Monday, November 5, 2007

Fun Monday #2

This week's Fun Monday is being hosted by Deborah at
The Humble Housewife and this is the assignment she has given us to write about:

I want you to share a tradition, event, recipe or quirk that you or your family does or aspires to do during the holidays, whether those holidays be Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukah, Ramadan, Kwanzaa, or whatever you celebrate! Given that this is a food blog I am especially interested in recipes, but anything will do!

The very first thought I had was that this isn't an easy task, for me at least. The more I thought about it the more convinced I was that my first thought was spot on. It's not that my family doesn't have holiday traditions, it's just that none of them are that unique. We celebrate Christmas in the usual way. Our Easters are nothing to write home about. I boycott New Years Eve on general principle, our dogs seriously freak out on the Fourth of July and I'm still too wiped out from Halloween to even think about it. I guess the only thing left is Thanksgiving.

I could be wrong, but I think that Thanksgiving is secretly my entire family's favorite holiday. I don't know why I believe this, but I do. Surely part of it is because everyone in my family can eat three times their own weight in food, myself certainly included. Part of it is the time of year, not quite winter but already past Fall. A lot of it is directly attributable to the pumpkin pie, as we are an entire house of pumpkin junkies. But for me it's about a lot more than just the food. It's about family. And kicking back. All at the same time.

Before we moved to the Midwest (and away from all of our family) we had chaotic Thanksgivings. Lovely, but chaotic. The Film Geek's family did an early afternoon dinner and my family did an early evening dinner, and even though no one guilted us into anything we always felt like we had to do both dinners. Choosing one over the other never felt like an option and our house was far too small to have the entire two family crew on our turf. So for years we did both. As a couple, with one child, then two and finally three.

Anyone who has spent any time with kids can tell you that holidays are prime meltdown territory and ours were no different. For years we would do two dinners when all the kids were already wiped out from one and just wanted to go home and go to sleep. They would crash on the thirty minute drive from one place to the next and go ballistic when we got them out of the car. More than once one of them fell asleep again in their cranberry sauce at my folk's dinner. Both sides of the family told us not to feel like we had to do both, but we always did. Neither of us wanted to miss Thanksgiving with our families. At the end of the night each year, the FG and I would lie bloated, belching and beached on our bed and say Never Again. But every year, on our own accord, we did it again.

And then we moved half way across the country and it was time for
Plan B. As luck would have it, since we moved in August, Thanksgiving would be our first holiday "alone." We had dear friends from California who had moved to Texas right about the time we moved here and we made a deal that we would trade holidays. They came here the first Thanksgiving and it was wonderful. Our families all got along, all of the kids had a blast, there was so stress or strife - it was great. (Of course we promised them we'd go there for the next one and still haven't - eight years later. One of these days, if the invitation is still open, we will - the whole motley crew).

Every year since then we've done our own version of Thanksgiving. It's all been about family and food and just hanging out. And do you know what we do?

Absolutely nothing. I still do the big food spread - all of the traditional stuff is well-represented. Turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes with lemon rind and nutmeg, green bean casserole (my favorite dish of the whole holiday next to the pie), homemade cranberry sauce, rolls, pumpkin pie and always some other dessert, usually a very non-traditional one like an ice cream pie.

It's still amazing to me how peaceful a day can be (even when most of it is spent in the kitchen) when you make just two small changes:

1. If you don't have to serve dinner at a certain time for guests it takes all the pressure off. It's done when it's done and we'll eat when it is. And if we're all still in our pajamas that's too bad.

2. When it doesn't matter what the rest of the house looks like. I've realized that the problem isn't necessarily the cooking, it's that every dish in your kitchen is dirty and your kids are destroying the rest of the house while you're peeling potatoes. So you're really doing two things - cooking the biggest meal of the year and making your house look Martha Stewartesque all at the same time. Can't be done. Not by me anyway.

We don't even have to do Thanksgiving on Thanksgiving. Last year the two younger boys and I were going to meet my folks at their vacation lake house three hours away. The FG and Sasquatch were, for various reasons, not going along. We did our dinner on Wednesday and then the boys and I drove to the lake on Thanksgiving Day, leaving the other two with a fridge full of leftovers. On Friday we did a second dinner with my folks. This year I'm working on Thanksgiving (occupational hazard of health care), so we'll do our dinner on Friday.

