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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Oh Those Family Traditions by Rose Anderson

*Here’s a bit of the standard definition:
  1. The handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc., from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth or by practice.
  2. A long-established or inherited way of thinking or acting.
  3. A continuing pattern of culture beliefs or practices.
  4. A customary or characteristic method or manner.
When you stop to think about it, our world is filled with such processes and procdures. Never is tradition more present in our lives than in the months of November and December. For example: in November, Americans have their Thanksgiving dinners with tried and true recipes reserved just for that day. In my family, these once-a-year side dishes are all that remain of family members long since passed. We have another Thanksgiving tradition in my family – churning butter.

My then soon-to-be husband and I were back to the land urban dwellers who left the big city for the country. Back in the day, we looked for every opportunity to learn to do things by hand or make things from scratch. You wouldn’t believe the old-timey things I know how to do! Before we married, he gave me a small glass 1930’s butter churn. As you can see, the nifty little gadget has a tin lid outfitted with a crank and cog that turns a tin paddle inside. 

In my mind's eye I can almost see the original owner as she wielded a specially designed spoon to carefully skim cream from the milk bottle for her butter churn. Then as now, through domestic alchemy, heavy cream whirled in this ball-shaped thingamajig becomes butter. How cool.

We made butter for our first Thanksgiving as newlyweds and have done so every Thanksgiving since. My husband and I took turns back then, and yes it took a while, but hey, homemade butter. Not once in 37 years did it go unused. 

As our family grew, the tradition of making butter for our Thanksgiving feast passed to the kids. Funny how time changes things. As little children they got to make the butter. Yay! As teens they had to make the butter. Blah. As adults, our son and daughter still make our Thanksgiving butter in that little churn, but now the truth is out. They confessed they'd actually never enjoyed making the butter. ( and dad have memories saying otherwise.) 

The whole thing has become a source of endless laughter. The thing is, it’s not an easy task. In fact it takes at least an hour of constant cranking and often longer depending on the temperature of the cream. The highlight of making butter is not the end product, it's coming up with ways to pass it off to the other person -- "Here, churn for a while. I need to use the bathroom" or "I'll be right back, I have to help mom". Of course the intent here is to simply walk away and stick the other person with the job.

Last week's Thanksgiving butter torture was as hilarious as always.
My soon-to-be daughter-in-law had a go as did my two teenage nephews. We needed the extra muscle. This year was one of those 90-minute churn-fests. Even I took a turn but failed trying to dump it off on my son. My kids have come up with some colorful names and comments for the butter churn since confessing their disdain a decade ago. 

Thanksgiving lament
I can't believe it's not butter

Ball of hatred

The rage ball
Wheel of vitriol
Vitriolic hate machine
Edward’s bane

Butter slavery
The #@&%-ing butter churn

The churn of pain
The churn of death
Death by butter

What a funny crowd! Yes, I give thanks.

And speaking of traditions...
Not all that long ago there existed a thoughtful and personal way to tell someone you were thinking of them. Throughout the month of December and up to New Years Day, I'll be sharing 100 years worth of my vintage holiday postcard collection. Stop by my blog and enjoy the lovely keepsake correspondence people shared before the impersonal internet came into our lives. Be sure to scroll back so you don't miss any.  Subscribe and you'll get them straight to your inbox.

Do you have funny traditions? Share a smile in comments. :) 

*Thank you

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About Rose
Rose is a multi-published, award-winning author and dilettante who loves great conversation and discovering interesting things to weave into stories. She lives with her family and small menagerie amid oak groves and prairie in the rolling glacial hills of the upper Midwest.

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Jacqueline Seewald said...

Nice how family traditions change with memory which is highly selective. I find that to be true with my own adult children as well.

vicki batman said...

Hi, Rose! I have never made butter. My mom did and said never again. I didn't know there were little churns like yours. In a way, it's like making homemade ice cream if you don't use an electric machine. LOL

Rose Anderson said...

Jacqueline: Oh so true! I clearly remember how excited they were to help make the butter for our meal.

Vicki: It's amazingly labor intensive with that little curn. I remember the school I worked at made butter for their Thanksgiving feast. They did it by rolling a tightly-sealed mason jar from one child to another. Do that for 30 minutes or so, followed by a good shaking and you're done.

Cara Marsi said...

How interesting, Rose. I'm sure your churned butter is delicious, and I love your tradition, but I don't have the patience for churning. I get my butter the old-fashioned way, from a store. LOL!

I really can't think of any traditions in our family. Growing up, we always had a pasta dish with the traditional Thanksgiving food. Everyone I knew of Italian descent did this. Other than that, no other traditions.

It's wonderful you and your family have these traditions.

Paris said...

I lived in the country as a kid and our neighbor churned butter and did just about every other fascinating thing that I never paid much attention to at the time. I do remember her extraordinary, muscular arms that I'm sure no amount of gym time would ever produce. And of course at the end of it all she got butter, which as I remember was delicious! BTW her butter churn was much like yours except much larger:)

Jane Leopold Quinn said...

Wonderful story, Rose, and I love the names for the churn. You're lucky with your hubby and children. They, and you, sound like a great and fun bunch.

E. Ayers said...

I have a crock-type butter churn where you lift the paddle up and down. I've never attempted butter in there. I grab the electric mixer.

If your children are like mine, that little churn will be the first thing to hit the trash when you've died. I don't think they will be passing that tradition along to their children.

Linda Andrews said...

Wonderful post. My kids churned butter in school for Thankgiving. For us it was homemade ice cream and all that turning.

Melissa Keir said...

The students made butter on a field trip. It was shaken and only took about 10 minutes.

We have a tradition of having Sauerkraut Soup on Christmas Eve. One year my dad couldn't find Sauerkraut juice to make the soup and so he ended up driving into Cleveland to get the cans and eventually bought enough so that he had cans for years.

Marianne Stephens said...

Family tradition (Italian thing) - 7 fish meal on Christmas Eve. Growing up, we'd have big family gatherings, and lots of fish. Not sure why seven types of fish were served, but I as a kid, I'd only taste a few.
I only cook 2 or 3 types of fish now.

Rose Anderson said...

Loved the comments, everyone. Thanks for stopping by!

Janice Seagraves said...

I love that you stuck it out with the butter churning tradition. One of these days your children will look back at the butter churning with nostalgia.


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