Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that lends itself well to traditions. Maybe you get together with Friends for a touch football game, or cram in four meals in one day, or maybe you choose to dine on a Ping-Pong table – Okay, you caught me – those all all from TV. If you’re really lucky, maybe you’ve got some hilarious traditions like our Bloggers, Donna and Carli. Just please, no Tofurkey.
Traditions Old and New
October is my favourite month of the year. Not only is it my birthday month, but it is Thanksgiving.
After a busy summer – where I see next to nothing of my children, family and friends for all the social calendars filled with work and summer events taking everyone’s time – Fall and Thanksgiving slow things down a bit and allow for some serious “face-time” with those I hold near and dear.
A few years back the time honoured tradition of hosting Thanksgiving was passed down from my mother-in-law Joy, to me. This was a huge leap of faith on her part, and I love her for that. Through trial and error, and trial and error again, I now think I have held a few family traditions and created a few new ones of our own along the way.
Not surprisingly, new traditions emerged once I took over. Joy and Emilee (my daughter) bring the desserts – this I believe was set as precedence the year I decided to go “healthy” and serve only fruit for dessert on Thanksgiving. These two fabulous bakers ensure this never happens again. Arlee, my eldest daughter, brings the veggie tray and wine, which now ensures that should the turkey cooking time run longer than humanly possible to wait, there are treats to sustain everyone a little longer. I now double and triple check the weight of the turkey and the cooking time it will take. FYI, there is a turkey brand that you can cook from frozen now!
As you can tell, I am no cook. Thus explains Joy’s leap of faith in passing this down to me. However, I can prep and put a turkey into the oven – secret is…turkeys really cook themselves. Once the turkey (which we name each year, don’t ask where that tradition came from!) is in the oven, Steve – my better half – ensures everything else is ready: homemade potatoes, stuffing, gravy from scratch, dinner rolls and two types of veggies for when everyone is ready to sit down to eat.
Old traditions I have brought from my childhood; I always have cranberry jelly (and yes it must still hold the shape from the can), dinnerware from generations past, and when stacking the plates for pumpkin pie, I add an extra one for those no longer at our table. I am always thankful when we can slow down, share a meal together and catch up on each others lives after a busy summer.
And so I share with everyone MY no fail recipe for the perfect Thanksgiving dinner:
An open, grateful heart, close family, great friends, excellent food, fine wine and always, always, always dessert!
Keep On Carrying On…A Tribute to Rosalie
– Carli Taylor
I think it’s safe to say that it wouldn’t be very difficult to imagine the look on my face as I sat at my Dad’s dining room table on Thanksgiving day a few years ago as he finally, finally…finally brought the turkey to the table. He was swearing, the turkey’s legs were incinerated and still smoking, there was oil all over the platter and I’m pretty sure it was the most god awful looking turkey I had ever seen…
It’s funny how we don’t often recognize a tradition as a tradition until we’ve somehow moved beyond it. Maybe we’ve outgrown it, or found ourselves looking back on it, wishing to share it just one more time. In the spirit of Thanksgiving this is going to be a blog about traditions, but it is also about being thankful.
My Dad’s side of the family is very small, and had only a few traditions that as far back as I can remember were never, ever broken. When we gathered, we gathered at Grandma’s. Maybe it’s because she didn’t ask for much. She didn’t insist on us wearing ugly Christmas sweaters, having each child wait their turn to open presents or find their Easter treats, sing carols, or list the things we were thankful for… She just wanted to see all of us gathered around her table for Easter, Christmas and especially for Thanksgiving dinner. Grandma Lee was a wonderful cook—as I’m positive most reader would agree their Grandmothers are. Her turkey was always cooked to perfection and her wet stuffing turned out to actually be delicious – which I discovered once I finally agreed to try it in my 20’s! She also made sure to include a favorite dish for everyone at the table. Mine was corn, my sister’s was cranberry sauce. (For far too many years these were often the only things we would eat—but that was okay with her because after all, Grandma’s allow those kind of shenanigans!)
I think the hardest part about thinking through this blog, was realizing that I never appreciated those gatherings enough. Maybe there is a part of all of us that just expects these moments…traditions… to always be, or that you can somehow pick up and carry on with—or without them. Maybe I expected that the glue that sealed those traditions together would always hold…
I remember looking around the table, trying to gauge the reactions on everyone else’s face when that horrifying turkey was practically thrown at the table. From horror, shock and annoyance to a twinkle behind their eyes, then the telltale look of control starting to slip and the pressing of lips together until finally, finally someone’s giggle slipped out. And then came the laughter…and for some of us, the tears.
You see, a beloved Mother, Wife and Grandmother had recently passed away, and we were trying to honor her love of Thanksgiving. Our first sign that we maybe hadn’t quite got it right? Location, location, location. I don’t think any of us thought twice about holding it at my dad’s place. To be honest…there was more room and I guess we weren’t quite ready to face her domain. We started to question the error of our ways when my dad’s brand new oven just stopped working. Stopped cold. But it was okay! My Uncle lives just down the road…another oven to the rescue!!
A few hours later, in stomps my dad, raw turkey in hand, and smoke coming out of his ears. Tell me…What are the odds that two ovens (that had previously worked in perfect condition) would be completely useless and mock us by producing a raw turkey? Apparently the chances were pretty high that day!
But it was okay!! Because my Father and Uncle had recently watched some crazy fools some really lucky people on Youtube cook their turkey in oil. Voila! A new tradition is born! Light the barbecue.
Holy smokes don’t ever cook a turkey in oil on the barbecue, okay!?
The laughter was needed. The tears were needed. Grandma…well apparently she really needed us to remember who held the best Thanksgiving dinners. And we do. And what any one of us wouldn’t give to be able to tell her that and to thank her for being our glue and giving us so many memories. I think enough time has passed now that it’s time to start some new traditions—maybe I’ll offer to host this year—after all, she did teach me how to make a mean turkey and so far my oven has worked in perfect condition. Plus, maybe it’s time to pass down her ‘special’ cranberry sauce that my sister still adores…for best results, I recommend cranberry free:
Do you have a Thanksgiving Tradition? Share it with us in the Comments section!
Images courtesy of Google