If the dressing defines a family’s Thanksgiving dinner, then I can only figure mine is a stew. Most branches of the Southern family I married into 34 years ago know precisely whether cornbread dressing is best, or oyster. Moist to serve with a tablespoon or firm needing a spatula.
Comfort foods, these are, evoking childhood and traditions.
Appreciation of each is all I can add to spirited dressing debates because my New Jersey mother prepared Pepperidge Farm Stuffing: open the bag and dump into boiling water with butter.
Land O’Lakes was her butter brand but that hardly qualifies me for a discussion of gourmet preferences even though I’ve seen their Wisconsin farms.
Generally it’s best for Blended Family Mom to set the tables and handle the logistics instead of the menu.
That’s practical for big occasion dinner parties, and also a pretty good metaphor for complicated relationships.
Honoring taste buds tied to memories seems to me one of the wonderful opportunities with Thanksgiving dinners and if we can achieve that on iconic holidays, good chance the habit will stick year-round.
Of course, it can be tricky if everyone coming to my house wants to bring their perfect dressing! We rarely set a table with fewer than a dozen places and sometimes as many as 40.
Nice secondary benefit of welcoming the foods prepared by all those who know in their heart-of-hearts what tastes best: leftovers.
Christmas dinner dressing gets ready, too, because those who cook with confidence generally prepare way too much.
So where exactly do we merge our commitment to growing our own food and eating local for Thanksgiving?
Top photo: Some of this blended family’s members who are expected for Thanksgiving dinner.