Embracing Our Traditional Thanksgiving Menu

Traditional Thanksgiving

It’s dripping rain outside.

Still dark at 6 a.m., the drops are coming down rhythmic and thick.

It’s the day before Thanksgiving, and each time this reality settles deep inside me I feel like a kid on Christmas eve.

Excitement tickles my belly, a happy jumpiness threatens to throw me off-balance, and I hope, (but wonder IF), I will be able to maintain my cheer beyond the morning hustle.

Today I will make classic sweet potatoes. SWEET. Potatoes. We’re talking the real deal topped with an avalanche of mini marshmallows.

I’ll corral Yukon Golds into make ahead mashed potatoes, rich with butter and sour cream, and I’ll throw together a good ol’ green bean casserole topped with french fried onions from a can.

I thought about making the casserole from scratch this year, because, you know – healthy.

But our family is full of staunch traditionalists who balk at the new when it comes to holiday fare.

So we are stuck on perpetual repeat when it comes to the Thanksgiving menu, and though in the weeks leading up to the holiday I have a yen to number shiny new dishes among the old, something stops me every year.

Laziness or tradition, or both. A tradaziness of sorts.

It’s this tradaziness that rescues my holiday spirit, because although those new recipes all loom adventurous and divine, there are no guarantees when it comes to favorited grub.

There’s no assurance that the uncles and nephews will head back for seconds of thyme roasted carrots with goat cheese. In fact, it’s nearly bonded certainty that they won’t, and it’s possible that they might forego those glistening root veggies altogether.

If I brought a simmering skillet of roasted onion and chestnut compote to the buffet? It might never be touched by anyone other than myself and my mother-in-law.

And, even though Deb’s sweet potato cake with marshmallow frosting makes me covet an opportunity to sample a confection au courant,  if I dared relocate the sweet potato casserole to the dessert table remade as cake, the males in my family might just insist I take a 45 minute time-out while everyone partakes fully in a meal of full, untampered tradition.

This morning I realize though, that my tribe’s ardent insistence on family customs, even though they involve cans of Campbell’s soup and unnatural measures of brown sugar and machine puffed mini-marshmallows, afford me freedom to welcome peace into my day.

In my mother-in law’s words, “why would I make myself crazy” doing something fancy-pants, then have someone be disappointed because it’s not the way it’s always been?

Though I’ll still be scurrying a bit to make preparations for tomorrow, I’ll also abide by quiet confidence as I ready dishes I’ve prepared for years.

There will be a gratitude way down deep in my middle, knowing that as each scoop of potatoes or green beans meets the plate of a loved one, their soul will be served a comforting helping of roots with a side of heritage.

And as the opener rounds the cream of mushroom soup can, (even though lately I’ve balked with more frequency at the use of processed foods), I’ll be saying a quiet thank you that these one-dish-wonders bless my day with uncomplication.

The simplicity leaves me with time to breathe low and hearty and appreciate the fixed and certain truth that we are blessed to have this time together – today during preparation, and tomorrow in a vibrating houseful of little and big people alike. It’ll be a house full of levity and laughter, probably some bickering and/or crocodile tears, sarcasm, sincerity, ribbing and compliments, well-meant advice and whole-hearted love.

There is something to be said about the ease of predictability.

Being firmly planted in today while simultaneously celebrating countless years past opens up the gift to enjoy right now.

I have finally learned, I think, that experimentation has no place, (other than anywhere far, far, removed from the main buffet) at our Thanksgiving table.

And for that, I am truly thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

4 thoughts on “Embracing Our Traditional Thanksgiving Menu

  1. Experiment IS completely crazymaking! But I love it. I can’t help myself. I’m a long way away from cooking a whole Thanksgiving shebang, but I have a feeling I’d take a similar approach to you. Thanksgiving is about feeding loved ones the things they love, not about indulging your personal whimsies, after all.

    Although… I would be all up in those goat cheese carrots and onion/chestnut compote, right along with you!

  2. Holy Hannah. My apologies to anyone who read this before I, uh, RAN A SPELL CHECK! My goodness. This blogging every day thing has my brain in a twist. Guess I’m truly living out the motto, “spelling is fer the burds. . . .”

  3. I’m totally with you on this one! Today I am regretting that I left the can of cranberry sauce unopened because my mother-in-law wanted to make fresh cranberry sauce… The horror! Thanksgiving must include discs of jellied cranberry sauce, with the lines from the can of course 🙂

    • Oh, for sure. Can-lined cranberries are on our table too! Although, somehow my brother-in-law managed to sneak his homemade cranberry sauce onto the table for the past 3 or 4 years too, so now we have both, and both are yummy! I always have a circle of can-berries with my turkey though! 😉

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