Thanksgiving: A Holiday With Traditions, Many of Them Edible

Thanksgiving is such a great holiday! We get to eat pie, no one seems to object to the celebration on religious or philosophical grounds, and people usually are in a fairly good mood because they're giving at least a passing thought to why they ought to be thankful, even if it’s only, “Thank God we don’t have to go to Aunt Edith’s house this year.”

Although it's a food-filled celebration, many of us don't worry much about the menu -- beyond who’s bringing what -- because there’s so much tradition attached to this holiday. Certain elements are mandatory in many households, like turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce.

I’ve also found that breaking with tradition can lead to disaster, such as my sister’s attempt to try something new in pies. Believe me, peanut butter and squash should never be combined.

I once tried to insert homemade cranberry sauce into our feast, but met great resistance from a husband overly enamored with the Ocean Spray jellied version with ridges. Since he also cooks the turkey after one too many instances of my preparing a bird with its plastic-encased innards still inside, we let him have his way on the cranberry sauce. I try to class it up by serving it on a stunning rainbow glass plate that was a wedding gift to his parents more than 60 years ago. The plate is now its own tradition.

My spouse also requires green bean casserole with those Durkee fried onions on top. My children won’t eat it and neither will several of the other folks who traditionally populate our table. He did find an ally in our beloved sister-in-law and so it became an addition to the contributions from her family. But I think he secretly misses making the gooey concoction, so we let him prepare his own version at Christmas and then we throw most of it out with the wrapping paper.

There are some long-gone Thanksgiving traditions that I still miss. In our younger days, my cousin and I spent Thanksgiving mornings stuffing dates with cream cheese and peanut butter, rolling them in sugar and then topping them with a walnut piece. Back then, we were still too innocent to realize that stuffing a date might be more fun than actually going on one.

Years later, many a Thanksgiving in Virginia was shared with the family of my husband’s cousin, who is married to a lover of rutabaga – a vegetable as foreign to me as kohlrabi. We left that tradition behind when we moved north. I don’t miss the smell, but I sure miss them.

There also were many memorable Thanksgivings in Texas. I’m still surprised we survived the year my friend insisted it would be a great idea to hang the turkey upside down to drain in her garage the night before cooking, claiming it would result in a moister bird. Yes, I know it sounds crazy but you can see the photo proof right here. Since the overnight temperature in Fort Worth is in the upper 50s at this time of year, I suspect the juiciness was the result of a very high bacteria count. Fortunately, enough liquor was consumed to kill all germs.

Do you have Thanksgiving food traditions or funny memories? Do any of them involve stuffed dates, rutabaga or hanging turkeys?


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