We as a nation are having a very different Thanksgiving this year because of the COVIDl-19 crisis. Many people have lost family and friends to this pandemic and it’s hard to be thankful when there has been so much strife and uncertainty in our country.
So to bring myself away from the doldrums, I’m thinking about past Thanksgivings.
I remember as a young woman and newly married, my (then) husband and I would drive 3 hours from our home in Des Moines to Davenport, Iowa, where his mom and dad lived in a small 2-story house located in a modest neighborhood. My mother-in-law controlled all aspects of the Thanksgiving dinner, prepping early in the morning until the smell of turkey and potatoes filled the entire house for the rest of day.
These holidays were different from what I grew up with. Although we also had turkey, potatoes and other assortments of calories, the flavors and atmosphere were distinct from my family house to my in-laws. Same raw materials, different cooks.
My in-laws had German ancestry and would throw around the occasional German words and expressions. “Guterwein” was one of those words. Turkey was served with guterwein, translated to “good wine,” and was usually purchased for special occasions at the nearby country mercantile. It tended to be heavy and sweet with some added vegetation growing behind the barn.
My mom never served wine with meals, ever. So these holiday gatherings at the in-laws would be my first experiences with drinking any kind of wine. I thought it tasted pretty awful. I decided I didn’t like the beverage and avoided Iowa wine for another 30 years.
Wine made here has changed a lot in that time frame, as well as my appreciation. There are over 100 wineries in Iowa which means there are probably about that many or more wine makers. Just like my mother-in-law and Thanksgiving dinner, each recipe, ingredient, climate, and circumstance is different. Like different cooks in different towns working with the same raw materials (Midwest grapes), wine varies from each winery and winemaker.
This holiday season may be different from our recent memories, but our hope is we all can discover new experiences and a renewed gratitude.
Joann Schissel, Wine, art and story lover
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