Thursday, November 12, 2009

Thoughts on Thanksgiving

My Mom and my sister called me about Thanksgiving today. We alternate spending Thanksgiving between at my sister's house and my husband's sister's house (being that I married a Jewish guy, Thanksgiving is the only holiday were there's a conflict).

This year we're spending Thanksgiving with my family, which is always a good thing because the women in my family tend to be more conscious of health and calories then my husband's family.

But, every thing is not perfect. Being that we're Italian, my family has this insane notion that every big holiday meal has to start with pasta. My husband likes to call it the meal before the meal.
And, it's not just any ordinary pasta, but something like manicotti with homemade pasta shells. After my mother went through all the trouble of mixing the pasta dough, putting it through the hand cranked pasta machine, then mixing the ricotta filling herself, there's really no way to say "I pass," (oh, and did I mention the tomato sauce is also made from scratch?) The only thing I really can do is keep it down to one or two manicottis.

The other problem is that both of my sisters' partners are WASPS whose families believe that food isn't good unless it's drenched with fat and sugar and a can or two of something processed. We never saw sweet potatoes with marshmallows until the WASP contingent joined the family (and, unbelievably even the potatoes come out of a can. I didn't know that you could get sweet potatoes out of can until the year one of my sisters' new relatives brought them).

There's also this green bean casserole concoction they insist on bringing which is loaded with butter and has some canned crispy stuff in it.

Thank God that I pretty much found this stuff gross from the start. My first bite of sweet potatoes with marshmallows was also my last. It was so sickeningly sweet, it took a tremendous amount of self-control to swallow it and not just spit it out.

So we tend to effectively now have two Thanksgiving meals. One for the Italians (and my Jewish husband who doesn't like the WASP food either), and one for the WASPS. The only thing that binds us is the actual turkey (many of my sisters' partners' relatives won't touch the pasta either. There was a bit of an uproar one year when one mother-in-law asked if she could bring a jar of sauce for her family because they didn't like my mother's homemade, unsweetened sauce).

We have one of those families were everyone brings something (it's kind of like an entry ticket, if you don't bring at least two dishes, you're not given entry). The hostess is more of a coordinator who makes the main course. My sister is of course making the Turkey (something free-range and organic from a local farm in Jersey), so she and my mother were calling around today to arrange for the other sides, appetizers and desserts.

And, this is kind of a good thing, because I then get to bring a couple of dishes which I know are healthy. I found two recipes a few weeks ago in Food & Wine that I knew I wanted to make. One is for maple-ginger, roasted Autumn vegetables, the other is for sauteed kale with currents. The main fat in both is olive oil, and both are almost entirely vegetable based with nothing processed.

Paired with a little turkey and some of the "real" sweet potatoes (not canned and sans marshmallow) and mashed turnips, that will satisfy me more than adequately (particularly after the manicotti).

The only thing I then have to look out for is the apple pie and Bourbon pumpkin pie!!


  1. Well, it's only one meal a year.

  2. Let me assure you, as a card carrying Canadian WASP, that I have never had or served vegetables in any form with canned goop. Processed food is not WASP specific. I have never had bean casserole in any form and sweet potatos are great with just a little butter. I also make my own pasta and sauces and we eat lean. Good cooking exists in all groups, and bad cooking too. Point made.

  3. Sorry if I offended. I as just noting the eating characteristics of my sisters' relatives.

    I'm sure there are Italian families out there who rely heavily on processed foods as well.

    My mother's parents owned a restaurant, and set the tone for food in our family.

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