I love Thanksgiving. It is probably my favorite holiday (though Christmas has gotten a whole heck of a lot more exciting since Mr. Pickle Pumpkin arrived).
The smell of sauteing onions and celery in butter… the mad dash to clean and set and prepare (my family has always hosted at least 20 people)… the glimpses of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade caught between the mad dashing… I love it all. Our family is small, so the guest list always includes my other family – the family of dear friends, the family we got to choose. And my dad always gives a toast that makes people cry. He’s got a knack for that.
Everyone has their list of favorite Thanksgiving foods, and these are mine. Sure, they’re not the typical choices, nor are they the most gourmet, but they are the foods that carry the warmest memories and the strongest associations of warmth, abundance and family.
Honorable mention: The olive plate. Canned black olives. Sweet gherkins. Celery stuffed with cream cheese. All served in a little crystal bowl used only once a year. No one is really sure why we continue the tradition, considering that there are lots of other delicious offerings to be had, but it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without these old standbys.
5. Stuffing. My grandmother’s stuffing (cooked dangerously in the bird – gasp!) was always too full of Bell’s seasoning and too gluey. My sister and I would get to tear up the sticky white bread. It is so gluey that it congeals into a mass that can be sliced for turkey sandwiches the next day. And it is perfect.
4. Creamed onions. Man, those little suckers are hard to peel. What a pain. And that is what makes them amazing. The bowl of creamed onions (with a just a touch of nutmeg) was always on the small side, which made the portion you took – just 5 or 6 little onions – seem like a hot commodity. Plus, no one was going to peel those little bastards for any other holiday.
3. Broccoli/cheese casserole. I grew up in a foodie household. I didn’t trade my school lunches with the students, I traded with the teachers. My parents can cook. Fo’ shizzle. So this lowbrow dish made by a family friend with only four non-gourmet ingredients always thrilled me. Frozen broccoli, Velveeta (which has never been seen in my parents’ kitchen), butter and crushed Ritz crackers. Heaven in a casserole dish.
2. Pate. Yes, chicken liver pate. I told you, I grew up in a foodie household. I’ve been eating pate foreva, yo. And I love it. Esther used to bring this to the feast, and I’d stuff myself on this rich and nutritiously suspect dish and ruin my dinner. My father has taken over the preparation of the pate and man, the smooth yumminess, with a little sherry, heavy cream, chunks of pecans, and all of that liver-y goodness? Bliss. At least to this palate. (My husband would rather have his toenails plucked out than eat this stuff. Good. More for me.)
1. Butterhorns. I’m a bread person, and these yeast rolls full of butter and then brushed with butter are the. best. ever. Thanks Great Aunt M! Wait, I think she’s actually a cousin… anyway, they are the highlight of the feast, warm, golden and slightly salty from the brushed butter. I want to take the bread basket and hide in the closet and eat them all. No really, I do. And the next morning, microwaved for 9 seconds they are the perfect accompaniment for raspberry jam, or perhaps mini-turkey, stuffing, mayo, and cranberry sauce sandwiches. I would like to eat 6 right now.