The holidays are upon us, and I have been seeing and hearing talk about what people will be eating on Thursday.
Obviously, as a vegetarian for almost 20 years, my Thanksgiving meals are a little different. But even looking back, I can see that my family is just a bit untraditional.
The most glaring example of this is the green bean casserole. My mother has never made the green bean casserole. I have never eaten green bean casserole. I think for the past couple of years when my mother has had her Thanksgiving meal catered by her country club (which makes her sound a terrible snob, I realize, and she’s not), I think they have sent something akin to green bean casserole: green beans in a cream of mushroom sauce. It doesn’t come with those crunchy onion thingies, though.
The crunchy onion thingies: aside from green bean casserole, what are they used for?
Another example is sweet potatoes. I dimly remember some goopy sweet potato dish with marshmallows from my youth. I don’t remember eating it. At some point, my mother’s traditional sweet potato dish was simply slices of apples and sweet potatoes baked in their own juices together. Very tasty.
Occasionally, my mother serves raviolis with Thanksgiving dinner; they are traditional fare at Christmas time. She does all meat, all cheese, and/or cheese and spinach ravioli (“ravs” as they are referred to in my household); the past few years she also has been experimenting with meat-substitute fillings, with tasty results.
Of course throwing a vegetarian daughter and grandchildren into the mix has provided its own challenges. Hence the ravioli upon occasion. I have brought my own dishes (Chick Pea Tahini Casserole, Lentil Roulade with Chestnut Stuffing — which I am making again this year). We’ve had Tofurky, but we’re not crazy about it. It’s okay. Some of the sides are prepared separately from the turkey, although I do remember about 12 years ago having to make my own potatoes because my mom threw everything in with the bird.
The one dish that my mother absolutely clings to is cranberry relish. She makes it every year, and every year puts it in her relish dish (which is a rooster for some reason), and every year, her children make fun of her. No one in her family eats it: not Dad, not my brother, not my sister, not me. God Bless the outlaws, DearDR and WonderSIL because they eat it, and purport to like it. The first couple years, I figured in DearDR’s case is was kissing butt, but I may have underestimated his true love for cranberry relish. Or for his mother-in-law.
One tradition we definitely hew to is eating all day long. We start at noon with a soup course, in our case Italian wedding soup (with a Thai vegetable and tofu soup for the vegetarians). Around 3 or 4 p.m. we have salad. The main course starts at 5 p.m., and if we’re lucky, we can sit at the table for an hour. (I probably won’t be that lucky, with speed eater Bun in the mix.) And then, dessert around 7 p.m. And plenty of libations, of course: beer, apertifs, wine, coffee with Baileys, and cordials.
It’s exhausting! We work off a few calories cleaning, of course. And there will probably be some running around in the snow in which to engage with the kids. Football is usually background, not something we watch seriously (unless the Steelers are playing).
Whatever you are doing this Thanksgiving, have a happy one. Travel safely. Be thankful. Eat well. Drink moderately. Love one another.