My family loves Thanksgiving. For the most part, so do I. The entire family getting together is not something that happens with great regularity anymore – grandparents winter in Florida, kids are in college or living their own lives, brothers and sisters and other relations have busy schedules too. So when 20 or 25 of us can pile into one location, it’s special, and each gathering is unique. Except for one thing.Thanksgiving’s menu in my house is something that descended directly from the Pilgrims. It is etched in two tablets made from the skin of the original bird (and we can have the discussion about whether that bird was in Plymouth or in St.Augustine another time). Turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes and apricots, cranberry mold, cranberry bread, veggies, stuffing and gallons of gravy are pretty much it.
I cook every year and love to do it. Except I can do it in my sleep at this point. I am under strict orders from all parties NOT TO FOOL (they use another word) WITH THE MENU. The only choices I get to make are what kinds of stuffing and which veggies to serve. But I don’t, really.
One year I caused a huge ruckus by announcing in advance (mistake) that I would be frying one of the birds (we usually have two). The discovery of a cure for cancer would have caused less of a ruckus. Of course now a fried turkey is mandatory. Another year I made four dressings – one a corn bread and andouille, one a sausage and herb, one an oyster, and one a vegetarian version that was very traditional. Of course, only the last one was eaten up. No more oysters (and don’t even start the discussion about that’s what the Indians ate) in the damn dressing and leave that andouille stuff south of the Mason-Dixon line.
Another year, I slow cooked the green beans with bacon. “Darling, do you have any less cooked? I’m not sure I know what I’m eating…” Another year I served carrots with a tangerine glaze. The next, I was berated for not serving carrots.
I’m writing this now because there are only two weeks to go and my Mom is asking if I’ve shopped yet (Mom is always ready well in advance). I tell her I haven’t shopped because I haven’t planned the menu yet but who am I kidding? The menu was done years ago. I don’t have the heart to tell her I’m roasting the other bird in a Caja China and not an oven and that I’m seriously considering bringing back the cornbread thing. But I’ll cook them whatever they want since having the family all together is more important to me than my exercising my chefly prerogatives.