In the 12 years Jeff and I have been married, I’ve cooked thanksgiving dinner in 2 states, 2 countries and 1 US Territory. If I’m remembering correctly, I’ve cooked every year except one that we spent with my in-laws. Most of these dinners have been just our family. In the beginning, just the two of us and then as we added babies we added guests (people seem to visit more when there are babies involved). The past three years, we hosted extended family and had around fifteen loved ones at our table. Some years we’ve added friends.
We’re back to the small numbers this year. Just the five of us and that seems to be just as it should be with Jeff having been gone last year.
The thing that has come to mind as I’ve cooked this year (90% done on Wednesday night) is how much I love the traditions of this holiday. Yes, we give thanks. But with each item on the menu I also remember. Our Thanksgiving menu is full of our family traditions. Some are things Jeff or I grew up with and others are things that we’ve added along the way. Yet, I don’t think I’ve significantly modified the menu in 10 years. Really.
Yes, we have turkey. I must admit that it’s not the star of our table. I’m not sure what is but turkey really seems to be more valuable as leftovers (stock, lasagna, sandwiches, enchiladas and more). My heart rejoiced as Boomama confessed to letting go of the turkey when her family realized no one enjoys it. No that is brave honesty on Thanksgiving.
My personal favorite is stuffing. My mom has been making stuffing in the crock-pot for as long as I can remember. This is good for two reasons (ok, three). There is no risk of illness from actually stuffing your turkey and you free up valuable oven space. Plus, it’s delicious. I love knowing that as I chop my onions and celery on Thursday morning that my mom will be doing the same thing later that day just as she has for many years before. I feel connected in those moments even when we are thousands of miles apart.
The potato casserole is also a favorite. We don’t mess around with mashing our taters around her. My aunt made this casserole every single year and I’ve continued to do so. It’s full of cheese and butter and condensed soup and goodness. Truthfully, I think it’s even better the next day for breakfast which is ironic since this same casserole appeared on many brunch buffets when we lived in Texas.
We also serve a fancified green bean casserole that I got from my bosses wife back in 2001ish. It’s basically the classic but with bacon, water chestnuts and slivered almonds. Yes, fancified. Then there’s the green onion biscuits from Bon Appetit circa 2001. Yum! Finally, for the main course, there’s the cranberry sauce.
Y’all. (Yes, I lived in Texas for five years.)
This is my kids’ favorite part. I hardly believe it myself.
Until 2001 (do you see that this was a big year for my Thanksgiving cooking?), I’d always used canned jellied cranberry sauce. I decided to be brave.
I’m thankful. Add this now to your menu for this year. It’s easy and even my Italian plumber was mesmerized (granted he didn’t tasted it but he loved the smell and was curious about the concept.)
We wrap up our meal with pumpkin cheesecake courtesy of my mother in law. I look forward to this dessert all year long. There. Are. no. words.
With all of that food talk said, I end up right where I should be.
For the living history that is my family and all those moments of the past and for that which is to come.
And this year, especially, I am that we are together. Us five.
I’m trying not to forget what it felt like to have Jeff half way around the world a short year ago. I want to remember that there are still many families experiencing that exact thing. It’s not easy.
Happy Thanksgiving! Embrace every moment.