I was in 3rd grade when our family moved from South Georgia up north, but truly I don't remember Thanksgiving being a big deal or what was typically on the menu. If Mama's menu was an indicator, our Georgia board included roast pork and dressing, sweet potatoes, cornbread, turnip greens and probably a coconut cake for Daddy.
I may have mentioned before that Thanksgiving was only the second time I met Tom's parents. Getting used to their northern ways included adjusting to new culinary experiences. I discovered leftover turkey and Miracle Whip made quite a tasty sandwich. Having never tried cranberry sauce, I enjoyed the tangy sweet gel. The only pies my family partook of were pecan, lemon meringue (my Aunt Roz makes one to die for!), and coconut pies. At my soon to be in-laws, I had my first taste of pumpkin and mincemeat pies, not too shabby. Apparently there were a few delectable dishes on a northern Thanksgiving table.
While I was happy to find some new seasonal favorites, not everything appealed to my southern palate. Most noticeable is dressing. Mama made the most delicious cornbread dressing from homemade cornbread, meat broth and lots of onions. It baked in the oven, not a bird, and was filling enough for a whole meal. Now, I was learning about the desecration of sage and oysters mixed with bread and crammed into a bird. Sorry, bread stuffing fans, still can't seem to make myself like it.
Let's do a little flashback, shall we? Mama, Daddy, Nancy, Buddy and I are settling into a 2 bedroom apartment with a small kitchen, no dining room. It was a good thing the kitchen was small. The five of us ate on a card table. Mama, Daddy and Nancy sat on folding chairs Daddy had borrowed from his new job. Since Nancy was in high school, Mama didn't think she should have to sit on makeshift furniture on like us elementary school kids. Buddy sat on an army issue ammo box, and I sat on the doll trunk I had brought all the way from Georgia with me. Not exactly dining at the Ritz.
It was several years until we had a real dining room with real dining room furniture. Mama was so proud! When she and Daddy bought the table and chairs, Mama insisted it be big enough for the five of us, our eventual spouses and potential grandchildren. Henceforth, Mama also insisted we all sit down together to eat.
Back to the almost in-laws. Mom and Dad had a small house with a small dining room. In several decades I don't think I've ever seen six people sit at the table to eat at one time. Tom's mom has a more casual approach to meals. Get what you want and sit where you can, a far cry from Mama's table.
Now, I look forward to my extended Herndon family coming to our house each year the day after Thanksgiving for supper. I think Tom and I have made a happy compromise that suits everyone. The grandkids's paper plates are filled first and they're seated at the card table. The guys load up their Corelle dishes and head for the living room to claim a seat and a tv tray in view of the current football game. We girls get to glam it up a bit. The dining table is set with china and crystal, dim lights and place cards. Everybody's happy, and that thrills me!
Isn't it interesting how families monitor and adjust? When I think about Thanksgiving at Mama and Daddy's, Tom's parents, and in our home, the settings and menus may be different,but the emphasis is the same: make the people we love best in the world feel welcome, comfortable and loved.
What are some of your families Thanksgiving traditions? Have they changed over time? What's a non-negotiable about the holiday meal for you?
14 ‘Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to theLord; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance.