Today is Thanksgiving and I've been giving some thought to the calls I've received recently.
"Hey, Dad, how do you make sausage rolls?"
"Hey, Dad, can you send me the recipe for cornbread stuffing?"
"Hey, Dad, how do you do Thanksgiving in London? They don't have the right stuff."
That's the New Generation starting their own family traditions, borrowing from old family traditions. The holiday season is all about food. Food is what brings a family together and family food traditions are very strong.
I remember the year I suggested we do goose or pork or fish or something, anything, but turkey for Christmas. The cold, stony silence was quite enough to tell me that turkey it was, lots of turkey, in fact, a Giant Macy's Parade sized turkey!
Some traditions you just don't mess with.
More flexibility and acceptance was to be had with side dishes. We've cycled through "dirty rice" stuffing, candied yams, green bean casseroles, grilled yams with chipotle sauce, Brussels sprouts in many forms and all manner of experiment both failed and successful.
But, as we did many years ago, each family will develop their own traditions sacred and profane to themselves to be honored and handed down as "tradition" to families of their own.
Back in the day we had cookbooks and recipe cards. We had a three-ring binder with clippings, recipes from newspapers and handwritten notes. Our first few Thanksgiving meals were prepared by memory, guessing and following instructions from venerable sources like Gourmet Magazine, the Southern Living cookbook and the Good Housekeeping cookbook - great references even today.
And, today, cookbooks have been replaced for all intent by the Internet where one can find a dozen recipes for any dish in seconds. Yet, for all its power Internet recipes lack the human touch. The details that turn a meal into a great meal, a memorable occasion.
How do you know when the pastry is "right?" Well, you touch it like so and if it reacts like so it's ready.
How do you know when the turkey is done? Well, you wiggle the leg or stick the instant read thermometer right here and check the temperature but also look at the color of the juice that comes out.
What's the best recipe for pecan pie? Simple, it's on the side of the Karo Syrup bottle. Deviate from that recipe at your peril.
Thanksgiving dinner has always been more about family than recipes. Thanksgiving is about being together, working together and culminating in a celebration of togetherness regardless of the turkey or side dishes. It's the process, not the product that's important. It's all about fun, chaos, bellyache laughter, disasters, stories and perhaps a calamity or two, that at the end of it all, it doesn't matter what's on the table so much as what's around the table.
Family. Old generation. New generation. Passing it forward.
I wouldn't miss it for anything!