[As the Thanksgiving holiday is fast approaching, I wanted to share this quick article published in this month’s Tanasbourne Times, and written by yours truly. Best wishes — and safe travels — to everyone this Thanksgiving! :)]
I don’t know how it is in your family, but when I was growing up, holiday traditions were often more important than the holiday itself. The Fourth of July finds the Willis clan down on the boat dock, sitting in lawn chairs and covered with several layers of OFF, listening to a chorus of croaking frogs while a disorganized display of pyrotechnics is set off over the creek in Stafford County, Virginia. There is a touching rite of passage as the children grow old enough to help light the fireworks, all the while pretending that they’re not really trying to set their cousins on fire.
At the huge family Christmas party, the men convene in the den for the annual singing of “The Boar’s Head”; given that it’s sung but once a year, few of the singers have any real familiarity with it, and this tradition seems to delight more in their embarrassment than the song itself. I imagine this event has prompted more than one young man to decide against marrying into the family.
And Thanksgiving has recently been host to a new tradition within my blended nuclear family: the annual mashed potato complaint.
We always had mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving when I was a child; my mother — such the culinary rebel — later spiced things up by adding turnips. But twelve years ago, following my parents’ divorce, my father re-married, and the contest of potato traditions began.
My step-mother’s holiday table is traditionally graced not with a generous bowl of mashed potatoes, but with a tasty dish of sweet potatoes baked with pineapple and marshmallows. This caught my father by surprise the first year, though he kept silent. I told him that next time I would bring the mashed potatoes as my contribution to the meal.
So as next year’s dinner approached, I asked how much mashed potatoes I should make, to which my father responded, “No, Suzy will make them.” Again, there were no mashed potatoes on the table, but this time, my father gently complained. As the holiday rolled around the following year, I again offered to bring the potatoes, and again, I was rebuffed. And, yes, again, there were no mashed potatoes on the table.
What started in 1992 as a simple casualty of blended family traditions has now become a hallmark of the holiday. What Thanksgiving would be complete without my father proudly serving his mountain greens (a Greek, saut?ed spinach dish), then looking around the table incredulously and asking, “Where are the mashed potatoes?” It’s almost as fun as carving a turkey.
As I’ve recently relocated from the East Coast, I will be in Oregon for Thanksgiving this year and so will be absent from the annual mashed potatoes complaint. However, I have the opportunity to start a new, West Coast holiday tradition…. mashed potatoes and carrots, anyone?