a whole host of extra special challenges and opportunities unique to our industry.
For example, at Texas Thanksgiving this year my ag teaching father and Extension agent brother decided the gathering was the prefect place to trade a show pig cross-state, despite my cousins hosting the event in the middle of a very fancy and exclusive Fort Worth-adjacent gated community.
At Missouri Thanksgiving this year, I think we’re working cattle, because holidays just mean extra hands to accomplish chores when the off-farm workers come back home.
Last year, all the Rapp men forewent Thanksgiving altogether in favor of a western Kansas pheasant hunting expedition. Good hunting weather combined with a few extra days off typically makes Thanksgiving-time a good hunting opportunity and last year I was happy to let them go rough it while I stayed home to be pampered and eat as much food as my pregnant self could handle.
All this to say that when you see the cows are out as you’ve just left the house in your fancy Thanksgiving clothes or a woefully misguided extended family member asks if everything on the table is gluten free (newsflash: we grow wheat here) these instances are unique. They make up the fabric of family conversations now and 10 years from now when no one can remember whether so-and-so’s ex-girlfriend asked about gluten or soy, or whether the cows broke free at the North 20 or Back 40.
All you’ll know is that you experienced these things together. They make up a few multicolored threads in the patchwork of a long family lineage. Moments of mutual joy.
This year, I hope you’ll slow down enough to recognize and savor those moments. I know I will.