My quest for data about what everyone has on their Thanksgiving table knows no bounds.
As those of you who have read this blog over the years know, I love the quirks in everyone’s menus for this wonderful inclusive feast- and there are ALWAYS quirks!
Some are regional like the white bread stuffing/ cornbread dressing divide that splits the country.
Some are cultural like the fried okra served at staffer Bryan’s Thanksgiving meal. To be accurate, this afternoon it is 15 degrees out with a bitter wind off the arctic so perhaps the okra at Bryan’s southern family’s Thanksgiving table is also a regional difference as well. Today, I can only wish the okra in the garden hadn’t been dead for several months, whereas Bryan’s family is still harvesting okra and tomatoes!
Anyways, not only are there these kind of regional and cultural differences, some menu differences are just plain inexplicable. This would be the ONLY possible way to frame my childhood Thanksgiving meals which included my mother’s choice of dishes including curried fruit, rice, frozen peas, no pie and no gravy.
I never tire of researching this meal! I also can never say it enough that I am glad I married into the Sheehan family where Thanksgiving dinner includes pie AND gravy.
Yesterday at a hockey game, I asked the man standing next to me what was on the Thanksgiving table in his childhood. He looked very startled when I asked the question. He wasn’t a complete stranger; he taught both Will and Emily at the same school where Ben teaches. I haven’t quite gone beyond the pale with my research as to accost complete strangers yet, but his expression made me realize I was getting close.
After all, weren’t we supposed to be at the hockey game to watch hockey? None the less, he rallied, and soon we found enthusiastic common ground in the lunacy of wasting space on the Thanksgiving table with the New England traditional appetizer of a cut glass dish filled with celery sticks, carrot sticks and canned black olives.
I mean YUCK! Carrot sticks on Thanksgiving?
This reminds me of the Boston school where Emily is now teaching. Up until this year each class in the school cooked a traditional dish from the pilgrim dinner and everyone in the school enjoyed this feast on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. This year some bureaucrat at the school decided to make the meal into a more healthful and politically correct version of itself- a meal that involved no food wastage or sugar. Corn muffins are now a 1″ cube of corn bread and turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy and pie are now turkey soup WITH CARROT STICKS. How to buzz kill a perfectly wonderful holiday meal…..This bureaucrat must have known my mother.
On a happier note, I was lucky enough this summer to have a whole new group of people to quiz about their Thanksgiving menus: Miguel’s family. On their trip up from San Antonio to the north country this August, things were a lot more relaxed than the year before when we were all putting on a wedding. As we lounged around watching Miguel and his brother JR cook us one amazing barbecued brisket after another, I asked JR as well as Miguel’s parents about their Thanksgiving menus.
Miguel’s mom explained how her mother-in-law had taught her many amazing dishes like tamales and empanadas. She noted that these dishes had been the backbone of the family Thanksgiving ever since. I have had Maria’s empanadas! YUM! Salsa is also a staple. I have learned from Miguel that salsa is a staple at every self respecting meal in Texas. Miguel gave us his family’s basic salsa recipe for the new cookbook so we can begin to learn the art of salsa. Here is the page from the cookbook. This recipe may seem simple, but it is salsa that even people who don’t like salsa really love.
Miguel’s brother, JR’s contribution to the conversation was an all time winner for me as he is married to a woman who is Cajun- Not only were there some Tex-Mex twists to their meal but they also serve blackened alligator as well as boudin. Wow. That really rocked my world! Blackened alligator!
I have already made two trips to the market to begin to organize for our rather more tame meal. Going now means that the people I pass with equally laden carts still appear to be calm and collected. When I go get the turkey on Wednesday I know things will be a bit frenzied. This is a complex meal to pull off no matter what anyone serves.
So to all of you out there who are cooking a Thanksgiving feast, I wish you well as you prepare and serve this wonderful meal. As always, I would love to hear about what you are cooking- Just send your menus to firstname.lastname@example.org ! I won’t hold it against you if you are serving curried fruit.