Green bean casserole. I both love and hate green been casserole with it’s stupidly yummy french-fried onions on top. Every time I taste the stuff, it reminds me of family holidays. There’s no other time we would ever make green beans so egregiously unhealthy. This mess of mushroom soup and canned vegetables is holiday staple. But just for once, I’d love to do something different with our green beans. It would be wonderful if they were fresh, maybe sauteed in sesame oil with some ginger. But really, who is ever allowed to update the Thanksgiving recipes? In our family, absolutely no one.
When it comes to holidays, there is absolutely no question what will make it to the table. The cranberry sauce is always homemade by my mother. The pecan pie is my sister’s contribution. I bring the booze. My father makes rolls from my grandmother’s recipe and handles the turkey. Everything else involves the females of the family flipping through a collection of recipes that my mother put together in her early 20’s. I guess it just doesn’t feel like a holiday without the same old dishes.
One year, when extenuating circumstances left my mom, dad, brother, and me at home by ourselves for Thanksgiving, my parents decided they were going to try all new recipes for each component of the meal. Without extended family to get upset about the lack of homemade macaroni and cheese, we were free to experiment. My dad did something amazing that involving infusing pesto under the skin of a bird. My mom made the best basil butternut squash I’ve ever had in my life. (To this day, I crave that squash.) It was one of the meals that you remember years later and your mouth starts watering.
The next year, I was so excited to integrate some of our new menu items into the meal. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t meant to be. No one wanted to risk losing their favorite part of the meal for something new and untested with a wider audience. My poor basil butternut squash got kicked to the curb. The stuffing with dried cranberries and crushed walnuts was sold out for the classic version.
I am by no means an amazing cook. Notice I said that I bring the booze to most family events. I’m capable of following a recipe if I have to. I’m pretty awesome at using the staple of random ingredients I keep in my house to put together decently appetizing and healthy meals every night. But am I the person that family members turn to when they want something really spectacular? Not at all. I like to think of myself as the food critic instead of the head chef.
And I’m just saying, the family menu could use an update. There’s talent in our ranks, and we could put together something really amazing. We just have to let the classics take the back-burner. We need to modernize a bit.
The Thanksgiving menu seems so incredibly important because it’s really at the soul of the holiday. The whole day was created around this one meal. Messing with those recipes feels like getting rid of every tradition. Without the turkey and the stuffing, it’s just another family dinner. But it’s possible to maintain the feeling of Thanksgiving without the mushroom soup and french-fried onions. I just know it.