Traditions run deep in my family. So deep I have yet to see the bottom fall out of some of them. As the holidays swirl us up in a never-ending dance of parties and parades, I’m struck by the one thing that binds us all together – food. Yep. Somehow we all get our groove on when Grandma rings the bell for pie. Too bad my grandmother couldn’t cook to save her life. Years of burnt turkey, under cooked stuffing and questionable sweet potatoes made my childhood memories go by in a blur and no amount of therapy will get them back.
Our tradition started as my grandmother, a bride of eighteen, was cooking her first holiday meal for her in-laws and parents. The turkey smelled a bit odd but it was a nice fat bird with all the trimmings. As my grandfather carved the turkey, Grandma Jane fluttered in the background, nervous that all her hard work was finally coming to fruition - in front of her mother-in-law. Egads. The first slice fell nicely onto the plate followed by the second. Then, as he began to get more enthusiastic about parting the meat from the bird, it became more difficult. Smiling and telling people to start on the potatoes, he continued. He carved deeper into the bird, poking it with the blade when he saw a flash of red in the cavity. Then a glimpse of white. Throwing convention to the wind, my grandfather stuck his hand up the rump of the turkey and pulled out a red and white dishtowel my grandmother had forgotten to remove before roasting. Somehow stuffing a turkey (at least in spirit) with cloth became a tradition and for the next fifty years, my family has been picking gingham out of our teeth at Thanksgiving.
As traditions go, I may yearn for a table filled with sumptuous dishes full of flavor and well, moistness, but then again I kind of like our secret recipe. Some things were meant to stay in the family and torture generations to come.