Like many others, this is my favorite holiday. It involves no gift buying, no decorating, just attention to food and people we love. It is a chance to pour over recipes and almost always end up making no changes to the menu. It is a chance to take out my mother's crystal and my grandmother's linens and set a table that looks as it did when I was a child. It is a chance to later sit at that table, look around at the people I love, and feel incredibly grateful for so much--especially for being alive and, as far as I know, healthy 22 years after my first diagnosis of breast cancer.
The first Thanksgiving dinner that I cooked was in Munich. I was living there with my new husband (the previous one), who was in the Army. Many of our friends were single, and we had a full table of mostly young, hungry men. As we sat down, John, who was from Alabama, asked: "Where's the rice?" Rice? Whoever heard of rice at Thanksgiving? Apparently many people from the south have depended on rice as part of the meal, and I dutifully went out to the kitchen and started a pot of rice. He had to eat it as a second course or, maybe, with second helpings of dinner. The lesson here was to always ask Thanksgiving newcomers what they want to see on the table; usually there are no surprises, but I don't want to repeat the rice experience.
The first year my husband (the current and last and wonderful one) had Thanksgiving dinner together, he was skeptical of the cranberry sauce. Like my mother, I have always made the uncooked cranberry-orange relish from The Joy of Cooking. My not-yet husband poked at it, and said: "Cranberry sauce should have ridges in it." It took me a moment to understand, and then I realized he was accustomed to canned cranberry sauce. That is an adjustment that I have not made.
Yesterday when I was at Verrill Farm to pick up the fresh turkey and various vegetables, a young woman who, like me, was filling a bag with green beans, turned and said: "You probably have been cooking this meal longer than I have. Is this enough beans for 8 people?" I suggested she add another handful, and then commented that it really depends on how many others sides were available. She laughed and said: "Let's get real, We are having three kinds of potatoes. Who is going to eat green beans?"
This year has been rather full of family drama around the day and who is coming and can they bring an extra 6 of their close friends, but it has been worked out, and today it just feels good. The sun is shining; the turkey is roasting, and I am grateful.
Happy and delicious Thanksgiving to you and yours.