“This is how it’s done around here.”
Maybe you’ll hear that statement in the kitchen sometime on Thursday, when in-laws are mixing family recipes and new boyfriends are trying to impress their girlfriends’ fathers by showing off their turkey-basting skills.
Certain Thanksgiving traditions trump our normal dinner practices. And sometimes it leads people to get a little defensive – feisty, even – when planning the highly anticipated meal.
I never saw my grandma duke it out with my uncle over who was going to make the pies, but there was always discussion over how many pies there should be. Two pumpkin and one berry? An additional pecan or apple variety? I didn’t really care as long as there was pie, with homemade whipped cream, of course. But I know the “pie talk” was always important to them.
As I got older and started to help out with the cooking, my dad and I scribbled lists of side dishes – wondering how many new recipes to try from the dozen we had dog-eared in the Rachael Ray magazine. Popovers or potato rolls? Creamed spinach or green bean casserole? Oyster or cornbread stuffing?
I soon realized that the list of Thanksgiving food options was seemingly endless. And while it was always fun to plan the menu, there were the slight stress bubbles when it came to choosing one person’s traditional roasted vegetable terrine over another’s classic potatoes au gratin.
Most people have strong attachments to their traditional thanksgiving feasts. It just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving if Uncle Joe didn’t make his chocolate bourbon balls, or if mom didn’t make two turkeys stuffed with the apples from grandma’s orchard. Thanksgiving foods, over most other meals, seem imperatively important.
And because of the emotions served up with each dish, I would agree that the food should be well thought out.
But I think there’s something more important than that: the choice to eat together around the table.
Some families could talk about the Thanksgiving menu until the cows come home, but in the end, as long as people are holding hands around the table, praying over the meal and sharing their blessings that they are so thankful for, does it really matter what types of pies are on the table?
I like an all-American Thanksgiving meal just as much as the next – and maybe even more – but the real magic that stands out to me is how this holiday is a celebration of those who we gather with around the table.
Tomorrow, I wish you a very blessed Thanksgiving and hope that the true centerpiece of your meal is not the turkey, but the family and friends around your family table.