Last night I got a call from my boss down at faire to discuss the menu for Thanksgiving dinner. The faire is open on Black Friday which means we have to be there working. It just makes sense for us to do Thanksgiving there to save on the hassle of driving 4 hours on a holiday. Plus I really like these people.
We discussed the bird, the sides, the deserts, and all in all it sounded like a pleasant and typical Thanksgiving dinner. After I hung up with him I started thinking about it some more. It sounded like a fairly standard Thanksgiving dinner to me, but that doesn't mean it is traditional to other people.
In my family when I was young, Thanksgiving dinner was always the same. There was the turkey, there were mashed potatoes, there was giblet gravy, there was dressing that was not cooked inside the turkey, there was corn, and there were green beans. We also had the exact same rolls every year with butter and garlic salt. There was the obligatory can shaped lump of cranberry sauce and a basic relish tray. There were deviled eggs that never made it to dinner. There was also the fruit salad that took forever to make and no one ever ate.
There was never any deviation in the menu. Ever. My grandmother would never accept such an idea as maybe making yams or green bean casserole. That simply was not how we did things. We ate the same meal every year because it was tradition.
When my mom got married and we started having to split our holidays between my moms family and my dads family things began to change. I suddenly was thrown into two very different sets of traditions for all of the major holidays. The food always stuck out to me as so very foreign.
My dads family does things so very different than my moms. The biggest thing that stuck out to me was the turkey was not fresh out of the oven when we ate it. It had been cooked the day before and was already sliced and waiting when we got to it. I had never heard such a thing. I mean wasn't the point to eat the turkey right out of the oven and make a big deal out of the carving of the bird?
The sides were also just bizarre to me. There were candied yams, which I had never even seen before, all covered in marshmallows and pecans. There were buttered noodles of some kind. There was ambrosia salad which I had also never seen before nor heard of.
It was like I wasn't eating Thanksgiving dinner at all because it didn't include anything I was really expecting. Thanksgiving was about tradition to me, and that was anything but tradition. I was pretty miserable for the first few holidays we spent with my dads family because it was just too weird to me to not do things the way I was used to doing them.
It really wasn't until college when I started making my own Thanksgiving dinners that I realized that what we ate didn't mean nearly as much as the company of the day. The traditions are nice, but they are not what makes the day. I don't have to eat a turkey on Thanksgiving to make the day special.
I have now had my fair share of experimental Thanksgiving dinners. There was the year that the person making the turkey wrapped it in bacon. That was horribly disappointing. The bacon was limp, unappealing, and thrown out after the bird was cooked. The bird was not actually very moist. We couldn't baste it because of the bacon so it was pretty much flavorless. It also had none of that wonderful crispy skin that makes the turkey that much better.
At the same time though we one year had whole chickens that due to a broken oven came out as black rocks. I had sat with the oven door cracked to vent smoke the entire cooking time, basting the birds every minute or so. I think I probably used a pound of butter on each bird trying to keep them from burning. I was so very embarrassed to serve them. I was certain we would be going to Denny's for Thanksgiving dinner.
It turns out once we used the butt of the carving knife to crack the shell open, the bird inside was the most amazingly delicious thing we had ever eaten. It was so moist and so flavorful that it caused my guests to just chew in quiet bliss. I will never be able to repeat that meal despite being asked to try on a regular basis.
So really I have realized that my boss could have suggested just about anything for dinner next Thursday and I would have been pleased as punch by it. The fact is the food will be delicious as I know all of us that will be cooking it are excellent in the kitchen. The company will be wonderful because it is all people I love.
All in all it will be a good day where we will be fat, happy, and thankful together no matter what is served for dinner.