Thanksgiving is a tried and true holiday. Sure we have our outliers with their lasagna or fish. They are gaining in number. You can always count on a turducken or two — those people are called showoffs.
When it comes to traditional holidays, we tend to like our traditional foods. Give me the same recipe my grandmother made in World War II, thank you very much.
We all know at least one story of someone who tried to slide in tofurkey in place of the actual bird. Those people are not to be trusted. If you get someone sneaky like that in the mix, you assign them napkins or soda and tell them to take a seat.
I think holidays are one of the only times when “what are you having?” is the appropriate response to a dinner invitation. You cannot be too careful lest you fall into one of those households that orders pizza or something.
A friend was just telling me about the first year that she and her adult siblings were charged with making the traditional family feast.
She held it together, embracing the brave new ways of their people, right up to the moment that her sister slid a box of Stove Top brand ready-mix stuffing across the counter. In her own words, “I lost it.”
The stark realization hit her that the bright red box — which is delicious by the way — was NOT the way her mama made it. Or her grandmother.
My friend is a stuffing person. Her sister is not. Thus what was super important to her didn’t register with her sister.
Conversely, when the pumpkin pies were outsourced to a well-meaning nephew, the first-time baker’s attempts left her sister underwhelmed. Pie people get it. When you wait all year for that taste of tradition, it’s hard to bite into anything less. So it is with Thanksgiving.
Each family has their must-haves and family recipes. We, for example, love sweet potatoes — with butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and pecans. We are midwestern. Any chance we have to turn a side dish into dessert is going to be used to full advantage. Yet, we draw the line at marshmallows.
Others cannot imagine a meal without sweet potatoes — or yams — snuggled beneath a blanket of toasted, puffy marshmallow goo. My family would be appalled. It’s all in what you are used to.
Some are turkey purists
Roasted, basted (or not), perhaps lightly browned in an oven. Others are deep-frying, or recently, grilling to great aplomb.
To me, Thanksgiving will always be the scent of arriving at my Gram’s to the scent of turkey wafting from the roaster that was drug out only on holidays to house the bird. Thus we roast ours. I don’t want crispy skin. Others cannot imagine picking at a turkey without it.
I once had a guest come bearing an entire pot of homemade noodles. His grandmother had always served them. He simply could not imagine enjoying a Thanksgiving without them. He couldn’t not. I wasn’t offended. I was thrilled.
We always have orange Jell-O salad. This magical blend of gelatin, cream cheese, mandarins, pineapple and milk has no resemblance to salad. It is a staple on our table. It is served with dinner. Never dessert. One year I thought we would skip it. I was told in no uncertain terms that we would not.
A recent Harris Poll reported that Green Bean Casserole is among the least popular Thanksgiving fare. In our family we love them. It’s a staple of our meal. Ditto the canned cranberry.
There is exactly one person whom I love who loves canned jellied cranberry. My mother. She enjoys the slurp as it slides out of the can. The lines from the can jiggle and shimmer as it graces the table.
I don’t even eat the stuff. I can’t imagine a meal without it.
I am all about progress. I love trying new things. Still, in any conversation with anyone who celebrates Thanksgiving, it becomes apparent that the food is the focus of the holiday.
It is also one of the last areas where new and improved is not necessarily welcome.
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