I think what I love most about Thanksgiving is that we are more likely to include friends in our celebration for this holiday than any other. Please don’t misunderstand, I would rather be with my family than any other people on the planet, but I like that Thanksgiving somehow seems to turn friends into family. After all, this is a tradition that dates back to the very first Thanksgiving when the Pilgrims invited some members of the local Wampanoag tribe over for dinner. To this day, many people, especially those of us who don’t live close to family, are more likely to spend Thanksgiving with a combination of friends and family.
We moved away from our extended family when I was in high school. At first it felt strange to not participate in the big family Thanksgivings that I had known all of my life. We started inviting other “Thanksgiving orphans” (a friend of mine who became a regular at our Thanksgiving feasts for a few years called us all “strays”) to join us for lupper (the name for a meal that is served too late to be called lunch but too early to be called supper). A couple of weeks before the big day, my mom would always ask any invited guests to tell her what dish they looked forward to the most on Thanksgiving. Then she would be sure that our guests would find that dish on the table when we sat down to eat. Over the years, fulfilling our guests’ requests added some atypical Thanksgiving fare to our menu. For several years we had black beans for carpoolqueen who always had those at Thanksgivings with her missionary family in Guatemala. We had never had stewed tomatoes with our Thanksgiving dinner until my husband became part of the family. I always thought my mom a very gracious hostess to be sure that her guests would have at least one thing on the table that made them feel at home.
Every year, my mom and I make a list of all the things we’re having for Thanksgiving lupper. We may include cooking times or cookbook page numbers on the list. The list helps us from getting halfway through the meal only to remember that the cranberries are still in the fridge. We write the year at the top and keep the lists every year so we won’t have to start from scratch each year, but also to serve as fun memories of great meals past.
I couldn’t read carpoolqueen’s reminiscence of her first solo Thanksgiving without remembering my first Thanksgiving flying solo in the pilot seat of the kitchen. We were living in Rhode Island, expecting our first baby in January. We even had our very own orphan/stray. Our dear friend Bill had come up from Texas to spend the holiday with us. I treated my responsibilities in the kitchen as if I were preparing to launch a space shuttle. I had lists and sticky notes with cooking times and recipe page numbers. I made frequent calls back home to check and double check specific instructions. On the big day, everything went off without a hitch. Everything was ready at the same time, the turkey was moist, the yeast rolls were the perfect shade of brown. Visions of Martha Stewart danced in my head, until….dessert.
About three quarters of the way through our meal, I attempted to put the pies (pumpkin and pecan, of course) in the preheated oven. I’m not sure exactly what went wrong at this point. Maybe my center of gravity was off or I misjudged how close I could actually get my pregnant self to the oven. Maybe my dinner success had gone to my head. Whatever the reason, instead of gingerly placing the pies on the oven rack, I poured them into the floor of the hot oven. I soon set off the smoke alarms and filled the whole house with smoke. Even though it was a cold day in New England, we had to open the windows to air out the kitchen. The guys were sweet and insisted that they could not have made room for dessert and would have only eaten it to be polite. I vaguely remember scooping “pumpkin and pecan pudding” from the bottom of the oven and spooning some whipped cream over the top. Needless to say, no one asked for seconds.
This year, we’re the orphan/strays. I’ll be baking my mom’s yeast rolls and cooking my Uncle Joe’s crockpot macaroni and cheese to take over to our pastor’s house. We’ll probably eat too much and laugh just the right amount and hopefully leave better friends than we were when we came. I think the Pilgrims would be proud.