Thanksgiving traditions get canned

As I write this, Thanksgiving is only hours away, and I still have no idea what I am serving.

There will be a turkey, of course. And potatoes and vegetables and stuffing and gravy. But exactly what form these basic elements will take is still under discussion with my daughter, who believes she was cruelly separated at birth from Ina Garten.


I call it "Thanksgiving in the time of the Food Network: All bets are off."

These cooking shows — which are to college students what soap operas were to us when we were in school — have produced a generation of confident young cooks who don't think you have to have years of practice under your belt before you prepare your first truffle. Or your first fruit tart. Or make your own lemon curd.


And they also believe there is no better time than the holidays to trot out a dozen new recipes for side dishes nobody has ever eaten before.

All these years in the kitchen, and I am still trying to get everything to finish cooking at the same time. I cling desperately to family recipes because I figure the 27th time might be the charm. And I also have this crazy notion about tradition.

I was raised on sage stuffing. Why would I try cornbread and andouille sausage at this late date? And when did we start basting turkeys with red wine instead of the stock from boiled giblets?

OK, that green bean casserole can be pretty gloppy. But when did broccolini with pine nuts and bleu cheese crumbles make it on the menu? And, no, Tyler Florence, you don't put bananas in pumpkin pie. You make it with a can of Libby's and a frozen pie shell.

(We aren't having pumpkin pie. We are having pecan pie. When I asked my daughter if she wanted me to buy the filling premixed, she looked at me like I was an idiot. "No" she said. "Just get the rum." Rum?)

I grew up eating Green Giant corn on holidays. You know what I mean. It comes in that mysterious butter sauce in that plastic bag, and you just drop it in boiling water.

That has been replaced by some kind of corn pudding recipe, and if I am not vigilant, there will be jalapenos in it.

And what's the deal with the roasted baby carrots in a balsamic reduction? Don't you just eat them fresh with the onion dip you made with sour cream and dry soup mix?


When I married my husband, I had to get used to the idea that kielbasa and sauerkraut were served with every holiday meal, along with a casserole of butter beans in barbecue sauce and, for heaven's sake, a tossed salad.

Over the years, I have incorporated the kielbasa and kraut and the butter beans into my holiday menus, tradition being what it is. I never could get my head around the idea of Italian dressing on top of all of this, but maybe that is just me.

Now I am being asked to jettison all those traditional recipes for whatever is on the Food Network the week before Thanksgiving.

Call me old-fashioned, but there's nothing in the mashed potatoes but butter and milk. And you cook sweet potatoes in butter and maple syrup — end of story.

And cranberry sauce comes in a can, and you can see through it.

Now that's what I call a traditional Thanksgiving.