Thanksgiving is just days away. The family will be gathering at my home this year — for the first time. I love to throw a party. Without a doubt, I absolutely feed off the “working the crowd” aspect of any good party. There’s always plenty to eat — and drink. But, I will let you know now that I’m a little intimidated by the ‘Thanksgiving Feast’ occurring in my home. This will be my first attempt to host the hoopla (did I mention this?) which, of course means, my first attempt to cook a turkey — a whole turkey — stuffed with dressing. (I would advice any family members to bring peanut butter sandwiches, just in case.)
As a child, I would always help my grandmother cook. She made things I have no chance of recreating — fudge, Boston cream candy, peanut butter balls, the best pie crust… ever. During the holidays, I was always the official dressing taster. I remember pulling a chair beside my grandmother as she ever so carefully chopped celery and onions, melted butter, added a little stock and a pinch of this and that. I would always taste it, to let her know if it needed more salt or pepper or sage. I did this with my mother too, before every holiday meal — just last year.
My mom was a great cook as well — she even wrote a cookbook (in her first life, as we say in the family). My mom had this special topping she put on the turkey that we all picked off as soon as the bird came out of the oven. Not to be out-done, my father had a job during the holiday’s — turkey carver. It’s always the father’s job to carve the turkey isn’t it? My brother took over these duties when my father passed away. It’s hard… to take over a tradition that you were once the recipient of and not the creator of — it means you’ve suffered a loss. I can see the angst in my brother when he’s asked to carve the turkey or bless the meal. But, it’s his tradition now.
We had a special tradition at my family’s get together each year — an oven fire. Every year, like clockwork, about fifteen minutes before it was ready — the meal caught fire. Not in a ruined dinner way, but definitely in a freaked out the pets and kids with the fire alarm way. We really tried to avoid this, year after year. But, the yearly fire seemed imminent. One year, my father grabbed the turkey out of the oven so fast when the fire alarm sounded that he dropped the whole thing in the kitchen floor (my sister snapped a picture at just the right time or we would have never known — we still ate it, the five second rule got a bit of an extension for this case).
My husband and I were making our list for the big feast — what are we cooking, what are we ordering, what are we asking everyone else to bring. I brought up the question of whether to buy nice paper products or to use the real china. We decided it would be very special of us to use the good china. (Of course the main reason to not use it is the extra long clean up we are anticipating — formality wins.) But then he said, “What about the silverware? You know the real silverware?”
When my husband and I got married, we decided to not get real silverware. We opted for extra nice everyday ware instead — yes the same extra nice everyday ware that seemed not nearly as fashionable a few years later. My grandmother, recognizing the error in my thinking, told me to take her silverware. Her real silverware, the silverware that had belonged to her grandmother. I’ve never opened the case — she passed away thirteen years ago. So, “what about the silverware?” Well, my first response was, “No, absolutely not. Do you have any idea how much that stuff is worth?”
Yes, the stuff I’ve never even opened until now — a few days before the first Thanksgiving to be hosted at my home.
Thanksgiving is such a warm, feel-good family time. The day always starts with the Macy’s Parade. Then, there’s always some sort of football game going on. I always wanted to be one of those families that had the huge football game in the front yard. Too competitive. Once in a while we will break out the Trivial Pursuit game — I used to read the cards several weeks before Thanksgiving so I was fully prepared, my brain is filled with useless trivia. But, the day always progresses nicely. It will end nicely as well as long as we all follow the 24 hour clause (you know, the everyone can get along for 24 hours but past that it’s time to go home clause).
Then there’s the issue of who sits where. I will definitely have a children’s table — all good get togethers do. My husband and I were always relegated to the children’s table (a direct result of my being the youngest), even once we had kids of our own. It’s not that bad really, you can eat all the food from the kids plates that they don’t eat and then no one thinks you ate that much so no one questions the amount of dessert on your plate later. I think I will sit at the adult table this year — surely I get that priviledge.
I received some good advice when I expressed anxiety over recreating those special dishes of my mother’s and my grandmother’s. It was, to make it my own. I will attempt the old standards — attempt to achieve the perfect dressing and turkey topping. But, I’ll add some new in with it. We always can create lasting memories, even when our mother’s and father’s have passed on. But, I dearly hope those don’t involve a fire or the turkey splayed across my kitchen floor. So, we will opt for the real china and the real silverware — family deserves that much don’t they? Especially the ones that recognize the 24 hour clause.