Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It heralds the arrival of winter, which I love, and even if the day after it is undoubtedly the most unabashedly capitalistic one on the calendar, the holiday itself has managed to remain relatively free of the commercialization that plagues pretty much every other American celebration. It really is about being with family and good friends and enjoying the blessings of their company and plenty of good food.
Ah yes, the food. Everyone assumes the Thanksgiving feast they grew up having is the True and Correct menu. Most people don't even think about it until they experience Thanksgiving with a different family and are forced to confront the question of proper side dishes or the conundrum of the pies. This fantastic post says it better than I ever could..
I have been aware for a long time that my family has a few of its own Thanksgiving peculiarities. For one thing, since I grew up with no extended family within a thousand miles, our celebration has always been shared with a motley crew of family friends. As a kid, the core group was always my mom, dad, and sister and one other family of four, with various other people in supporting roles. As I grew older, the group evolved. All but one of the members of the other core family moved out of state and gradually, following in my parents' footsteps, I accumulated a group of friends my age who have now become regulars. The biggest change came two years ago, when we joined forces with my husband's family (including his parents, two sisters, and their families).
With the changing cast of characters, I think our family Thanksgiving traditions have remained more flexible and adaptable than most. Over the years we have incorporated such "innovations" to the menu as mashed potatoes, bread, and even lentil loaf (in addition to, not instead of the turkey), not to mention the comings and goings of dessert fallacies like cheesecake (cheesecake on Thanksgiving? C'mon!). But even in as liberal a household as ours, there are still a few sacred cows. Here are the three commandments of the Friedman Family Thanksgiving:
1)Remember the pickles, and forget not to place them on the festive table. Gotta have pickles.
2)Forsake not the jellied cranberries. The kind in a can that you slice up into discs. Other cranberries may be present, but not to the exclusion of the sacred jellied cranberries.
3)Thou shalt honor and protect the stuffing (and yes, we call it stuffing not dressing, though no one has actually cooked it in the turkey since I was a kid). Ours is made not of breadcrumbs but rather (drumroll, please) . . . noodles, kind of like a savory kugel. I think there was one time my mom tried to substitute a wild rice-based stuffing. We don't talk about that time.
This year we hosted a record 20 guests for dinner, with 3 more for dessert. After the cleaning was all done, the extra chairs and tables stored away, and we collapsed in our beds in the wee hours of Friday morning, thousands of Americans were converging on Wal-Mart and Best Buy, even paying people to hold their place in line. As we snored happily, a man was being crushed to death by shoppers hell-bent on buying a plasma-screen TV for under $800.
I don't even have cable.