I live alone these days. That means I’m no longer in charge of making Thanksgiving Dinner happen, starting two days ahead to prepare, faithfully producing all the expected dishes. I our house, turkey was a must--not negotiable. Pleas for rib roast or duck met deaf ears. One year I had a revolt because the pumpkin pie was souffléd, instead of flat. These days, I leave that to my grown children and their families.They’re creating their own customs and traditions.
I marvel, everytime I go to the supermarket how modern innovation has made the whole dinner thing simpler. The other day I came across a Holiday Dinner display, and what to my wondering eyes did appear, but a complete dinner—all the traditional dishes prepared in oven-ready-to-table casseroles, individually priced, ready to heat and eat. I found the inevitable green bean/mushroom soup casserole, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, mashed potatoes, and even cranberry relish in tidy pint servers. There were two kinds of turkey stuffing: cornbread and regular, and even an entirely cooked and ready to serve turkey, vacuumed packed, with giblet gravy in pint containers. Amazing. A trip to the bakery section for pie, and we’re ready to go. Ah, but the feast would never have passed muster in our house. If I would have tried that, I’d have been sent to my room without supper.
THE RELISH TRAY was missing, a thing that was such a tradition, no holiday dinner could proceed without it. I don’t know how this got started. I blame it on my mother-in-law. Hopefully this is one of the sillier customs that will not find its way to my children’s tables.
The thing is, even though nobody ever ate from THE RELISH TRAY because they all hated the stuff on it, it had to be there. Two kinds of olives, pickles, celery sticks, and those pickled crabapples with the stems on, all had to be present and remained untouched throughout the meal. Afterward, during cleanup, I’d carefully sort it out and return all the items to their original containers to be held in the refrigerator until Christmas Dinner, four weeks away. The whole thing would be reassembled and served, except this time, after dinner, everything would go in the garbage and we’d start over next year.
All families have their own "things." I know one family that always serves Ligonberries, although nobody is quite sure what they are, except Swedish.
Sometimes I miss all those little jars in the fridge. At such times, I mix another martini and relax. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I’m invited out to dinner.