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An improvised Thanksgiving feast

The snowstorm didn't halt one family's Thanksgiving celebration.

Snowstorm: A heavy snowfall blankets the streets and trees in Billings, Mont.

Paul Ruhter/AP

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On a Thanksgiving morning about 20 years ago, we stared out at a white wall of snow. Lake-effect storms brew along the west shore of Lake Michigan where we live, and the mounds of snow insulate and water our farm's soil. Having experienced numerous droughts, we were usually thankful for moisture, but that Thanksgiving morning, we fussed. We were supposed to drive two hours east to celebrate the holiday with family, but the heavy snow halted traveling.

Already, gusts had sculpted the snow into white dunes that would continue to grow until the storm abated, so even if we could drive out of the storm as we moved away from the lakeshore, our half-mile driveway would drift closed during our absence. We called my brother and lamented over the situation. I had baked rolls and a pumpkin pie, so their meal would lack those items, but what would I now serve?

I hadn't planned on preparing a holiday meal and stores were closed. Even if I could've bought a turkey, I couldn't thaw or roast it by midafternoon. I had purchased a package of corn tortillas and boiled pinto beans to make enchiladas over the weekend and now this dish was all I was able to cook.

So instead of a kitchen scented with the fragrance of roast turkey and simmering potatoes, mine smelled of sautéed onions and garlic, tomato sauce, cumin, and coriander. I mashed up beans instead of potatoes, adding more cumin and cheese. My husband, John, cut up a butternut squash and set it to steam. While we cooked, the heavy clouds rolled east and the gale subsided, yet fat flakes continued to drift downward. The worst of the storm had lifted, but we still couldn't drive toward the center of the state.

"I'll call around," John said, "and see if any of our friends are in the same boat. Perhaps one of them could attempt driving in."


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