Even if President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1941 had not designated the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day, the values of religion, family and good food — held in high esteem by the people of Acadiana — would have somehow found itself into a celebration of gratitude.

At this time of year, our focus is to stop and gather with loved ones, and think of all the blessings for which we are grateful. Certainly the blessings of delicious family recipes come to mind when we gather around the Thanksgiving table. Those special family recipes for cornbread dressing include oyster pie, smoked or fried turkey, pecan pie and sweet dough sweet potato or fig pies. Bring back loving memories of those who prepared them in days past, and add to your own sense of gratitude.

Lately we have been told to develop an “attitude of gratitude” in our daily lives and not limit it to Thanksgiving. A few ways to begin to adopt this attitude of gratitude are by expressing to yourself each day upon awaking what you are grateful for “(fill in the blank)”, telling someone at the end of the day the three things you are most grateful for, or writing each night in a journal all that you are thankful for, proud of or excited about. Acknowledging to others your appreciation for what they have done for you, whether it is in supporting you, praising you or inspiring you, fosters your own feelings of thankfulness. In developing this attitude, not only can a mood be improved, but studies have shown that the expression of gratitude can lead to improved health.

The celebration of a day designated for gratitude and thanksgiving is not limited to the U.S., but celebrated for various reasons in other countries around the world. Canada celebrates their Thanksgiving on the second Monday in October. This date coincides with our Columbus Day celebrations, but in Canada it celebrates the safe ocean journey of Sir Martin Frobiesher from England to the Canadian territory of Nunavut in 1576. This date became a national holiday in 1879 and it also coincides with the completion of the Canadian harvests. Just as in the U.S. turkey is part of the celebration, but other local dishes are enjoyed such as Jigg’s dinner, consisting of boiled meat with split-pea pudding. For dessert butter tarts, a bite-sized pastry shells with a syrupy filling, are a favorite on this day.

Germany celebrates Thanksgiving as a harvest festival on the first Sunday in October and Japan celebrates hard work and the rights of workers, along with community involvement, on their Labor Thanksgiving Day Nov. 23. The Netherlands has more ties to the U.S. celebration than many would realize. Before the Pilgrims left England seeking religious freedom, they lived in Leiden in the Netherlands from 1609 to 1620. On the third Thursday of every November traditional American food, along with stamppot, a dish of mashed potatoes and kale, can be found on tables around the Netherlands.

Here in Acadiana we have so much to be thankful for, and our “joie de vivre” is reflected in our gratitude for all the joys we find in life. Because of its ease of preparation, the following recipe is one that can bring joy to the cook who prepares it, and gratitude from those who enjoy this sweep pumpkin desert.

PUMPKIN PIE CRUNCH

1 package Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe Yellow Cake Mix

1 16-ounce can solid pack pumpkin

1 12-ounce can evaporated milk

3 eggs

1 1/2 cups sugar (can be reduced for less sweet pie)

4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

1/2 teaspoons salt

1 cup chopped pecans

1 cup butter (2 sticks) melted

Whipped topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottom of 13-inch by 9-inch by 2-inch pan. Combine in a large bowl pumpkin, evaporated milk, eggs, sugar, pumpkin pie spice and salt. Pour into greased pan. Sprinkle dry cake mix evenly over pumpkin mixture. Top with pecans.Drizzle with melted butter and bake 50-55 minutes or until golden.

Cool completely. Serve with whipped topping. Refrigerate leftovers.

Makes 16 to 20 servings.

CATHERINE WATTIGNY embraces the “joire de vivre” as a wife, mother and grandmother, inspired by her prior nursing experience with a new focus on good mental health for all.

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