Don’t Screw With Mom’s Thanksgiving Menu

Put the craisins down and back away from the stuffing

I’m afraid of my mother. Not afraid like she’s going to beat me or anything, but, still, kind of nervous about pissing her off. You see, Thanksgiving is next week and my family, around 25 of us, will be at my home for Thanksgiving dinner. We’ve been having the holiday meal at my house ever since our family outgrew Mom’s. In addition, I live centrally to everyone, so my house it is. But that’s pretty much where my cred stops. This is Mom’s meal, from start to finish. If I deviate from the traditional menu or alter any of the recipes of that time-tested menu, I’m in way big trouble. (See, she makes me so nervous that I’m talking like a six-year-old!)

Several years ago, I made the stuffing a little differently in an effort to please the Italian side of the family. (My side is of Irish descent. See the problem?) I added hot sausage with fennel instead of sweet and included olives. I thought my mother was going to need a defibrillator. Ever since committing that cardinal sin, I have been sure to make all accompanying side dishes exactly to spec, lest I be put into a really long time-out. The following year, problem solved. I made two turkeys, an Italian one and an Irish one—one with spicy sausage stuffing, the other with, well, bread. I considered adding some craisins to the Irish stuffing, you know, add a little color and a bit of flavor but, after reflection, I opted against it. I just don’t have the nerve to look her in the face when she says, all sweet and “just asking” like, “What’s this in the stuffing, dear?” I know I would answer that I have no idea how the offending fruit got into the stuffing and then beeline for the bar. Nope, I’m not going there.

This year, I called her up and suggested that, considering the number of people we were having that maybe, just maybe, we could have fewer side dishes. Typically the menu includes seven vegetables. (I know because I checked the stone tablets that list all the dishes for Mom’s Thanksgiving dinner.) She agreed to skip the creamed onions (drat, that was my favorite one!) and offered, as she usually does, to make several of the remaining sides. After setting the tables, my only job is to stuff the turkeys and get them into the oven. I used to make the gravy but she took that job away from me last year.

I don’t know why, I don’t make it with craisins.