So normally my mother cooks Thanksgiving dinner, but this year for the first time my sister Branwen and I shared the cooking and the hostessing. My parents are in the midst of moving out of the house where they've lived for twenty-five years, so it seemed like a good time for us to take this one on.
We used Branwen's house, since mine doesn't have a dining room, and we used my china, crystal, and silver, since she didn't marry the son of a jeweler and receive all those things as wedding presents.
(Note: if you don't already know what those things cost, don't click the links unless you're ready to be a little bit shocked. I sure was when we were registering for our wedding! Yikes.)
(But also: beautiful, heirloom, incredibly glad to own them, etc. We'll still be eating off this lovely dinnerware at Thanksgiving when we're 70.)
My mom has a set-in-stone Thanksgiving menu, because she is a Person of Tradition. You might think you know people who cling to their traditions, but if you've never met my mother or her family, you might not know what a Person of Tradition REALLY looks like.
But Branwen and I decided to mix up the menu somewhat, partly because we didn't want the pressure of trying to see if we could cook Mom's exact meal as well as she does it (answer: surely not!) and also because we like to try new recipes.
We did not, however, mess with the turkey or the stuffing or the gravy that my parents make. Dad is responsible for the first two and does an excellent job, and Mom's gravy is TO DIE FOR. I've never tasted better. So we planned to follow their recipes/procedures for those things. And Thanksgiving Day found our generous, always-helpful parents actually making the turkey/stuffing/gravy themselves. They were delicious, natch.
Branwen's and my experimental recipes were successful in varying degrees. Of the ones for which I was responsible, I don't recommend this marinated vegetable salad (although Miriel did love it). I do highly recommend this sweet potato casserole, which I believe - if I do say so myself, and shouldn't - was the most highly-praised dish at the table. I adored it, although not, obviously, in an idolatrous way. And it's very easy to make.
The Thomas family dessert tradition is to have six pies: two apple, two pecan, and two pumpkin. Branwen and I each had our own idea for a new variation and we ended up agreeing to make seven pies: two apple, two pecan, one regular pumpkin, one fancy pumpkin that I wanted to try, and one pear-peach streusel pie that she wanted to try. We had eleven adults and two preschoolers eating, so seven pies was clearly WAY too many, but we love leftovers. So it worked out. I didn't hear anyone complaining.
Oh, and I highly recommend this pumpkin pie recipe, which got several rave reviews including from my husband. (Although it seems to me not so different from the sweet potato dish. Anyone else think it's weird how you can take something that is normally dessert out of a pie crust and put it in a casserole and suddenly it's dinner? Bizarre.)
It was a huge amount of work, but ultimately our dinner turned out to be worth it. I guess that's something to be thankful for.