Monday, October 7, 2013

A Wilson Thanksgiving - the more things change...

Mmmmmmm, turkey.

The list below is a rough idea of what a typical Thanksgiving menu would look like in the Wilson household - circa mid 1970s to mid eighties:
1. Turkey: 20 - 30 lbs (we had a lot of family over for dinner).
2. Gravy made from the turkey drippings and stock and flour..thick and delicious!
3. Cranberry sauce: homemade - thanks Betty Crocker recipes!
4. Rice & peas: this is a Trinidadian family here, there was no way a holiday would be celebrated without rice and peas!
5. Macaroni and cheese: no, not Kraft Dinner - c'mon!!
6. Sweet potato: my Mum made this dish with a heavy brown sugar/butter sauce which was so good and so very bad...I swear I'm surprised my family still have their own teeth now.
7. Scalloped Potato - for those who didn't like sweet potato (me, at that time). Flour, milk, butter, onions, sliced potato, s&p, I mean the recipe writes itself right?
8. Stuffing - made, with white or brown bread, celery, stock, chicken seasoning, onion, and cooked in the bird. Yes people, this was the 70s where they weren't concerned (terrified) about whether there may be potential stomach flu inducing bacteria if you cooked the stuffing inside the turkey.
9. Callaloo - a gross (my view) pureed okra and coconut milk concoction that all my cousins and I hated, but had to be included on the dining room table for the adults. it looked like this:

Looks slimy and it was slimy and boy did the kids balk at eating it, but my parents, aunts and uncles couldn't get enough of it. To this day I can't seem to overcome my distaste for it, but one day I day...
10. Plantain - fried of course, sooooooo good.
11. Home made bread - white of course. What, did you think there were gluten free alternatives in 1975? HA! My Mother would bake it the night before the main meal - and I'm sure most of us know or remember how hard it is for a kid (or adult) to not want to devour a whole loaf of baked bread the minute it's fresh out of the oven!
12. Green beans and carrots: you know, to fulfill the vegetable requirements.
13. For drinks, it was a ginger ale, orange and pineapple juice punch with maraschino cherries for the kids. Alcohol - wine, spirits (mostly rum or Canadian Club whiskey), beer, you know the deal for the adults in the 70s. My Dad had a fully stocked, wicked bar in the basement. Dark wood and glass shelves, dark wood cupboards, a green!! leather bar and stools. Again, it was the 70s. I loved helping him set the bar up for parties. I had my first taste of beer at that bar with him at 9, maybe 10 years old??I think it might have been Molson Golden. Hmmm, but I digress).
14. Dessert was either my Mum's killer apple pie, or my aunts pumpkin pie - which I am sorry for not liking at the time. Oh, and my mothers sweet bread (which is actually bread with dough, raisons and cinnamon, not the other sweetbreads).
My stomach groans with both pleasure and pain, remembering the way we ate. Actually, I should say pigged out, and it was a pig-fest, make no mistake about it - but it was so, sooo good.

It's 2013 now, and as the times have changed, so has the Thanksgiving menu. Our overeating days of our lives are over. And now? Healthy (somewhat) reigns supreme. My mother has completely embraced a gluten-free lifestyle (which was partly my fault for introducing her to it). Her partner doesn't eat a lot, which is why he's in great shape. My sister is also very mindful of her weight and carefully watches what she eats. So this year the pared back Thanksgiving meal, or as I recently began to call it, "Thaksgiving lite", will still include the turkey - albeit much, much smaller. Roasted potato rather than scalloped (less flour and butter - hooray he unenthusiastically cheers). Various braised root veg (parsnips, turnips, carrots), brussels sprouts and a light apple crisp for dessert. See? Healthier.

As I re-read the new Thanksgiving menu, I'd like to think it's every bit as good as the traditional Wilson Thanksgiving meals of yore, but it's not and that's ok. I sometimes miss the days of not knowing anything about what we ate, when we just ate together as a family, forgot our worries, and enjoyed the fatness that was the holidays. I will, however, begrudgingly admit that food awareness/vigilance has made it so that we're still around today to enjoy the (sparser) meal, no matter what form it comes in, and truly be thankful to celebrate together as a family.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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