Thanksgiving Spotlight: Mitch Ward

This Manhattan Beach resident fondly recalls Thanksgivings of yore, and is in rehearsal for a play. Yes, he's an actor!

Name: Mitch Ward

Age: 51

City of residence: Manhattan Beach

Occupation: Information technology business owner and professional actor

How long have you lived in MB? I have lived in Manhattan Beach for 20 years and have owned my business here for 10 years since 2002.

What are some things that you like about MB? The people, Pacific Ocean, the Pier, Bruces’ Beach, Veterans Parkway, Polliwog Park, MB Botanical Gardens, our parades and schools, trees, beach sand, wildlife - especially our native dolphins, sound of the metro green train line in the early mornings, outdoor art, farmers market, eateries and pubs. I also like that we are home to the world headquarters of Skechers. I really love Manhattan Beach’s proximity and ease of access to nearly everywhere in Los Angeles County including the Los Angeles Airport. It’s a wonderful town.

What don’t you like about MB? Traffic on Rosecrans in general and traffic at the intersection of Sepulveda and Rosecrans.

What will you be doing on Thanksgiving and whom will you be with? My mother and father and family are in Arkansas and my spouse’s family is in Oregon. We usually alternate our visits between the two locations and every third year we spend Thanksgiving in Manhattan Beach. This year, we would have traveled north. However we will remain in town because I am currently in rehearsal for a play titled “Driving Miss Daisy.”  It is being staged at the Sierra Madre Playhouse in Sierra Madre and will run January – March -sierramadreplayhouse.org. I will play the character of Hoke for a number of days during the run. So during the late afternoon and evening on Thanksgiving Day I will be learning scenes with actors.

But the night before Thanksgiving I will roast a turkey and a ham and lots of other fixings. I will prepare a box of plate meals that we deliver to folks not served by the many and wonderful missions and institutions that reach out to the less fortunate during this time of year. It takes about two hours of driving around before we give out all the turkey and ham. And it reminds me of when I was growing up. My mom would always prepare several large plates topped off with food and she’d have me deliver it to many of our neighbors next door. It is gratifying to see someone, especially those in need, enjoy such a really well cooked meal. Above all my mom’s meals were clearly shared in love and it was a practiced tradition that was far older than she.

What will your Thanksgiving meal consist of? If I must say so I cook a pretty wicked roasted turkey and honey glazed ham – to die for! So my meal will consist of stuffed roasted turkey with white and brown gravy, mashed potatoes, turnip greens, hot water bread, southern style baked barbecue beans, a French casserole made with green peas, onion rings and other secret ingredients, a German chocolate cake, sun brewed iced tea, and other libations as appropriate.

What is your favorite Thanksgiving dish? Why? Turnip greens eaten with hot water bread, pepper sauce and raw onions. It’s one of the African oriented and cultural dishes which I grew with. I simply love the simplicity of the combination and especially the unique flavor of turnips. Naturally yummy!

What is your favorite thing about Thanksgiving?  Seeing so many people happy because they are eating.

What was your childhood Thanksgiving like? My family always traveled from Arkansas to my grandmother Pearlie Turner’s home in Louisiana before she passed away. She was a very talented and well-known chef. And she was so much fun to have as a grandma. She was filled with life and laughed a lot and loved to play the game of dominoes. In fact all my family did and that consumed a lot, if not most, of our Thanksgiving Day and much of the evening.

My mother and her mother looked and acted more like they were very close sisters. It was a joy to see them cooking and preparing for our Thanksgiving feast together. I remember the wonderful holiday food aromas that wafted around my grandmother’s kitchen and throughout her home. I was always eager to eat from the moment I stepped through her front door. Grandma must have started baking the night before. The smell of pecan and sweet potato pies and all sorts and colors of cakes tickled my sweet tooth senses. I especially remember the floating aromatic essence of her glorious sage infused chicken dressing and stuffing that only she could prepare.

Finally I recall when my grandmother generously tried to teach me to make one of her signature and secret dishes - lemon meringue pie. To this day I still try to follow her instructions. But a signature dish mine shall never be. However I will always try to overcome this reality. Because every time I try to bake this masterpiece, it reminds me of that very moment that Grandma Pearlie showed me personally so much love on that Thanksgiving Day. It now seems so very long ago.

What’s your favorite hang out spot in MB? El Porto Beach.

How would you describe Manhattan Beach in three words? My home town.

Phil Reimert November 23, 2012 at 07:58 PM
Mitch--Made this ol' Georgia boy's mouth water with all that southern food. My son-in-law smoked a turkey with hickory and mesquite that was the best I ever had. -Phil
Liz Spear November 23, 2012 at 09:54 PM
Reading it made my mouth water, too, Phil and I'm from Southern California, not the South! We had a deep-fried turkey (first time ever!) made by a Texan yesterday & it was quite delicious!
Mayor Mitch Ward November 24, 2012 at 02:18 AM
I love greens Phil and Liz.... I called my mom in Arkansas and she's 89 now and my sisters fixed her Thanksgiving meal. She said she told my sister, "Don't bring me sweet potato pie or cake or ham. Just bring me some turnip greens and hot water bread I' ll be fine!" I think I'd need the ham and some bbq ribs but the greens sound good enough for me too! How about...New Year we will celebrate with some food from down south...I'll cook I still remember a lot of the recipes my folks taught me. :) Mitch mitchward.com
Mrs. Cynthia Huber November 24, 2012 at 12:45 PM
I'm an African - American from NY married to a lovely Swiss man since 2000, we have lived in Europe ever since. We don't get back to the states often enough to enjoy a good old fashioned American Thanksgiving. Reading about your memories has made me a bit homesick.... in a good way! Mrs. Cynthia Huber


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