Every Thanksgiving, I understand the Conservative movement going on in pro-America parts of the country. I understand Sarah Palin and the Tea Party and even my neighbors who have certain opinions on change and new ideas. I understand it because I unwittingly practice it myself.
Every Thanksgiving, I leaf through magazines and cookbooks containing new recipes and wild ideas about how to make the turkey less ordinary. I watch the Food Network where Bobby Flay, Paula Deen and others put a new spin on an old favorite. And every year, I end up cooking a roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, a yam soufflé, StoveTop stuffing, jellied cranberry from a can and a vegetable like broccoli or green beans. And pumpkin pie with whipped cream for desert.
It’s comfortable; it’s familiar. It’s what Thanksgiving was, is and always will be. If I experimented one year and deep-fried the turkey or didn’t open the can of jellied cranberry roll with the can indentations that indicate where to cut a slice, I would walk away from the dinner feeling like I was robbed of something, that something was changing for no good reason. And, I would feel resentful at the lack of control I have over my Thanksgiving experience.
I suspect somebody in most households — even the most conservative ones — fantasizes about new and interesting Thanksgiving dinners, but falls back on the familiar. The cast of characters around the dinner table may change year to year, the carving knife gets passed from generation to generation, but the Thanksgiving menu remains consistent. If you doubt this, think back to the last time you had a new guest try to bring a new dish to the table. If it was eaten, it was only out of courtesy.
I know this is irrational and nothing that remains static grows and thrives. I know that change is the normal whereas status quo is a slow death march. But something visceral is stirred up when the menu at Thanksgiving is radically changed. And it is every bit as real as the rational indifference I should have towards the menu. In the end, it is about the people at the dinner, not the menu itself, right?
Um, no, but nice try with the guilt thing.
But while change is necessary, we don’t have to change everything all the time for the sake of change. We need these hooks into the familiar from time to time. And I know that I am missing out on some fantastic recipe somewhere that could one day become a regular, meaningful part of my Thanksgiving Day menu.
This year I bought two turkeys. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I am going to cook another Thanksgiving dinner comprised entirely of recipes that sounds really delicious but ones I didn’t have the courage to cook. I’ll be blogging about this “Change We Can Dig Into,” complete with photos. Who knows, perhaps one of these recipes will find its way onto the table next year and become part of the tradition that gets handed down.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone. And remember, the dark meat of turkey is really bad for dogs, broccoli gives us gas and dark fruits like cranberry is off limits entirely. But, in moderation, we don’t mind sharing the other tasty bits with you. But check with your vet first if you have any doubts.
And don’t forget to try something new, like a walk after dinner instead of a nap. Hey, gotta try!