A Savvy Auntie Thanksgiving Tradition
Written By Savvy Auntie Staff Writers
By Shawn Blackhawk
Growing up in America's Heartland, Shawn Blackhawk used her poetry from an early age to express herself. Her philosophy has always been: "I'll try anything once." She uses her words like a brush, painting vivid pictures, evoking as much emotion from her readers as she can. She appreciates struggles, as they pave the road to triumph, and firmly believes that the darkest parts of the human mind and soul are the only way to eventually celebrate the light. She has been recognized for Illuminating Digital Publishing Excellence by Jenkins Group (eLit Awards) and was the 2011 Silver Medal Finalist for the Electronically Published Internet Collation (EPIC Awards). Shawn's poetry book can be purchased at L-Book.com.
It’s that time of year again! The holiday season has officially started. It’s funny how as soon as you see the first Christmas ad, you start to get that feeling—the one that has you whistling carols, planning holiday meal menus, making travel plans, and present shopping. Sure, it’s still a month away, but who cares? Thanksgiving has become the standard bearer for the Christmas rush.
The past three years, my wife and I were stationed in Hawaii. I’ve been away from home a lot in my adult life, but that posting was the hardest. It’s a long flight home from Honolulu to the East Coast—not to mention the expense. I tried combining book signings and appearances with the holidays, but it wasn’t always possible. Those holiday seasons were the hardest. After we “adopted” our young service men and women, we became the home everyone came to for the holidays. And while I enjoyed their company and loved them all, it wasn’t the same as being with my family. This is the first year back I’ll get to spend with family, and I’m excited as all get out.
Being half Native American, I get asked how I feel about celebrating what’s become a “white person’s” holiday. To be honest, I don’t think of it that way. While I acknowledge that not all of the Native people were keen on having the white man arrive, most tribes were eager to meet, share and trade with the newcomers. Without Native American assistance, the original settlers would have died out, and that probably would have, for a time, ended the invasion of outsiders. I’ll admit to sometimes wondering what this country would look like without the European influence. I go to the plains out west, listening to the wind, hearing the cries of my ancestors. But I also have to listen to the Irish half of me. To do anything less is an injustice to my entire heritage. So, Thanksgiving has become my annual holiday.
When I go, I go big. I prepare both traditional Native American foods as well as traditional European ones. While we roast or deep fry a turkey, we also have a buffalo or venison roast, mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes, cranberries and beet roots. I love corn bread dressing and flat bread. There are sorts of ways to prepare both. The joy is in finding ways to use the influence of both sides of my genetics in new, exciting ways.
This year, I’m letting my “niece” Brittany takeover. Just this once. She and her new husband are staying here with me and my new wife. They were shipped out a few months after us, and we’re thrilled they were stationed here at the Fort by us. I’ll be honest. Giving up control is going to be very tough for me. “Ma’am, yes ma’am” is more the way I’m used to things being. I love Brit and trust her, and that’s all I need to know. I know she’ll pay tribute to my people, as well as hers, and that’s what this holiday is all about.
So while Brittany is scrambling to get food ready for the 20 family members and friends that will be here, I’m going to spend a little time with the younger generation. I’m going to begin the tradition of cookie baking with them. My grandmother, my mom, my sister, and I used to do this. Now that my grandmother has passed away, my mom and I lead this annual part of the holiday. It is not only a fun activity that everyone (yes, even the kids) can participate in, building bonds, strengthening the family core, but it also provides a portable source of nourishment food while waiting in Black Friday lines. So, my friends, I’m going to give YOU the recipe we’ve always used. It is kid friendly, it’s simple, and it’s a great way to start that holiday season. It’s also a way to pay tribute to those that aren’t here anymore to help—and for me, a way to be thankful that my ancestors cared more about sharing and helping than they did about dividing and conquering.
Sugar Cookie Cutouts
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup butter flavored shortening
2 cups cake flour
1 large egg
¾ cup sugar
1 tablespoon eggnog or milk
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon real vanilla or almond extract
¼ teaspoon cinnamon extract (optional)
Beat butter and shortening with a mixer on high speed for 45 seconds. Add half the cake flour, cinnamon (if you’re using it) egg, sugar, eggnog or milk, baking powder, vanilla/almond extract, and a pinch of salt. Beat on med to high speed until thoroughly combined. Slowly beat in the remaining flour. Divide the dough into four equal parts. Cover and chill for 4 hours.
On a clean, flat surface, sprinkle cake flour and roll out one of the ¼ sections of dough until about 1/8 inch thick. Using desired cutout shapes, cut as many cookies as you can. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet. (Optional: brush surface of cookie with milk for a lightly browned, crisper cookie.) Bake for 7-8 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough, adding in the “scraps” from each batch.
Once cookies are done, use your favorite frosting. Whether homemade butter cream, powdered sugar, or store bought, it doesn’t matter. Let your nieces and nephews frost the cookies, adding sprinkles, jimmies, cinnamon dots, etc. Make sure to take LOTS of pictures of the ensuing fun that’s going to take place and give thanks for the gift of family.
Published: November 21, 2012