Ah, Thanksgiving. The day your kitchen table (covered last night with homework and an empty popcorn bag) gleams in anticipation of what’s coming next. When your house is filled with the heavenly scent of food being prepared, not candles you’ve bought to create that effect. The holiday that starts with food and loved ones and ends with wondering why you have such a small refrigerator.
What’s not to be thankful for?
No other day of the year brings so much love, memories and food together.
Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday for as long as I can remember. As a kid, I loved waking to the sound of rattling pans and my mother singing. We ate cereal in front of the TV and watched the parade, so she could have the kitchen to herself.
I couldn’t wait for my grandmother’s pecan pie and my mother’s Ambrosia, made from fresh oranges and grapefruit, maraschino cherries and coconut flakes. When dinner was ready, we lit candles and used a table cloth. And while my dad took his after-dinner nap, Mom drank coffee and called her family in Florida. It was a day that always started and ended on a high note.
As our family and circle of friends grew, so did Thanksgiving.
The more people seated at my parents’ table, the more new recipes there were to taste. While my mother cooked a bigger turkey each year, guests brought everything else—including favorites from their childhoods.
For years, my parents’ cabin at Lake Livingston was a central location for many friends and relatives. Potluck dining at card tables and TV trays, amid pine trees and people we rarely saw, made those Thanksgivings my favorite.
Cajun sausage, vegetable casseroles and things that tasted wonderful and traveled well were complements to the turkey I’m not sure how my mother pulled off. There were so many new things to try.
When we lived in Louisiana, our neighbor introduced us to Watergate Salad: pistachio pudding blended with fruit, marshmallows and nuts. And when my mother-in-law first made her cranberry salad, I realized that I didn’t hate cranberries. (turns out maroon and gelatinous are not natural states)
I am thankful for the years my mother showed me what made Thanksgiving special for her. The melding of foods and memories is what now makes it so special for me.
My tastes have improved as I’ve aged and so have Thanksgivings. I still make my mother’s cornbread dressing– adding sausage, pecans, green onions or oysters, depending on my mood. I can’t make gravy, but my husband can.
He still bakes better pies than I do, but I’ve learned to accept that as a strategy and not a handicap. I’ve also learned to love beets– when they’re roasted with other vegetables the way my friend does them. And that whatever my kids cook will always be the best thing I’ve ever tasted.
We miss those not with us, but anticipate the new dishes and people each Thanksgiving brings.
My idea of a perfect Thanksgiving is as simple as this: Make food that’s good to you and invite others to do the same.
Will someone else be bringing your favorite dish on Thanksgiving? Please tell me what it is. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.