It’s the time of year when magazines are urging me to “Spice Up Your Thanksgiving”, “Give Tradition a Twist”, and “Make This Your Best Thanksgiving Ever.” This usually involves things like trying out a new stuffing recipe, which would horrify most families,
because everybody has their own version that shall not be tampered with, or adding exotic ingredients to the pumpkin pie. Maybe you’d like to gather fallen leaves, dip them in gold paint and inscribe your guests’ names on them for place cards. Maybe not.
The most extreme suggestion I’ve seen for spicing up Thanksgiving, was the famous woman (who will remain unnamed, but she must have thought this one up while sitting in jail) who held Thanksgiving dinner in her barn. Seriously. The magazine cover photo depicted the dining table set up in the center aisle of an impossibly clean stable, as elegant, perfectly groomed horses serenely gazed at the guests over the tops of the stall doors. I can only imagine what smells might have wafted over the Thanksgiving feast as it progressed.
I’m all for trying new things, but a major holiday in the middle of a major busy season doesn’t seem like the right time. Who needs the pressure? And some traditions will be changed at the peril of marital happiness. For instance, my husband loves the iconic green-bean-mushroom-soup casserole, which I refer to as Green Bean Glop. I’d just as soon eat a shredded tire, which has exactly the same consistency as a plateful of green beans, in my opinion. If you saute young, tender beans they aren’t quite as rubbery, and they’d be a welcome change from the glop. But the casserole is sacred to my husband, and he’d go into mourning without it on his Thanksgiving plate. Plus it’s easier than preparing beans at the last minute, while you’re also making gravy and mashing potatoes. So Green Bean Glop will stay on the menu.
Sometimes, however, competing traditions knock heads. My idea of stuffing is bread cubes, eggs, butter, onion, a little milk and seasoning. Because that’s how my mother made it. My husband’s idea of stuffing is all of that, plus the poor turkey’s liver, heart and gizzard chopped into tiny, crunchy pieces. Because that’s how his mother made it. Can you imagine such a thing? Neither can I. Since I’m the cook, I won the Stuffing Standoff. In fact, nobody besides the two of even like stuffing, so I’ve liberated myself from the bread-cubing and onion-sauteing and make the cheater kind from a box.
The magazines aren’t content with encouraging you to change all your Thanksgiving recipes. They also want you to extend the fun by preparing “Turkey Leftovers that Taste Like New.” Thank you, but no. In the first place, warmed over turkey, no matter how you serve it, will never taste like new. It will still have the musty flavor of warmed over turkey. If people want warmed up turkey they can microwave it themselves. I prefer mine cold, in a sandwich. In the second place, after I’ve spent two days cooking Thanksgiving dinner, I want the next three days off, free from creating imaginative meals from the leftovers.
In many ways, we’ll have the same old Thanksgiving, in the same old dining room, ending with the same old pumpkin pie made from the recipe on the pumpkin can label. This tried-and-true version is beloved by my family. No additives like pecans, or cream cheese, or caramel sauce. We’ll have Green Bean Glop, supplemented by a lovely, non-rubbery green salad and a Cranberry/raspberry salad Mashed potatoes, which I’ve daringly modified by not peeling the potatoes. The bits of peeling add color, and nobody complains. No horses will be observing us, and the cat will be banished to an upstairs bedroom. He likes to lurk silently under the table and jump on people’s laps without warning.
There’s nothing wrong with the same old Thanksgiving. Families need the sense of permanence and solidity that tradition provides. It binds us together and gives us common ground.
But here’s what’s going to change up our Thanksgiving this year. The whole family will be around the table – both kids with their spouses and children, which hasn’t happened in awhile. We’ll have lots spice, provided by three grandsons – an energy-charged three-year old, an adorable one-year-old on the verge of walking, and a sweet two-month-old.
I’m pretty sure my same old Thanksgiving will be the best ever.