As you’re all probably aware by now, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. It’s about good food, and it’s about appreciating the good things in life, both of which are things I really love. It gives me a chance to show off my culinary chops, which is my idea of a good time.
Over the centuries… well, the century and a half and change that Thanksgiving has been an official, annual, national holiday here in the States, the menu has more or less codified across the country. Sure there are regional and family traditions that don’t translate elsewhere, and there are the families who – because of allergies or other food restrictions – have to find ways to adapt the meal to fit their needs. And there are those brave souls who chuck the entire traditional meal because they just plain don’t like any of it. Still, wherever you go in the US of A on that fateful thursday, the vast majority of tables will feature at least these dishes: roast turkey with stuffing/dressing, mashed potatoes or a sweet potato dish, cranberries in some form, and pumpkin pie. And then there are the things that are more common than not, such as: green bean casserole, biscuits or dinner rolls, some sort of salad, and a second dessert, often apple or pecan pie.
Of that list, the one I absolutely cannot do without no matter what else is or isn’t on the table is the pumpkin pie, preferably baked by my own fair hands. I admit that part freely. I love to bake pies, and baking the pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving has been my job for the last forty-two years. No way am I giving that up until I am physically incapable of doing it anymore! For me, pumpkin is the flavor of Thanksgiving. It’s also my traditional day after Thanksgiving breakfast, along with a cup of strong, black coffee.
But there are a couple things on that list I could definitely survive never seeing on a Thanksgiving table again. Green bean casserole and anything that mucks up perfectly good sweet potatoes with marshmallows and too many sweet things, I’m looking at you. Sweet potatoes are already sweet. That’s why they’re called sweet potatoes. They don’t need to be drowned in sugar. As for green bean casserole, well, whether it’s made with a can of Campbell’s or from absolute scratch… it’s still got mushrooms in it and I can’t stand mushrooms. Leave out the casserole, though, and I love me some green beans.
If those things are on the table, obviously I won’t scream and throw hissey fits until they go away. I’ll just quietly keep passing them when they get to my end of the table and fill my plate with the things I love. But if they weren’t there… yeah, no tear shedding over that.
And there’s a family dish that I miss a lot. My mother’s second dessert on Thanksgiving was always a steamed pudding, usually ginger. It was fabulous. Cakey and moist and full of little bites of fresh ginger, it made my mouth sing. Alas! These days I don’t have enough people around the table to seriously justify a second dessert. And since for the past couple years Mr. Twistie and I have shared the holiday with a friend who lives a two-hour drive away… we have to think carefully about what we can transport successfully in the confines of our car. A freshly steamed pudding is not easily transported. But maybe I’ll do one for Christmas this year.
So how about you? What’s your favorite of the traditional Thanksgiving dishes? What’s the one you never want to eat again in your lifetime? Is there a family or regional dish you grew up with that you miss? Or one you remember with a shudder of horror?