My husband and I started talking about Thanksgiving traditions the other night. We’ve always thought it was interesting that people have such different ideas of what Thanksgiving Day dinner is supposed to include. And everyone is adamant that his or her menu is the “correct” menu. We are especially aware of these differences because my parents were raised in Arkansas and his in Pennsylvania/New Jersey.
Thanksgiving dinner for me always included: turkey, cornbread dressing, giblet gravy, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce (smooth not chunky), and pumpkin pie. If I was at my grandmother’s it also included homemade pimento cheese stuffed celery and, of course, pecan pie.
For my husband it was turkey, sausage and potato stuffing, sweet potato casserole topped with marshmallows (which I think my grandmother served too, but I’m trying to erase that from my mind), peas and pearl onions, and at least 2 kinds of pie. Interestingly enough his meal also included giblet gravy, which Dave says he thinks his mother learned to make when his father was stationed at Little Rock Air Force Base in Arkansas.
Both of our moms usually had at least one “experimental” dish on the table as well. Neither of us really remembers any of those experiments being good enough to be seen again the following year, except his mother’s giblet gravy. We seem to have carried on the tradition. Every year we try some new dish that we think will be the one to make it onto the Thanksgiving Day menu but alas, nothing yet.
I love the fact that this meal so represents the melting pot that is our nation. It is a holiday created here by people from everywhere bringing their cultures together. We have friends and family all over the country that insist that certain dishes be included or it just isn’t Thanksgiving. Mac-n-cheese, mashed potatoes, deviled eggs, tamales, apple pie, Brussels sprouts, pecan pie… The list goes on and on.
Since our marriage in 2000, we have probably spent a pretty equal number of Thanksgiving days with either side of the family and a handful with members of both sides of the families together. Dave and I have never seemed to reach a consensus on exactly what has to be on the table on Thanksgiving Day. We both agree that anyone else’s “must haves” make a great Thanksgiving meal. So when we’re with his family it’s sausage and potato stuffing and when we’re with mine it’s cornbread dressing. Other than that as long as there’s turkey, it’s Thanksgiving to us.