Last week my husband was discussing the Thanksgiving menu with a coworker who was looking for new recipes to make. When he explained that we have the exact same menu every year, she thought that sounded incredibly boring. I don't look at it in that way. These are foods that we usually make only once a year (at least in this combination) and seeing them on the Thanksgiving table is like seeing old friends whom you haven't seen for a while. It kind of gives me the same feeling I get when we unwrap our Christmas ornaments every year to decorate our tree.....each of our ornaments is unique and carries a trove of memories with it. In the same way, every food that I make for Thanksgiving reminds me of the person or place where I got the recipe or the many years before when I have made that recipe, or the people who were at our table, some of whom are no longer with us, during Thanksgivings past. So here's our traditional Thanksgiving menu:
Sausage & fennel stuffing
Vegetarian soy "sausage" & fennel stuffing
Sweet potato pies
Corn bread sticks
Green salad with vinaigrette dressing
Roasted nuts & figs
After dinner thin mints
Maple pecan pie
My Dad never liked turkey, so as a kid, we usually had anything but for Thanksgiving...ham, lasagna, roast pork...pretty much anything. The one year my Mom decided to roast a turkey, the pilot light went out on her oven and it took quite some time for her to realize that it wasn't actually cooking! As I remember, the next year we went back to lasagna... Once I set up my own household and began making turkey every year, I always made (extremely well done!) pork chops for my Dad. Since he passed a few years ago, I miss having to think about making something special for him.
I got the sweet potato pie recipe that I use from my cousin's wife.....they are not people who I see very often and I wonder if she still makes it and if she knows how we all look forward to it every year...thank you Annette!
Of course I make corn bread at other times during the year....there simply isn't a better accompaniment to chili as far as I'm concerned. But Thanksgiving is the only time of year when I take out the cast iron corn cob pan that my husband bought for me and make little individual corn breads. Somehow they taste better because they are small and cute!
My Mom always brings her special Pizza Dolce for dessert, an Italian anise flavored ricotta cheesecake. I have the recipe, though I don't think I've ever actually made it! I can always count on her to do the delicious honors.
The roasted nuts and figs remind me of holiday family dinners when I was growing up. Long after we kiddies had lost interest in eating or sitting at the table, the elders would linger over glasses of wine and crack nuts, stuffing them into figs. Many of those elders are gone now, and we "kids" have become the elders (when did THAT happen?).
So this year, as at every Thanksgiving, I will look over the foods that I serve and the people who are with us, and a flood of memories will wash over me--and I will give thanks for every one of them. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!