The house will smell like pumpkin, cinnamon and fresh bread, the windows will be all fogged against the chill outside, my family will be cocooned warmly inside and the dogs will be perfecting their poor starving dog routines (that no one ever believes anyway). We'll eat dinner and then snuggle down in the living room to watch movies while our digestive systems slowly implode.

It'll be great.

Now go and check out all the other Fun Monday posts!
Since our hostess specifically asked for recipes, here's one. This is one of the most untypical recipes I make, but it has very heavy nostalgia value. My husband mentioned a dish his grandmother used to make, and the more I thought about it I had vague memories of eating it in Alabama too. I make it every holiday for him and I'm pretty sure that every bite takes him back about thirty years. Or more. Only in America would this be called a "salad":

Pistachio Salad

1 small box instant pistachio pudding
1 8 oz can crushed pineapple (with juice)
1 cup mini marshmallows
2 cups Cool Whip (don't use real whipped cream, it ruins the whole effect)

Mix everything together and chill for several hours before eating. Serves one small family or one very nostalgic husband.

(As I googled this for the picture I saw that this is also called Watergate Salad. Huh??)
I'm going to be very late making my Fun Monday rounds today (because I plan on sitting on a beach dodging gull poop), but I will catch up with everyone. I promise. As far as the blog during the trip, I plan on posting something small through Thursday. Don't expect much, but there will be something. Then Friday through Sunday I'll take off and be back bright and early Monday with road trip stories.



Kaycie said...

You sound so much better. I have to confess I was worrying a bit about you today after your last post.

My mom makes that salad, usually at Christmas. Yummy. She also does one that is really similar to it, but instead of pistachio, it's cranberry. Also very yummy.

Since we moved, I've done Thanksgiving and Christmas at my house, mostly because it was bigger and we're the only ones with kids. I really loved having everyone along with their food and their presents come to me and mine.

-Ann said...

I am a creature of habit and ritual, routine and comfort. So I really like the idea of the laid-back, stress-free, it's-done-when-it's-done holiday.

Flowerpot said...

I try and ignore Christmas I'm afraid, and Himself doesnt like it either so we usually succeed!

Hootin'Anni said...

You say: "Every year since then we've done our own version of Thanksgiving. It's all been about family and food and just hanging out."-----

To me, being together with friends/family IS tradition! One that goes on forever [even if it's in memory]

Jen said...

I'm still catching up after going to a self-imposed non-snark exile over the weekend. But your Thanksgiving sounds lovely. We live so far away from everyone that sometimes we just do holidays by ourselves. Or better, being in radio with people who have to work holidays frequently, we invite over the people who can't go home to be with their families.

Enjoy your trip, be careful, etc. etc.

laurie said...

a holiday with reduced stress! excellent. now let's try to reduce the fat...

seriously, thanksgiving is my least favorite holiday. it just seems to gluttonous to me. and my littel brother always hosts it, which means it's fussy as hell.

my solution: i sign up to work every thanksgiving. (hey, the paper comes out every day. just like the ER.)

so i work until 7:20 p.m. and then dash to his house, yak with everyone, and eat whatever's left over. perfect solution.

Alix said...

Sounds like a fun and relaxing day

Mya said...

Thanksgiving sounds lovely - we don't do it in the UK or France.
Have a great trip with your Mum, and as Jen says, be careful out there.

Mya x

lisa's chaos said...

It's great when we're old enough we start becoming "the parents" in our stories. Hope your holidays are fun!

AnGlOpHiLe FoOtBaLl FaNaTiC said...

I still have to do the multiple back & forths for all the holidays. And, somehow Aunt so and so will show up or Great uncle blah blah & all day it's back and forth between the houses.

Aoj & The Lurchers said...

*waves hello*!

Any possibility you could share the beans sounds yummy!

Kimberly said...

I just ate breakfast but I am soooo hungry now!

Sandy said...

I think part of the joy of Thanksgiving is that your presence is the only gift required. What a blessing that is...

Akelamalu said...

I enjoyed reading about your festivities. I learned a long time ago that you can wear yourself out trying to please everyone so we started pleasing ourselves and no-one bothered!

