No one loved the holidays more than my mother. Christmas was at the top of the list and then Thanksgiving, but then she got just as much joy out of Easter and Valentine’s Day – at least where her kids were concerned.
My mother chose not to share too much of her childhood. My grandparents were hardworking, but they grew up out of the Great Depression and experienced a lot of loss in their lifetime. My mother and her 10 siblings were clothed and fed, but that would have to be enough. Anything else was considered an extravagance. I have a feeling my mother drafted a plan pretty early on that her children would have the opportunity to enjoy the things she did not as a child.
No one’s parents are perfect, but mine came pretty damn close. We benefited from their lack of outward displays of love and affection and while at times I felt misunderstood (what awkward teen doesn’t?), I never ever felt unloved.
Thanksgiving was a favorite holiday of mine because it meant spending time helping my mother in the kitchen. I was happy to be her side-kick until my own cooking instincts grew stronger, and though it took some time, she eventually opened up to the wild and crazy ideas I suggested. But I knew with Momma, I had to adhere to her traditional take on dishes when it came to Thanksgiving. There were just some things you did not deviate from in her book.
Rest assured many of those dishes will be on my own table this year, as well as on the tables of other family and friends. My favorite thing ever is when someone calls to ask me for one of her holiday recipes. I feel like I’m helping to pass a little bit of her along, like she’s still here making people happy with her food.
The Holy Trinity of food magazines (Bon Apétit, Food and Wine and Saveur) is making that harder for me this year with their decidedly Asian take on the classic Thanksgiving turkey. Ask me where I’d like to have dinner and if you’re truly allowing me to choose, it’s always going to be cuisine from any of the following countries: China, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and even India. Those flavors taste like “home” to me, even though I experienced little of them in my childhood.
Food and Wine highlighted a Soy-and-Sesame Turkey (imagine basting your bird with a butter infused with aromatic Chinese flavors), Bon Apétit showcased a gorgeous Glazed and Roast Turkey with soy sauce again being the key ingredient, and Saveur’s cover teased me with a Tamarind-Glazed Roast Turkey – sweet and sour tamarind joined together with habañero chile and fish sauce to create an amazing umami-rich glaze. What turkey bird wouldn’t want that? More importantly, how in heaven’s name could I resist making any of these birds?
You know me well – I cannot resist. The question is, which one will make an appearance on my Thanksgiving table? Talk among yourselves and cast your votes now.
Regardless of what’s on the table and who joins you around it this Thanksgiving, I hope you’ll take a moment to share with each other all the things you are thankful for. Who cares if you feel corny? Who cares if the teenagers roll their eyes at you? Who cares if Uncle Albert is on his third glass of wine and is grumbling that the green bean casserole is getting cold …
One of my go-to bloggers and motivators, Seth Godin, pointed out that “At its best, this is a holiday about gratitude, about family and about possibility.” We are living in a decidedly digital age and human connection is not what it used to be. Here’s an opportunity to reconnect and express to each other what we’re grateful for. I’m passing along a fantastic Thanksgiving Reader that Seth shared on his blog last week. It’s perfect for those who want to instigate conversation but hate being the center of attention. It’s free and it’s printable and you should make a copy for everyone.
And you know what? Go ahead and keep Uncle Albert happy - gather everyone together and read it after the feast is over.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone.