GUNNISON—”It can be said that Suzanne and I were brought together at Christmastime by her Dad’s love of shopping,” says Jim Sanders of Gunnison, who is now president of the Gunnison Telephone Co.
His father-in-law, Roger Anderson, loved the newest kitchen aids, such as hot dog cookers and bread making machines.“He was the consummate shopper, especially at Christmastime,” Jim says.
When asked to list Sanders family traditions, Jim responded with memories of his in-laws first. Jim and Suzanne both grew up in Gunnison and knew each others’ families. He loved how his father-in-law made Christmas special.
For instance, the family would open all the presents, then Roger would say, “Oh, there’s one more in the garage” and would bring in the latest gadget. His mother-in-law, Gladys Anderson, was known for making homemade chocolates.
“It was melt-in-your- mouth, creamy, milk-chocolate-covered yummy stuff,” Jim says. Two of his favorites were cherry chocolates and Forsey bars (creme filled chocolates). He loved the job of helping with the cherries.
“Gladys had arthritis and couldn’t mold the fondant,” he recalls. Helping “was a means to the wonderful end.” He also remembers covering peanuts and raisins with melted chocolate.
“My diabetes can be traced to that candy, and it’s probably worth it,” he jokes.
As the Sanders children began to grow up and marry, the family started a tradition of renting a van and traveling to Las Vegas for a dinner and a show.
“No grandkids. Just the kids and spouses,” Jim says. They love to eat at Lucille’s Smokehouse Bar-B-Que in Green Valley, Nev. before the show. And their favorite shows have been the various Cirque du Soleil productions.
“But really the most fun is the trip home afterwards when everyone tells stories of previous trips,” Jim says. “I have had to pull over a couple of times because we were laughing so hard.”
In the past few years, the family has added a pheasant hunt tradition.
“Pheasant hunting has been a big deal in my family since I was a kid,” Jim says. A day or two before Thanksgiving or Christmas, they purchase the right to hunt pheasants from Jay Bartholomew. He releases them on his farm in Fayette, where he has a private hunting license.
It takes the Sanders family (mostly the boys) only a few hours to harvest most of the birds and clean them. Suzanne explains, “Jim has perfected his cleaning method, no plucking involved, and we just save the breast meat.” The pheasants are a little smaller than chickens.
Suzanne soaks the meat in a water/salt solution, then cuts it into bite sized pieces. She makes a marinade by adding corn starch to soy sauce until it’s just runny enough to cover the meat. She leaves the meat in the marinade in the refrigerator until she’s ready to cook.
She starts by cooking meat in the wok, then sets it aside and cooks stir-fry vegetables. She adds the meat back in and warms it through. Then she serves it over rice.
Jim says since their son, Max, returned from his mission to the Philippines, he won’t eat minute rice. So he’s in charge of cooking his favorite Jasmine (sticky) rice for the meal.
“Over the years, even the girls who made faces at the meat source have learned to love it,” he says.
“Hopefully, we can keep this going through the coronavirus stuff and add other traditions that remind us each year of our blessings and the real reason for the season,” he says.