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Oct 10, 2009 08:52 PM

Tradition and defying convention

Do you always cook traditional fare for Thanksgiving or do you dare to be different?

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  1. I like some of each...there are enough components to the meal to experiment a bit and keep some of the old tradition as well. Shake things up a little bit, but don't get excommunicated! People need something to talk about!

    1 Reply
    1. re: scuzzo

      Does that mean you cook the bird, I mean turkey?

    2. I cook two turkeys a year - one "test bird" that is a precursor for the "real bird." My only constraint is that it better be fan-effin-tastic the next day for sandwiches, because it's the only reason I cook turkey. So, yeah, the bird is a must - even bad bird tastes pretty darned good with mayo.

      This year I may break down and buy a fryer and give it a go, because I am a) slow to the curve like that, and b) redneck enough in origin to think there's probably something to it that I've been missing while I was trying something else.

      Sides are open, as long as my Mom makes her whipped potatoes (Southerners know that these differ from mashed) but lately I "must" make Grandma Ople's Apple Pie from - it's that good.

      Christmas dinner is open to some playing around - as long as there's prime rib, we don't care what else is served, I think.

      1. Has to be turkey, has to be mashed potatoes and gravy, has to be cranberry in some form. Has to be some kind of biscuit, homemade or Pillsbury OK. Has to be sweet potato in some form ( that's my requirement, in-laws refuse to eat as I won't top with marshmallow). Has to be at least 3 other veg dishes (again mostly for me unless my family comes, which is rare). This is where I can experiment, again because it's mainly for me, they only eat a spoonful of one so they think they're being healthy. But the vegetables have to be: broccoli, corn pudding, and string beans, in some form. This year I am NOT putting Velveeta or cream of mushroom soup in anything, so maybe they won't eat any at all! Pumpkin pie IS a requirement, I've been told (when I tried to make pumpkin bread pudding instead). I guess appetizers are where I can experiment, different every year.

        But I do want to make it completely traditional, to answer your question, starting with the turkey in the oven when the parade starts, the sipping of sherry as I add it to numerous things and so on. I do it for myself as much as anyone else, but I like to think that after 30 plus years it's become their tradition too. I wonder what would happen if I had to go to someone else's house for the holiday???

        2 Replies
        1. re: coll

          You’re very much on point here and I think it’s mainly because holidays and annual festivals are built on tradition, almost by definition. So, that's to say, start with the basics and then introduce your other special dishes, which may be a real hit, and then become part of your tradition in the years ahead.

          If there aren’t already any traditional dishes served at your Thanksgiving meal, then why not start a few based on the favorite vegetables of your family and friends – it is a “harvest” festival, after all. Yes, CHEFINTHECLOSET, I’d say spanakopita, your favorite “go to” dish, would work perfectly well with turkey and all the trimmings. By the way, Coll, shouldn’t there be a bowl of pearl onions in cream sauce somewhere over there on the table, too?

          It’s funny, but I still look forward to that very same turkey stuffing my parents made, along with all the other essentials, and if somebody gets creative these days and tries to viv it up, forget about, major disappointment.

          Of course, one of the main ingredients to a successful celebration is the time spent together doing all the work it takes to pull off a bountiful, “gracious plenty,” as they say in the South. But even a very simple meal shared with those we love is cause for gratitude. It sets the scene for a joyful occasion, which we want to repeat again, and again.

          Some of my sweetest memories are of mom and dad staying up late and then getting up early to do all the prep work for the Thanksgiving Day ahead. And after the big day was done, my two brothers, sister and I would begin to count the ways and days it took for us to finally finish off the carcass of one of those 30 lbs turkeys so popular with Midwestern families back in the day!


          1. re: dnycguy

            Pearl onions are my nemesis, although I've never tried to make them from fresh. I know my husband would like them, but since I'm not so into them, and actually have no experience what they even taste like, I tried doing a Stouffers one year, and another year used jarred onions with my own sauce (major failure). Luckily this is the one holiday that my husband's family always had at a relative's house, so I've been able to build my own traditions without too many complaints.

        2. Just got word from both kids and their families that they won't be coming for T-day this year because of work schedules. So I'm thinking this year is the break from tradition and I'm going to find me a couple of pheasants. Hub will miss his turkey but he loves turkey so much I make it or a breast several times a year for him. He won't suffer that much.

          1. The one time I made cornish game hens for 12 nobody said anything, but perhaps they were harboring resentments. Some of the folks at that meal were very, very "traditionalist." In retrospect I wonder if they didn't hate me for depriving them of their bird.

            1 Reply
            1. re: shaogo

              ah ah... Isn't that interesting that we are so bound by convention and tradition? My argument for cooking something different on Thanksgiving Day is the following: If you have lots of friends or a large extended family, you are bound to be invited somewhere where traditional fare will be served. So if you are having Thanksgiving on an alternate day, especially if its a three day long week end, why not experiment with something different. Who wants to eat turkey 2 or 3 days in a row?