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When it comes to cooking, Al's the master chef on Thanksgiving, while yours truly acts as the sous chef and pastry chef, relegating the responsibility of the bird of honor to him. I often marvel at his attention to detail and balance when it comes to planning a holiday meal - in fact, he spent the better part of the day today reading through recipes, writing down ideas, asking me questions, and insisting that our balance of sweet and savory were off, until he stumbled upon a recipe for a cheesy and savory broccoli bake that would balance out my corn tomalito.
It's funny in a way, because my Thanksgiving dinners had always been SO traditional and predictable before I met him. As a child, I remember always having a big old turkey, my mom's sage and onion chestnut stuffing, sweet potatoes with brown sugar and marshmallows, canned cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, salad, my mom's special strawberry ice-cream jello mold, dinner rolls, and pumpkin pie for dinner. When I started cooking my own Thanksgiving dinners the year we moved to Arizona from Illinois, I kept the traditional turkey on the menu, as well as the corn and sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes and gravy, and cranberry sauce (although we switched to the chunky kind)! I developed my own special sage, onion, and sausage stuffing, and we added broccoli to the menu, in addition to indulging in King's Hawaiian rolls and including chocolate cake on the desert list. Jello would occasionally make the cut too, but it was more of a random exploration of flavors than any one set recipe. That was our traditional Thanksgiving dinner.
Times do change, though, and after meeting Al and being introduced to his affinity for trying new dishes every year, in the spirit of togetherness, we work on agreeing to what should be served. He scours the web and cookbooks, and sends me recipe ideas, and questions the balance of savory and sweet, fresh or store-bought, prepared the night before or the day of.
Actually, I have a confession to make. Truth is, we could be serving up hot dogs and beans and I'd still be happy as a clam - because for me, it's not about the dinner. Every year, I've taken a moment shortly after dinner begins and all the dishes and platters have been passed around and everyone is chowing down, to just look at our family - and to say my own private prayer of Thanksgiving for the blessings we've all received. Our growing clan is, outside of the minor inconveniences that life throws everyone's way, happy, and healthy - and for that I am eternally grateful. Yes, it's one of those proverbial moments that takes my breath away...
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To me, this day is about family - the opportunity to share time with the kids and grandkids eclipses anything that comes out of the kitchen...and attitudes of gratitude - being truly thankful for all that I have been blessed with, and the blessings that are yet to come. Watching everyone interacting, laughing, telling stories (and the traditional picking on Angela), and just being a family - although I think maybe, this year I'll invite everyone around the tables to share something they're thankful for too. I'm sure the grandkids would love the opportunity! What more could I want out of a day? The parades? Yes, they are wonderful and fun. The food is AMAZING... but it's the grandkid's shrieks of laughter, passing the phone around as everyone talks to my mom/their grandmother/great-grandmother back in Illinois, brothers and sisters being brothers and sisters, the hugs shared, ... no, the LOVE shared... and the sense of family and community that makes the day.
I only hope I'm prepared to feel my heart swell two sizes with love and pride like it always does!
Enjoy your own holiday preparations...