Make no mistake about it; November is Myrna Fligg’s time to shine.
The long-time Clive resident loves to cook for her husband, Roger, as well as for her family and friends all year round.
But the king of all cooking days, Thanksgiving, falls in November, and that’s when Fligg pulls out all the stops.
“I love being in the kitchen cooking candies the days leading up to Thanksgiving and then cooking the meal itself on Thanksgiving Day,” she says. “It gives me pleasure.”
Fligg says she picked up the love of cooking from her mother.
“She was an excellent cook,” says Fligg. “We always had good food on the table. She had a way of making everyday food something special.”
But when she was young, Fligg says she never got to help cook anything for Thanksgiving Day.
“I was usually in charge of setting the table,” she says.
Fligg, however, has made up for it over the years. She says she starts planning her family’s Thanksgiving menu for 15 or so people a week in advance.
“Everyone has the favorite dish they want made,” she says. “We meet at our son’s house in Ankeny, so he and his wife usually take care of the turkey. But there are things like pumpkin pie, dressing and other things to make beforehand or on Thanksgiving Day.”
And when it comes to the meal, Fligg says there is nothing really all that fancy on the table.
“It’s all comfort food — mashed potatoes and gravy, some vegetables, stuffing, rolls. We are not real big on sweet potatoes, but there is always a little dish of it on the table.”
Fligg says she does do a couple of things to her dressing that makes it a little more special — and tasty.
“I beat eggs up until they are fluffy and then pour them into the broth. I then beat whip cream up until fluffy and add it to the mixture,” she says.
And the one thing she always makes is her Grandma Curtis’ Date Pudding (the recipe is below).
“I call it more of a Date Cake,” she says. “It’s part of our family’s traditional holiday meal.”
You take Thanksgiving Dinner to them.
That’s the idea behind WestClivendaleHeights, a tradition started by the Clive Fire Department 11 years ago.
“Fires and accidents don’t stop happening just because it’s Thanksgiving or some other holiday,” says Tony Collins, Assistant Fire Chief/Fire Marshal for the Clive Fire Department. “Since emergencies never take a holiday, we — as emergency responders — can’t take a day off.”
So in 2001, members of the Clive Fire Department decided to make a Thanksgiving dinner at the fire station, and that way those on duty can rotate in and out to enjoy fellowship with their comrades.
And, to make it even better, members of the Clive Fire Department invited emergency responders from West Des Moines, Urbandale and Windsor Heights to join them — and that’s how WestClivendaleHeights was born.
“We do the turkeys,” says Collins. “We have two deep fat fryers going, and we do about six to eight turkeys for the day. Then each of the other communities provide something for the dinner. West Des Moines, for example, brings dessert, while Urbandale will bring mashed potatoes.”
The WestClivendaleHeights Thanksgiving dinner is held the Wednesday before Thanksgiving Day.
“It really is a great chance to meet and get to know fellow emergency responders from those other communities,” says Collins. “Even though some of our areas overlap, we rarely see other responders all that much.
“And it’s great to put a face to a voice when the dispatchers show up.”
Last year, the Clive Fire Department used its annual get-together as a way to educate people on using deep fat fryers to cook their Thanksgiving Day turkeys.
Fried turkey is just one fire peril on turkey day. For example, the 2006 and 2007 Thanksgiving days were the top day in the United States for home cooking fires, reports the National Fire Protection Association. More than 1,400 structural fires in each of those years started from home cooking equipment — three times greater than the daily nationwide average.
“We invited the local media here to put on a demonstration on how easy it is to start a fire with the turkey fryer,” says Collins. “One of the local grocery stores provided the turkeys to use in the demonstration. We thought it was a great way to get the word out on how to have a safe Thanksgiving Day.”
For the first time since 2001, the WestClivendaleHeights Thanksgiving dinner will not be held at the Clive Fire Department. This year, the annual dinner will be held at the Urbandale Fire Department.
“It has gotten bigger over the years,” says Collins. “It has simply outgrown our facilities here. That’s good news, really. That means more emergency responders — and their families — are coming to enjoy the fellowship.”
For the kids
Cooking and eating family-favorite dishes is secondary at Thanksgiving in the Les and Sharon Aasheim home in Clive.
Les, the former mayor and city councilmember of Clive, enjoys coming up with activities for his grandchildren while the Thanksgiving Day dinner is being cooked.
“Les is really good about finding little activities to keep the kids active,” says Sharon. “I think he gets a bigger kick out of watching them as they do doing the activity.”
The Aasheims have eight grandchildren ranging in ages from 2 to 13 years of age, so finding activities to do can be a challenge.
“I have had them do everything from coloring turkeys to making napkin rings,” says Les.
Of course there is a lot of cooking going on during the day as the kids are busy with the activities. Sharon says the food that goes on the Aasheim family table is nothing fancy.
“It’s just turkey, mashed potatoes, dressing, vegetables and pumpkin pie,” she says. “It’s simply good food and plenty of it.’
Sharon says she likes to make a cranberry salad for the dinner, but there is something that she won’t make.
“I hate making pies,” she says. “That is the one thing I don’t make. I delegate the pie baking to my daughter.”