It is a bad idea to mess with menus for holiday meals at my house. I’ve learned this the hard way.

I have been quizzed with skeptical overtones repeatedly over the past month about what will be on our Thanksgiving table. I definitely feel the heat, and I guess I asked for it.

Recently in ill-advised and out loud musing I asked about eating out on Thanksgiving Day. The youngest grandchild was the most vocal in his protest. He deemed it to be an unequivocal no. He also felt he needed to check repeatedly to make sure no change had occurred in plans for the day.

There are rules to follow, starting with appetizers. My husband, Marshall, has made clam dip to serve at every holiday meal for 53 years. This includes Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. Sometimes clam dip is sneaked in on another occasion, but very infrequently. Crudites are there, but who eats crudites? I dutifully put them out and everyone dutifully avoids them. My daughter-in-law Laura was surprised one year by my request for pickled watermelon rinds. Black olives are eaten about a minute after being set down on the coffee table.

One year the oldest grandson, Buzz, asked to roast a turkey. He did so with enthusiasm after researching recipes. His efforts fell short of needed oven time, and when the noon serving time arrived the turkey was not ready.  His turkey was bronzed and beautiful, but undercooked. The late Anthony Bourdain suggested every meal with turkey involved should include a “Show Turkey.” This is the turkey that gets set down in decorated glory in the center of the table. A second and carved turkey is eaten first. Ever after we have referred to Buzz’s turkey from that day as the “Show Turkey.” We didn’t waste it that day, either. “Show Turkey” got popped back in the oven to finish up.

Notable meals from the past include an early one in which I brought my newborn son Andy home from the hospital in Houlton in a snowstorm the day before Thanksgiving. Then there was the Thanksgiving Day in Arizona when I decided we were going to eat our meal al fresco. I heard yelling in the yard when it was discovered a neighborhood dog had absconded with the turkey.

These are some reasons why there is a level of distrust. Maybe this is why the family checks and checks again. I am a wild card.

My grandchildren are from families whose branches of ancestral people landed in the Massachusetts Bay Area in the 1600s. Maybe their ancient DNA alerts them to trouble. There was trouble to go around then.

Religious intolerance, harsh mistreatment of Native people and unfamiliar weather conditions made life improbable. I pay attention to the uncertainty of this time too and try to see it from the vantage point of young people today. For these reasons I will behave and cook my heart out to make this be a highly traditional Thanksgiving Day.


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