Sunday, November 23, 2008


After I posted this blog, my friend Diane sent me the picture of herself from that turkey-hanging Thanksgiving so you won't think I made up the story. The gun wasn't real --

I love Thanksgiving, don’t you? We get to eat pie, no one seems to object to the holiday on religious or philosophical grounds, and people usually are in a fairly good mood because they're thinking about why they should be thankful, even if it’s only, “Thank God we don’t have to go to Aunt Edith’s house this year.”

Although it's a food-filled celebration, many of us don't worry much about the menu -- beyond who’s bringing what -- because there’s so much tradition attached to this holiday. Certain elements are a given in many households -- like turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce. I've also learned that breaking with tradition can lead to disaster, such as my sister’s attempt to try something new in pies. Believe me, peanut butter and squash should never be combined.

I once tried to insert homemade cranberry sauce into our feast, but met great resistance from a husband overly enamored with the Ocean Spray jellied version with ridges. Since he also cooks the turkey after one too many instances of being served a bird with its plastic-encased innards still inside, he gets his way on the cranberry sauce. There are cans chilling in our fridge at this very moment. (And at least one will be there until Thanksgiving 2009 because he buys too much and he only eats cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving and before Christmas.) I try to class up the canned stuff by serving it on a stunning rainbow glass plate that was a wedding gift to his parents over 60 years ago. The plate is now its own tradition.

My husband also demands green bean casserole with Durkee fried onions on top. My children won’t eat it and neither will several others who will be around our table on Thursday. But he’s found an ally in our beloved sister-in-law so it’s usually on the “to-bring” list for her or one of her children. I do think he secretly misses making the gooey concoction, so we let him prepare his own version at Christmas and then throw most of it out with the wrapping paper.

There are some long-gone Thanksgiving traditions that I still miss. In our younger days, my cousin and I spent Thanksgiving mornings stuffing dates with cream cheese and peanut butter, rolling them in sugar and then topping them with a walnut piece. Back then, we were still too innocent to realize that stuffing a date might be far more fun than actually going on one.

Years later, many a Thanksgiving in Virginia was shared with the family of my husband’s cousin, who is married to a lover of rutabaga – a vegetable as foreign to me as kohlrabi. We left that tradition behind when we moved north. I don’t miss the smell, but I sure miss all of them.

There also were many memorable Thanksgivings in Texas. I’m still surprised we survived the year my friend insisted on hanging the turkey upside down to drain in her garage the night before cooking, claiming it would result in a moister bird. Since the overnight temperature in Fort Worth is in the upper 50s at this time of year, I suspect the juiciness was the result of a very high bacteria count. Fortunately, enough liquor was consumed to kill all germs.

Do you have Thanksgiving food traditions or funny memories? Do any of them involve stuffed dates or rutabaga?

(If you want to post a response, click on comments. Type in your comment and then retype the word you see in color into the word verification box. Under "choose an identity," click on "Name/URL" and put in your name ... or click on Anonymous. Then click on "post your comment.")


Candy said...

Sometimes I wish our Thanksgiving was bigger than just the four of us, but then when I read of all the tensions over what dish to bring and who doesn't like what and how to cope with some annoying relative, I'm (mostly) grateful we have it small and peaceful. Because no one but me likes turkey, I make duck breast each year, but this year I got to eat turkey anyway--we went to a Turkey in the Hole potluck pre-T'giv. dinner where four turkeys were wrapped in foil and cooked in an underground pit over embers for 8 hours. The meat is literally falling off the bone, it's so tender. Not exactly something I'd do in my backyard, but a fun group technique.

Diane said...

Being Italian, we often have a pasta dish with our turkey. Growing up, it was always lasagna and that left very little room for turkey so turkey was always for sandwiches later. Now, we celebrate with my brother who is a chef and his family in CT. The pasta dish is rigatoni with bolognese sauce and the turkey is surrounded by gourmet accompaniments such as acorn squash and polenta stuffing. So just for my kids, we do our own non-gourmet style pre-Thanksgiving with regular stuffing and all!

Pat said...

Reading your comments makes me hungry!

MaxWriter said...

My mother and I used to stuff the date with the walnut and then roll it in powdered sugar. I think she and I were the only ones in our family of six who actually ate them, and I still do that ritual at Christmas. We have moved slightly away from tradition to green beans with garlic and mashed potatoes with roasted garlic, but I simply won't prepare stuffing other than my mother's (no oysters! No mushrooms!). And always at least three kinds of pies...

ALittleGuitar said...

Danna also is a big fan (and the only consumer in our household) of that canned cranberry substance. And she goes to great lengths to ensure it comes out of the can w/ the ridges in tact.

Also, I noticed some of those fried onion things in the pantry so I suspect there is a green-bean caserole in my immediate future, too.

Our Thanksgiving is going to be a lunch rather than dinner this year so Danna and I can eat and then rush in to our respective workplaces to make some holiday OT that hopefully will subsidize Christmas. It may have to become a tradition.

Shari D said...

My mother always made sweet potatoes with melted marshmellows on top. No one ever ate the sweet potatoes but always ate the marshmellows. Finally she gave up and only make a huge vat of melted marshmellows as a staple of our Thanksgiving feast.

Pat said...

A huge vat of marshmellows? That's so interesting --never heard of that one before!

Lorna Barrett said...

Thanksgiving without rutabega? that's blasphemy!