Have a great trip, keep safe and I'm looking forward to reading all about it. x

Tiggerlane said...

Pistachio salad is YUMMY! And I like your traditions - no pressure, and better yet - pajamas at the dinner table! GREAT!

miss yerem said...

hello rc,just read your saturday post,so this comment is for that, nor for this post,well never mind. i hope you`ll have a great week,know the feeling, have just started a new job and am now constantly guilty for being a bit exhausted. so today i raced from work to school to pick up my 7-year-old son and the first thing he said was: oh mummy,why are you so early? i`m still playing with my friends! "now i`m in a huff:o) have fun, will miss you.hugs from faraway berlin

Thalia's Child said...

Pistachio pudding... I've never heard of that. My poor sheltered Canadian life is apparently incomplete!

ciara said...

i don't really 'do' thanksgiving. for reasons i will not disclose because it could get too political/personal lol

this yr my girls won't be going to their dad's so i'm sure they will want some turkey or something. in all honesty, i wouldn't celebrate any holidays if not for the kids.

wakeupandsmellthecoffee said...

I feel like I haven't read you in ages so had to catch up. I always do a Thanksgiving here, usually on the Saturday after, and invite some friends. I can't remember the last one I spent with family. My British friends really love Thanksgiving. I don't who I'll invite this year yet or what I'll make. I'll have to get out my much-dogeared Thanksgiving recipe file. But one of the best Thanksgivings I ever had was when I was working in Fort Myers. My brother came down, and after work we and some work pals shared a lasagne and pecan pie and just partied all night.

How's the little 4-year-old, by the way?

PixelPi said...

Well, the food stuffing and lying around semi-comatose part is what we used to do. Now, because we both work in the afternoon/night, we do not go to the 'family' holidays. Which, truth be told, is fine with me. I'm not very good with loads of screaming children, children whining, children interrupting everything (to include cooking), and adult males watching football. So we don't do the holidays like ordinary families since it's just Mr. Pi, me, and the cats (one of whom we threaten to cook every year, but we don't). Other than Mr. Pi's football obsession, the holidays are pretty much not part of our lives.

I saw Christmas decorations in a store a week before Halloween. Another reason to avoid the holidays.

susan said...

I think you have the perfect attitude towards the holidays!

Karmyn R said...

Two in one day? Insanity -

One good thing about having families out of town - it is easy to rotate between families every year.

however, I could easily stay home this year and not travel. It sounds very relaxing.

Amy said...

I like your Thanksgivings. Lounging and eating sounds pleasant.

We usually host here, but not this year. There's reason for giving thanks.

Green bean casserole. We call it green bean bejesus. Everyone seems to love it, myself included. Can't figure it out.

Have a wonderful trip back to CA.

FeeFiFoto said...

Part of me wishes all you FM participants would quit posting pictures of food because you're making me hungry! The other part of me wants to print out everyone's recipes and try them all at once.

kathy said...

Of course you are still invited, we would love to see you guys again!
We'll be in San Antonio for Thanksgiving, we can't ever decide where we are going to be until October.

The Rotten Correspondent said...

Okay, I'm super late and really behind. I'll catch up with all of you - I promise.

Update - really a lack of. We had three different docs on last night from Saturday night and no matter how much I asked around no one knew what the story was with the four year old boy. Trust me on this - I WILL find out.

Deb said...

Mmmm... green bean casserole!! You've made my mouth water.

Robin (the PENSIEVE one) said...

We did both families for a few years, but finally gave up that insanity ( think after kids, so we did it for at least five years); then again, ours were hours apart, so they were very understanding (and I just got over it...).

I will say this, you've got a great point about the Martha Stewart house in the midst of cooking enough for an army. Why do we think we have to do both? At least I have help (husband and kids now), but still, it's enough to wear you out!

And, mercy, if my boys and husband show up in their pajamas at lunch or dinner? I wouldn't be able to eat. There's just something about looking at people in their underwear that leaves my appetite behind.

Love your positive attitude @ the holidays :).

Jo Beaufoix said...

Oooo yum yum.
I am getting so intrigued about pumpkin pie. Have you got an easy recipe that I cannot ruin??
And the green bean thing sounds yum too.

theotherbear said...

Your Thanksgivings sound fabulous and relaxing now!