This year, my daughter is hosting Thanksgiving dinner. It’s the first time she has hosted a holiday meal where I will also be among the relatives crowding her table. I’m curious on what exactly she is going to plan.
I know what was traditional for her as she grew up: turkey, cornbread dressing, giblet gravy, mashed potatoes, candied sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, hot cranberry sauce, bread, pumpkin pie…
We didn’t always do the “traditional thing” but when we did…that was the framework for the menu, even if new dishes were also on the menu. Both she and her brother had always hated the sweet potatoes until the year I sprinkled them with cinnamon and a dash of nutmeg, turning them into a much more beloved dish rather than the obligatory single piece of sweet potato. Now, she likes sweet potatoes…but then? Not one bit.
Was the menu she was served the same menu that I grew up with? Not really. Before my parents had divorced when I was a teenager, we rarely ate cornbread dressing, instead having a dressing made with white bread and studded with raisins, a dressing his own family preferred. I’m afraid that I’d not look on that very favorably today! We also almost always had peas with pearl onions, and I have to admit, I still like those! The hot cranberry sauce didn’t make its appearance until I was a teenager, but despite its accidental arrival at the dining table, it is now a requirement. I know she doesn’t think cranberry sauce should be served cold or out of a can.
I’d also served other dishes during the years of her youth. A few times, smoked turkey held the center of stage. One year, it was cornish game hens. Candied carrots had appeared a time or two. We have varied the pumpkin pie, having it as pumpkin custard (minus the crust) and as pumpkin chiffon pie too. As an empty nester sometimes spending the holiday alone or with another single friend or two, I varied it even more. Why cook an entire turkey for so few people? Sometimes it would be just the turkey breast, served alongside a wild rice pilaf studded with toasted pecans, or the re-appearance of the cornish games hens with their high drama and convenient size.
It’s almost as much fun watching the next generation take on tradition as their own as it was when I was creating mine, but this time…there’s no stress, no self confidence issues, no worries about remember-the-Christmas-the-wild-cat-got-in-the-house (a story for another day…) and no worries that someone might find fault with my endeavor to produce a tasty and beautiful holiday meal. I can’t wait until its MY granddaughter who is leaning over the dozen pumpkin pies on the table ready to be baked (hey, some of those dinners were BIG dinners!) and literally drops a bit of drool in a pie and looks up at me with a horrified expression (we won’t tell everybody that I told her mom don’t worry about it, it gets sterilized in the oven.)
Sometimes, the best holiday stories happen in the kitchen and remain a shared secret around the holiday table.
Just remember, never ask why I pre-carved the turkey in the kitchen instead of bringing it in all of its glory to the table…
Or why the mother and the daughter share a glance and a grin as the pumpkin pies are set out for everyone to oooooh and aahhh over.
I guess sometimes, it’s time for family kitchen secrets to become part of family lore, isn’t it?