For the most part, Thanksgiving is pretty standard. Turkey, gravy, something cranberry, vegetables, bread, sweet potatoes — you know the drill. Whatever it is, we expect the same thing every year.
Some of you people eat weird stuff. Pineapple cheese casserole? I hear it’s delicious, but I won’t try it. I’m open minded when it comes to food, but I don’t do pineapple and savory. Nope, no pineapple on pizza, either.
I didn’t mention stuffing or dressing. Growing up, we had stuffing. It stuffed in the bird, which was why it was called stuffing. Neither of my parents is from the South, and it seems people here call it dressing. That means it wasn’t in the bird. It’s in a casserole dish, baked on the side.
We only ever had a very basic version of stuffing, made from day-old white bread, celery, onion, salt and pepper. When I first came to Thanksgiving dinner in Augusta, I marveled at the fact that there were two kinds of dressing, one of which had oysters in it. It was delicious. I also quickly converted to cornbread dressing. I’d been missing out.
Cranberry sauce seems to be up for debate, as well. It’s nearly an even split between the jelly stuff from a can, shaped like a can even, and real cranberries, cooked with cinnamon and other things.
My family had a traditional cranberry frozen thing. I think that’s the name. Cranberry Frozen Thing. It was frozen cranberry something or other, topped with Cool Whip with celery and nuts in it.
Mom would cut it before we sat down, so everyone’s salad plates had a little square of melting Frozen Cranberry Thing, puddled in cranberry juice. I can’t remember if anyone actually ate it.
I hated sweet potatoes until I tried the ones with the pecan topping. We always had canned yams with the marshmallows. I ate the marshmallows, pushing the orange part around on the plate, so I looked like I took a few bites.
My husband’s family served rice as a starchy side, which is apparently also a Southern thing. We always had mashed potatoes. Mashed potatoes are one of my favorite foods. When I first showed up twenty years ago at the Wrights’, I was all, “Uh, where are the potatoes?” They seemed confused, too. “What potatoes?” I started bringing potatoes.
It’s rough when you’re not home for the holidays. Even worse than that is if someone decides to change things up one year, leaving out a standard.
My friend Paul looks forward to squash casserole. He loves it. Once, he spotted what he knew was his favorite on the table and served a hearty portion. It was not squash casserole. It was Veg-All casserole. Listen, I’m grateful for a hot meal on any given day, and Veg-All serves a purpose. However, eating that, when expecting the other is like drinking milk when you thought your cup was filled with sweet tea. Not the same.
Whenever you’re home this year or not, I hope you get your favorites. If not, maybe you’ll find a new appreciation for oysters or mashed potatoes. No matter what, love your people. If there’s something more you want, give thanks for what you have. Yep, even that Frozen Cranberry Thing.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.