I know better than to mess with turkey tradition–I’ll park my creativity!

This is a repost from last year. I wasn’t going to post anything until after Thanksgiving, but while preparing for the big day tomorrow I’ve been thinking of my grandparents, and missing them very much. For me, the day is about celebrating my wonderful family, and honoring those who aren’t around the table, but they’re in my heart. If you are celebrating Thanksgiving, I hope you enjoy your own family traditions. And if not, carry a little thanksgiving anyway!

Watching my grandfather carve the turkey was observing an artist.  Although he wasn’t a butcher by trade, he’d learned the skill working in his father’s meat market. The delicious aroma that came from my grandparent’s kitchen certainly made me impatient for the big meal, but Papa patiently waited for the bird to be just perfect, and then allowed it to rest long enough to avoid losing precious juices and then he’d get to it. With flourish and expertise he carefully separated the white meat from the dark, layering each piece beautifully on the plate, while sneaking a piece or two to my brother and me as we sniffed around like hungry pups.  Those few minutes watching him prepare the main event were as much a tradition as any other part of the Thanksgiving feast.

I love the formal setting. I think a formal meal probably followed!

I think of him with love and remembrance every time the turkey comes from my oven. I have no doubt cooked at least three-dozen Thanksgiving turkeys at this point. And although I’m following a vegetarian diet, I can accept the need for a turkey. But maybe it’s because I have been reading entirely too many fantastic food blogs combined with the fact that I’m not the least bit sentimental about the other food traditions, I’d love to somehow change our patterns of predictability and maybe make our potluck family style dining a bit more formal for the occasion.

A simple personal preference! I have this inner dialogue for about two weeks every year, considering how we might make a few changes, but then I rightly conclude, it may be my house, but the Thanksgiving meal involves the whole village.  As I give up on my idea of a well-appointed multi-course meal I can almost hear Tevye singing “Tradition” and I acknowledge that if I mess with the goods I will ceremoniously be ushered out-of-town, or at least from my kitchen.

Two years ago my niece joined our table from France. My son positioned the laptop over the awaiting banquet, taunting his cousin with, “Here are Granni’s sweet potatoes, and here’s the stuffing, ambrosia, mashed potatoes…” Tradition! She played along, but I think it was a little cruel—except that without the wonderful smell it may have been a bit easier. The family is comfortable in this setting and doesn’t want a pumpkin soup first course followed by arugula, beet and goat cheese salad—and so on. I aimed for that one year.  I think that may also have been the year I noticed my nephew and brother throwing dinner rolls across the table to one another.

So tradition it is! I’ve already begun reconfiguring rooms to accommodate the fully extended dining room table while also scrounging for enough chairs to seat everyone. Every attempt is made to not completely overcrowd so that following the meal, according to another family tradition, there is room for a few rounds of competitive Scrabble and other favorite board games. Tradition also dictates a fair amount of time devoted to overindulging on pie and assorted sweets.

And that’s not all! It’s not just one big meal– it’s an event! We take the occasion seriously enough to do it again the following day. Yes, another family tradition—Thanksgiving Two! Originally instituted as a clever and amusing way to enjoy the leftovers we’ve been hosting this extension of the festivities for decades—probably in synch with the purchase of our first microwave. It was all about the leftovers.  But the family is now too large to rely upon leftovers, and new additions to the table including friends and family who are elsewhere on Thanksgiving One combine to too many guests for leftovers alone! So we will be cooking again! And they don’t know it yet, but on Friday, it’s my turn, and among other surprises, beets will be appearing in a salad!

I hope you all enjoy your own family traditions.  Enjoy your Thanksgiving One, and maybe even Two!  Debra

13 thoughts on “I know better than to mess with turkey tradition–I’ll park my creativity!

  1. I love the idea of having a second say to celebrate and recollect what happened the day before… Plus all that extra food gets eaten instead of packed away. Love it! 🙂
    Have a Happy Thanksgiving weekend! 🙂

    • Thank you, Elizabeth. Thanksgiving 2 really did start out as a means for not wasting food! It just grew to more over the years and now really seems to amuse me. I sometimes find it hard to believe that it is so meaningful to the next generation. I hope you also have a wonderful Thanksgiving…but I know that you make the best of every day, so it will be! Debra

  2. I love the photo, Debra, and the tradition of your g-dad standing ready at the table to carve the turkey. My father sat on a high-stool next to the kitchen table and carved the turkey with an electric knife. And, he stood guard as guests, who might sneak through the kitchen, were “discouraged” from grabbing a small turkey bite off the buffet table. Delightful aromas can be recollected spurring on those memories of my family’s turkey festivities–albeit only one day. I was the most happy the year I was invited to the adult table. Enjoy those wonderful traditions and your ever-growing clan. I do hope the unique recipes can be added to YOUR delight by next year (or dare I suggest on Day 2)! Blessings, Ellen

    • Thankyou, Ellen, and let me also acknowledge that I know this year will bea bit more poignant with the loss of your dad. Those wonderful childhood memories can be a two-edged sword this time of year, can’t they! Yes, the table will be a little crowded with “too much” perhaps, but I think each of us will be including our personal favorites. I will take pictures! 🙂 D

  3. Dear Debra,
    Today, your posting has begun the great celebration of Thanksgiving for me. I’ve been so caught up in a dreary malaise that I’d forgotten the gratitude that imbues this day in late November and helps us recall the bounty and abundance of our lives. I have so much to be grateful for. Thank you for reminding me.


  4. Pingback: Thanksgiving Day Jumble Spoiler – 11/24/11 « Unclerave's Wordy Weblog

  5. HI Debra! Reading your account of Thanksgivings you remember, I was almost there and could nearly smell the smells. How wonderful. I have never hard of Thanksgiving Two and believe it is a wonderful tradition.

    You write in a uniquely clear fashion that makes what you describe play well in the theatre of my mind. If I closed my eyes I could almost see your Grandfather at work on the turkey.

    I will be putting a link on my blog to yours with hopes those who read my stuff will enjoy yours as much as I did upon discovery. Thanks for visiting goodmorninggratitude.com so I could come find you! Happy Thanksgiving.


    • I’m glad to have you pop in and read my post, too, James. I hope you had a good Thanksgiving, as did we. Our house was full, and even though our dishwasher chose today to “give it up” I didn’t even mind the dishes. I was just grateful to have my family. I really love the premise of your blog and thank you for linking. I will do the same! Debra

  6. Happy Thanksgiving Debra. We’re having Thanksgiving #1 today with friends. Tomorrow we are heading north for Thanksgiving 2 with my family. I hope you have a wonderful day.

    • I hope you had a great day, Ginny. I’m just now coming to a place where I can sit down, so it was great to find you here. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving 2! You also know how to stretch a good thing! 🙂 D

  7. What a wonderful Thanksgiving post and, yes, tradition reigns here as well, Debra. What a keepsake that picture of your grandfather is. This year, because our crowd was so big, I was forced to make it a buffet. Ouch. That hurt as I like everyone at the same table and the food on the table, but, ’twas not to be. We did have the tables close and the food line moved quickly after a blessing was said, but, it is what it is and we do our best.

    Our daughter and son-in-law couldn’t make it to dinner this year, but, came the next day where I made creamed turkey and peas and you would have thought this homely meal was a feast.

    • So you, too, had a Thanksgiving 2! We’ll expand our homes in any way we can to have our children with us, won’t we? Thank you, Penny, for acknowledging the treasure of my Papa’s photo! Such dear memories! Debra

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