I hope your tummies, refrigerators and hearts are STILL full today!
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday meal, and it has been since my childhood. I don't care one whit about the turkey. Ham? I can take it or leave it. Turducken? Not on your life. But sides? I am all in for sides!
And in my dad's family, we know how to do it up right. Mashed potatoes, candied sweet potatoes, black-eyed peas, green bean casserole, broccoli and rice casserole, corn. The best dressing in the world -- a combination of from-scratch cornbread, biscuits and white bread flavored with stock, spices and slivers of boiled egg all cooked in an enormous pressure cooker. Homemade yeast rolls. Giblet gravy.
Chocolate pie, pecan pie, apple pie, pumpkin. Rum-soaked pound cake. An enormous vat of heavy whipped cream with vanilla and sugar literally tops it all off!
And of course, there are also offerings for those that like lighter fare. A garden salad, fruit salad, green onions, a relish tray and the requisite marshmallow and Jell-o salad. You know the one, lime green with canned fruit cocktail and shredded coconut.
I also love Thanksgiving because it is a time of family. My grandparents are gone now, my father and his brothers, too. We are led onward by my sweet aunt and her daughters. My little tribe always looks forward to spending the day with them, especially now that my cousins have children of their own.
Sid, Ben and Annie are all in college, and they are incredible. Brilliant and beautiful, they are just the most fun and my kids love to see their "big" cousins.
My mother asked me what I would be taking when I saw them for Thanksgiving dinner, and I told her I was bringing a salad.
She laughed. And then she laughed more.
"I brought a salad to Thanksgiving dinner for 30 years," she said. "People always ask the guests that don't cook well to bring a salad."
The Hubs looked surprised.
"We don't always bring a salad," he said. "Once, they asked us to bring ice!"
Then it was my turn to laugh because the joke is on them. I like making salad! Because the truth is, I just don't know how to cook many other holiday-ish foods.
Dressing? Way easier to buy from Cracker Barrel. Green bean casserole? I eat the french fried onions and then don't have enough for the top. Stuffing the cavity of a giant raw turkey? I don't think so.
But a salad? A salad I can do!
My sweet "little" cousin Ben is an engineering major, and he is like a young Super Man. Tall and strong, he loves to work out and always eats healthy. He carries a gallon jug of water around with him at all times. He rarely eats sugar, doesn't drink alcohol. And he loves vegetables, especially raw spinach.
So my contribution is always "Ben's Salad." In fact, I like to make two, so Ben has one all to himself after everyone is gone. I use fresh, organic baby spinach, toasted pecans and poppy seed dressing. Despite the intense pain it causes my eyes, I even add slivered red onions. I also add fresh strawberries and goat cheese as well. If there are no strawberries available, mandarin oranges or blueberries make Ben just as happy!
A quick Facebook page survey revealed that I am not alone. Most of the women my age with young children are bringing sides and salads. And we are all grateful.
As my friend Amy remarked, when her children are more self-sufficient, she will be able to invest more effort and time into cooking.
"My dad asked for green Jell-o salad, and my husband and daughter asked for red-hot salad, and I'm happy to eat both and it's just a win all around," Amy wrote.
Another friend, Deszaray, wrote that she always brings margaritas and a smile.
I have to say, I like their takes on family time and cooking. The holidays should be about wonderful people and wonderful times with them, no matter what you do, or don't, make. I am so thankful to have wonderful family and friends, cousins that let me spend time with my children instead of cooking, and "little" cousins that I get to love so much that I will happily chop onions. This Christmas, I plan to make Ben's Salad, but I think I'll bring tequila, too.