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Interview: Thanksgiving Memories with Author Joanna Campbell Slan

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Although Joanna was born in Jacksonville, Florida, she grew up on the banks of the Wabash River in Vincennes, Indiana. Since it was a tiny community, she could walk the thirteen blocks to her local library. She’d come back with arms full of books which she would start reading on the way home. (She wouldn’t recommend that — she tripped a lot, and still has scars on her knees.)

Joanna loves writing. She actually enjoys the process. She has worn nine letters off her keyboard. No one in her family can use it but Joanna. Next to writing and reading, Joanna’s favorite things have always been animals and crafts. Growing up, Joanna’s dog Lady was her best friend. She also spent many happy hours lost in the joy of making “stuff.” Back then she was armed with scissors, crayons and paste. Now she has all sorts of wonderful scrapbook supplies. It’s true, she says excitedly: You can never have too much paper!

Joanna was kind enough to share her Thanksgiving traditions with me.  Enjoy!


What are you most grateful for?

My health. If you are healthy, you have the resources to handle almost anything life throws at you.

Favorite Thanksgiving tradition?

We have an “open door.” Anyone who “needs” a place to celebrate Thanksgiving is welcome to join us. As the Muslims say, “A guest is a gift from God.”

Where will you spend Thanksgiving this year?

At our home on Jupiter Island, Florida.

Most memorable Thanksgiving memory?

It was my sophomore year in college. My father left us, and we were on welfare. Somehow, through the generosity of others, we wound up with three turkeys and a box of all sorts of food. I think we also got back a can of beets that we’d donated the year before! (Moral of that story: Never give what you wouldn’t be thrilled to receive!) My sisters and I have never forgotten that Thanksgiving — we take every opportunity to repay the incredible kindness that others showed us when we were destitute. It gives us great joy to realize that we are now in a position to give back.

What do you do the eve before Thanksgiving?

Make lists. That always helps me feel on top of things, even if I’m not.

What’s your number one splurge food?

 

 Cranberry squares. See recipe below.

What do you prefer, sweet or salty?

Do I have to choose? Okay, BOTH. I adore Trail Mix.

What are your plans for the holidays this year?

We have 21 people invited for dinner. We’ll open the doors wide so folks can eat outside or inside and listen to the ocean. One guest family we haven’t seen for years. Another guest family includes a young mom and her children who recently left an intolerable situation. There will be two “family” members who aren’t related by blood, but by love, who mean the world to us and who will bless us with their presence. And we’ll have a gathering of ten family members, including my three-year-old grand-nephew. It will be terrific.

 Which food and drink combo says it’s the holiday season to you?   

 Any pumpkin-flavored coffee and/or pumpkin bread.

What are the five tools you must have in the kitchen for Thanksgiving dinner?

Microwave, slow cookers (great for keeping potatoes hot), spoons for serving, electric knife for carving, and electric can opener. Because I have arthritis in my wrists, it’s so hard on my hands to use a manual opener.

Please share a favorite Thanksgiving recipe.

 Camille Minichino’s Cousin’s

 CRANBERRY SQUARES
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1/3 cup melted butter
1 1/4 cup fresh whole cranberries
1/2 cup chopped nuts

Mix everything together. Batter will be sticky. Spread in greased baking dish, 8- or 9-inches. Bake in 350 oven for about 30 minutes, until golden brown. Tester should come out clean.

If you could have a dream Thanksgiving dinner party, who would you invite?

Charlotte Bronte, Terry Gross, Barack and Michelle Obama, and Pat Conroy.

What’s the one Thanksgiving dish your family can’t live without?

Turkey!

What do you do after the meal is finished? Play football? Watch football? Movies?

We walk the beach and pick up garbage. No, I’m not kidding. It’s great exercise, it reminds us to appreciate the natural world, it’s social and it’s an act of gratitude.

Pumpkin, Pecan or Apple?

Again, I have to choose? You are making me hungry! GEEEZ. How about a pecan-apple-pumpkin mix?

Are you up early the next morning to kick off your holiday shopping?

Nope. I have more than enough things. I am blessed with abundance in my life. I try to buy people what they need all year long, rather than scramble to make a beau geste at the last minute.

Thank you so much for this warm Thanksgiving memory.

Happy Thanksgiving from my house to yours! Warm Thanksgiving wishes from the gang at Blogcritics, too.

Joanna’s website.

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About Diane Morasco