I spent every Thanksgiving with my parents (and grandparents) until I was 21. To my recollection, we had the same menu each year; roasted turkey, crouton stuffing, mashed potatoes, corn, rolls, squash from a box that only my mother ate and cranberry sauce from the can that only Grannie ate. Some twenty odd years later, not much has changed menu-wise.
But, I have changed. For most of my twenties and thirties, I lived away from my family. I always made it home for Christmas but couldn’t always swing the extra trip home for Thanksgiving. For all intents and purposes, I became a Turkey Day orphan.
Whilst I was living on my own, far removed from my family, I was fortunate to be adopted by friends who took me in and shared their traditions with me. It was with my favorite foster sisters (you know who you are) that I survived the dreaded “pink stuff”and “orange stuff” which was whipped and then topped with baby marshmallows and/or fluff. But, it was also through the girls that I learned to savor barbecued turkey, wrapped in bacon and slow roasted on a Weber grill. Oh, and gin martinis! My stand-in families from the South introduced me to oyster dressing, wilted spinach adorned with bacon, and a different sweet potato recipe every year which was always decked out in butter, brown sugar, maple syrup and pecans.
The picture above commemorates my very first turkey. I was living in New Orleans at the time. My Dad, bless his heart, called me at oh-six-thirty his time, to give me step-by-step instructions on how to grease the bird. It was like being inducted into a secret club. I remember feeling surprised and touched by this feeling of home even though I was on my own. (If you’re reading this, Dad, I love you!)
Being safely ensconced two time zones ahead, though, I felt liberated to create my own menu. I bucked tradition and made a wild rice stuffing. I sautéed zucchini and yellow squash to have something green on the table. There were sweet potatoes alongside the mashed potatoes. And, corn bread instead of rolls. It was my kitchen, it was my menu and it was AWESOME!
As I write this, I look back and see the influences of the people I’ve met and the places I’ve lived mapped out in my menu choices. I am thankful for everyone I have had the good fortune of breaking bread with. I am forever grateful for the families that took me in.
Ten years ago, I moved to Phoenix where my parents and most of my siblings live. Today the festivities are at my house. I feel truly blessed to share this day with my own family. Plus, as the host, I get the benefit of pushing the traditional menu (see paragraph one) boundaries just a bit.
This Thanksgiving I am especially thankful for God’s grace, his abundance, and all the blessings I enjoy. I wish you and your family abundance, prosperity and many blessings today as well!