I'm sure the North American Free Trade Agreement took less time to complete than my wife's deciding on what to have for Thanksgiving dinner!
And I mean that in a good way, honey.
Deep in my bride's memory bank there's a growing list of who will eat what foods on Thanksgiving. One family member doesn't like ham; one won't eat turkey, and another would not eat cranberry sauce if you paid him.
And with our family growing, so grows the list. Before you know it, we've eliminated most of the dishes for a traditional Thanksgiving meal. We might as well have steak, which I've suggested several times in frustration over planning the meal.
This year, in the days leading up to the holiday, Paula and I have gone back and forth on the subject until we are collectively blue in the face — or should that be faces?
I finally made an executive decision that the farther down you are on the family tree, the less input you can have on what we'll have to eat. And that's saying a lot coming from a youngster who, back in the day, had no input whatsoever on the holiday menu. You ate what was cooked, smiled and waited for dessert. End of discussion. But it wasn't like they were trying to get me to eat bad food — quite the opposite.
My dad was in charge of the meal with the tacit approval of my mother. Believe it or not, we were not a turkey family. We enjoyed a baked ham (the kind with little cloves pressed into the outside), my mother's chicken pie, dressing with giblet gravy, butter beans from the freezer, yeast rolls (my great grandmother's recipe).
For dessert my mother always baked a delicious Lane cake which contained just a little bit of Bourbon whiskey. There was always a pecan pie made from pecans I picked up in our yard in Geneva. She also prepared a cut glass bowl filled with her family's recipe for ambrosia.
As a child, I drew the line at eating ambrosia. Wasn't gonna happen. I just couldn't bear the thought of that particular blend of fruit and risked the wrath of my father by refusing even to sample this "fruit of the gods." The gods could have it as far as I was concerned.
By the way, something we mentioned in previous conversation, Emma Rylander Lane of Clayton, Alabama, is given credit with inventing the Lane cake. It reportedly won the first prize at the county fair in Columbus, Georgia, way back when. I make no bones about it. I could eat Lane cake until the cows came home, and my mother's was the best I ever tasted — hands down.
While discussing this year's version of the Thanksgiving meal, I wondered out loud if the holiday menu was essentially the same from one end of the country to the other. Researching online I found a lot of variations on the theme of Thanksgiving.
For instance, in Texas you might find turkey tamales (instead of pork) — a true Tex Mex holiday dish — on the menu.
Lots of folks in the southern states, including Texas, enjoy fried turkey. I know frying a large and often semi-frozen bird can be dangerous, but done correctly it's worth the effort.
Our elder son announced he had bought a turkey fryer a couple of weeks ago with an eye toward serving the fried version of the Thanksgiving staple during day two of our holiday celebration. (Day one for our side of the family; day two for his wife's relatives who are coming to town.) He bought the indoor counter-top model.
He gave his indoor, counter-top fryer a test run last week to make sure he knew exactly how to do it when the big day arrived. Instead of a turkey he fried a chicken, and it was terrific.
Our younger son, who is just back down south after living in New England, is familiar with a crowd pleasing dessert in that part of the country — hasty pudding. It's made with cornmeal, molasses and brown sugar, then topped with whipped cream or ice cream. Mmmmm boy! Sounds like a great way to end a holiday meal.
In New Jersey and parts of New York, a lot of Italian households will serve ricotta-stuffed crepes, better known as manicotti, just before the turkey is brought out. In addition to the pasta dishes, they also have a plate of antipasto with cured meats, cheese, olives and pickled vegetables ready for the guests when they arrive.
In the Southwest and Western states, a lot of families enjoy sweet pasta salad topped with mandarin oranges, marshmallows and Cool Whip. They call it "frog eye salad." Other than its name, it sounds pretty good. In Kentucky, they serve up chocolate pie with walnuts for dessert. They call it, what else, Kentucky Derby pie. Many Kentuckians also like spoon bread instead of traditional cornbread and potato rolls instead of dinner rolls.
Finally, if you live in Hawaii, you may have enjoyed purple mashed potatoes! No joke. A kind of potato grown there is naturally purple and is described as tasting sweet and slightly nutty. You might include "colorful" in that description, too.
From our kitchen to yours, Happy "T-Day."
P.S. I'll let you know how the fried turkey turns out.