We’ve started planning our Thanksgiving party. The guest list is limited by the size of our house, which is a shame because we’d love to add more people. And since there’s no competition—no one says, sorry, but I have to go to my brother’s this year—almost everyone we invite is available. And it’s an American holiday, which gives it an element of cool here.
Our tradition, both here and back in Minnesota, is that we cook the turkey, cranberries, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie (usually; back in Minnesota, as D. got older he became a very good cook and he brought the pies), and we ask everyone to bring something. Which is where it gets interesting.
The first time we invited we invited M. and J. to our Thanksgiving in Minnesota, was the first time I understood how rigid the traditions are. J. isn’t from the U.S. but she was the cook in the family, and as they told the tale later, M. said “No, you can’t bring that” to everything J. suggested. Macaroni and cheese? No, you can’t bring that. Chocolate cake? No, etc.
So this year, a different J.—an American—told me she’d have to explain to P. that just because root beer floats are American doesn’t mean you can have them at Thanksgiving. I looked at the list of what people were bringing: leek gratin, cauliflower cheese, quiche. Don’t bother, I said. We’ve given up the battle.
The only traditional elements of the meal are the ones we make—turkey, cranberries, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie. And baking powder biscuits, which weren’t traditional in my family, but Wild Thing’s from Texas and will never say no to biscuits. The rest is all stuff that would get us all deported if we tried it in the U.S.
So we’ve evolved our own traditions, one of which is the meal isn’t traditional. A second involves me, the vegetarian, cooking a dead bird. Which hardly even strikes me as strange anymore. A third—one we’re trying to break—is that I make cranberry sauce and forget to set it out. A fourth is that we have to have at least one dessert that isn’t pumpkin pie, because although pumpkins grow here they’re considered a squash and people are, um, let’s say hesitant about eating it as a sweet. But we do have to have it. That’s tradition for you. Besides, a few of us like it.