Michele Grgas Thomas The Triplicate

Over the years I've heard a number of people say, "Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday." I have to agree. It's a day set aside for gathering around the table with family and friends in a gift-free zone. What could be better?

In our family's conscious effort to get back to basics, tomorrow's menu features carrots from our garden; potatoes dug from a farm in Fort Dick; local squash and hand-picked mushrooms; beets we pickled one foggy weekend last summer; fresh pear and cranberry crisp; pie made from the pumpkin I grew from seeds I saved from last year's pumpkin; and a friend's rhubarb wine.

Center stage belongs to the "heritage" turkey. Heritage or heirloom turkeys are making a comeback as the real McCoys raised without quick-growth hormones or bred for top-heavy breasts of white meat.

But the heart of the meal - what my sons will travel hours for -

is the stuffing, also an heirloom. I learned to make this dish by

watching my mother who learned from my grandmother. The recipe is not

written down anywhere. A couple of years ago my daughter-in-law Holly

stood by my side at the stove while I showed her what my mother had

taught me.

Every year the aroma of simmering pork sausage, celery and onion

stirs up a mental slide show of Thanksgivings past when my dad carved

the bird, Mom made whipped cream with an old rotary beater, we dragged

the piano bench over to the table to make room for one more, and my

babies sat on my lap.

I was reading Oprah's magazine the other day and saw an excerpt that

I keep coming back to. The book it's from is "A Homemade Life, stories

and recipes from my kitchen table," by Molly Wizenberg. This is what

she says:

"When I walk into my kitchen today, I am not alone. Whether we know

it or not, none of us is. We bring fathers and mothers and kitchen

tables, and every meal we have ever eaten. Food is never just food.

It's also a way of getting at something else: who we are, who we have

been, and who we want to be."

From my kitchen to yours, Happy Thanksgiving.

Reach Michele Thomas, The Daily Triplicate's publisher, at 464-2141, or stop by 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.