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":
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.