I've been making the traditional holiday turkey for over 30 years now. You would think that I'd have it down to a science. Nope, not me. The first bird I ever attempted to make came out beautiful...including the bag of giblets inside.
Another year, I decided to skip stuffing the turkey with dressing. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out why my turkey was done three hours ahead of time. I had a heck of a time keeping it warm until dinner time. It took a little research to find out why that bird was so ready to go well before the “20 minutes per pound” math.
Easy. The cavity was empty thus the cooking time was shortened. I now stuff whole sticks of carrots, celery and a few lemons into the bird, and it's on time and fabulous!
Traditions, like habits, are hard to break. We want everything the way Mom made it. Despite the bombardment of recipes in magazines for new and improved ways to make pumpkin pie and green bean casserole, it's a slippery slope when you mess with the tried and true. Ask me and my five biggest critics: my husband and four kids.
One year, my oldest son saw me adding sour cream to the mashed potatoes. "What are you doing?" he exclaimed. "You can't do that!" I tried to explain that this was the same way I had been making the potatoes for years. "That's not possible. Please, don't." Throughout the meal, his eyes were like daggers when they met mine. Still, he ate every bite and went back for seconds.
Another year, I decided to try a recipe for sweet potato casserole in place of my usual sweet potatoes with brown sugar and butter. Since only a handful of us like them, I figured it would be a no fuss change. Well, you would think they I tried to rewrite the Constitution! Even a few of my kids who had never touched sweet potatoes were shaking their heads in disbelief.
And, finally, the year of the “Little Green Balls.” Like a lot of kids, mine are fussy veggie eaters, so I have canned corn for them. For me and my husband and any adventurous guests, I like to make something nice, like Brussels sprouts. About three years ago, we were all sharing this wonderful meal, talking and laughing and having an all-around great time. Suddenly, I happened to glance at my husband with his fork in mid-air with a shiny little orb on the end. He looked at me and said, "You know, Jane, I really don't like these little green balls."
A silence fell over the table. I think some of the kids hid their knives. I started to sputter, "After almost 30 years? Now you're telling me?" With that, he popped that little nugget in his mouth and not another word was said.
I'm starting to like the power I wield at the holiday table. In fact, when I sit down to write the menu later, I may peruse a few magazines and find something new to cause a stir. This might be the new tradition.
Jane Boudreau is a writer and lifestyle blogger. She is a longtime resident of Evergreen Park. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.