I was chatting with S about Thanksgiving earlier today. P and I are going to travel south to visit family next Thursday for Thanksgiving but will stop over at R and S’s place for our usually visit. Since S’s parents are in the US this year for the holidays, R thought it might be fun to plan a Thanksgiving dinner on Black Friday when P and I are driving back north.
I asked what was on the menu, and S replied, “turkey.”
“What else?” I asked, “Sweet potatoes with the little marshmallows on top? Green peas and pearl onions? Mashed potatoes? Cranberry sauce?”
S: “I don’t like most of those.. but sure, I want to celebrate Thanksgiving…”
Me: “So what is your plan besides turkey… daal bhaat?”
S: “No… maybe you should be put in charge of making the other things since you know them…just make sure that they are not bland—like in typical Thanksgiving dinner—my parents don’t like that. We should use flavor, for instance we will have a Turkey, but it will have Nepalese spice on it… it will be different.”
Me: “Wouldn’t it be fun to make a real American Thanksgiving dinner? It would be a cultural experience.”
S: “Trust me they hate real American dinner… they had bad experiences.”
This makes me a bit sad. I’m always willing to try different food. I guess it is different with older people, but it still makes me sad. I don’t know if it is easier to make the jump from “bland” food to “spicier” food then the other way around, but (in my mind) a potato is a potato whether it is covered in garlic, salt and cumin or if it is mashed with butter.
S: “Yeah, and we should skip the sweet potatoes… that will work.”
Me: “Well then, I’m still bringing the cranberry sauce… because even if you don’t eat it, I will!”
As I explained to S, there are two types of cranberry sauce. There is the sauce that is more traditional… more “sauce”-like and berry-filled… and well, then there is the “sauce” which is more like jelly. Growing up we would rotate Thanksgivings each year, so that some years we were with my dad’s family and some years we were with my mom’s.
My dad’s family is more “into” cooking. This was the side of my family where my grandmother baked an assortment of pies for the holidays, and lots of homemade snacks (cookies, doughnuts, etc) were made by relatives and brought to the gathering for people to munch on throughout the weekend. This side of the family also had the more “traditional” berry-filled cranberry sauce.
On my mom’s side, people aren’t really into cooking… which is actually kind of amusing. See, when my great grandmother (“Nanny” as she was referred to) first came to the US from Ireland, she just happened to come along at the right time and in the right place to land a job as a cook for JD Rockefeller at his estate near Tarrytown, NY. As the family story goes, the cook before Nanny was a Swede with a hot temper, and chased the butler with a kitchen knife. Rockefeller sacked her, and found Nanny. As part of her training she took cooking classes in New York City, and made Rockefeller’s 90th birthday cake. Anyway, by the time she left the position and married she was in her 40s, and when my grandmother (an only child) was born, I guess Nanny was just sick of cooking. Thus she didn’t pass on a lot of cooking skills to my grandmother, who in turn, didn’t pass on a lot of cooking skills to her seven children (including my mom). Holidays at their house are still filled with lots of food… but it is mostly store bought snacks.
One thing in particular that they always had was the store bought canned cranberry sauce, and for some reason I always loved it, and preferred this one to the “real” stuff. I get such a kick out of it… the “sauce” comes in an aluminum can and doesn’t really have any traces of “berry” anywhere… it’s a cranberry colored mushy-solid flavored jelly, that slides out of the can with a sucking sound and retains the can shape after being plopped on the plate… can ridges and all! After sliding the “cranberry sauce” out of the can, you kind of knock it over and then slice it up. I love it, I think it is hysterical, and tasty, even if it is just over-processed jelly.
Anyway… that is my Thanksgiving cranberry story of the day. You bet I’ll bring a can to S and R’s place!