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