Growing up in my house, Thanksgiving was a simple affair. My mom bought as much of the food pre-prepared as possible: Gravy came from packets and cranberry sauce from a can; the turkey was purchased pre-roasted from the grocery store deli counter; pies and rolls came from the bakery; vegetables were from cans and the squash was a freezer section brick of puree. The mashed potatoes, at least, were completely homemade. (My mother’s love of convenience ended where a box of potato flakes began, apparently.)
I don’t begrudge my mother this now, though I recall resenting it at the time. She was working full-time (and for a while, working two jobs while my dad was out of work.) We had no family in town to entertain, aside from one of her brothers. Thanksgiving was just another meal. Bigger, to be sure, and we said a special prayer beforehand, but beyond that it was much like any other day of the year.
I think this may be why the holidays absolutely overwhelm me now. Our whole families live here, and everyone wants to see us for the holidays. Christmas is pure insanity: we do Christmas Eve dinner at Matt’s mom’s house (which my family also attends), then Christmas morning brunch at his aunt’s house. We host my family (and any members of Matt’s family who would like to attend) for Christmas dinner.
And then my brother’s birthday is the next day.
After just under a decade of this type of routine, I’m finally getting used to it. Since Christmas is such a doozy, though, I try to keep Thanksgiving simple — we host, and anyone who wants to come is welcome. Usually this ends up being just my immediate family, as Matt’s two sets of parents each do their own thing.
Despite that, though, I have started trying (over the past three or four years) to make Thanksgiving from scratch as much as possible. Last year was the first time I did gravy with just fat, flour, stock, and drippings. (I got brave because it was just the three of us. Though I was nearly full term with Roo. Must have been trying to kick myself into labor.)
This year my goal is for everything to be from scratch, within reason. (I still bought the bagged stuffing croutony things instead of dicing and toasting my own bread, but it’s definitely not Stove Top.) I’m planning to make turkey, gravy, stuffing, candied sweet potatoes, pureed butternut squash, mashed potatoes, a green vegetable, biscuits or rolls, apple pie, pumpkin pie, and cranberry sauce.
Well, except for one thing:
Some traditions you just don’t want to mess with, you know?