The other day on the internet my attention was caught by a sweet potato recipe. I thought the accompanying picture looked kind of weird though because the potatoes were white. As I started reading the article, I learned the the sweet potatoes used in this recipe were called camotes and, according to the writer of the article, yams, which I've always called sweet potatoes, were not really sweet potatoes at all but they were yams. I looked at the can I had bought for Thanksgiving and it said "Sweet Potatoes" and underneath it also said "Candied Yams". I checked on the internet where I learned that the Dept of Agriculture requires cans labelled as sweet potatoes also be labelled as yams. I don't really care what they're called just so I get what I expect to get.
When I was growing up Thanksgiving was always simple--for me at least since I was just eating the food and not doing much else. My mother always fixed the same fare that was our tradition that I guess her mother had passed down to my mother. With the turkey and other fixings, we always had oyster dressing and sweet potato casserole with marshmallows on top. For the longest time I had no idea there was any other way to fix these.
After my siblings and I moved out and started families of our own, we started learning about some of the other traditions that eventially got infused into my mother's already expansive meals. I never really thought that some people didn't like oysters or that there were other things to put in dressing. Now at the family gatherings my sister-in-law would bring her family's cornbread stuffing. And her version on yams was the ones that were cut up, not mashed, and simmered with pecans and raisins. Nothing ever got replaced, it just got added, which I guess was fine with everybody since we kept needing more food for more people.
Then the controversies arose about was better, mashed potatoes creamy smooth like I grew up with or lumpy. I don't care. They all taste good to me so I say make them everyway. Or green been, brocolli-cheese, or some other kind of casserole? By now you know me--let's make it a pot luck and everybody bring their favorites and I'll try them all. Into adulthood I started learning about the infinite varieties of things that could be on the Thanksgiving buffet and I welcomed it all.
My family has now scattered all over the country and now we don't have that big old mix-up like we used to, but new traditions have taken over. For most of the past twelve years or so, my wife and I have hosted her family at our house and I usually fix most of the dinner. Her family is from Ecuador so they don't have those traditions I grew up with. They love the sweet potato and marshmallow casserole that my mother passed on to me. The mashed potatoes definitely have to be creamy smooth. A big pot of steamed white rice, something my family never had, is one contribution that they have added to the tradition. Oh, and eggnog with brandy--rompope they say in Spanish. We always had eggnog when I was growing up, but I never thought to add alcohol to it and didn't realize it was a pretty common thing to do. Brandy in the eggnog? I wouldn't want to drink too much of it, but it's a nice way to cap off that big Thanksgiving meal.
However, the oyster dressing still apparently is a tough one for some people. My wife's family is not much different. Her father and brothers will eat it, but everyone else is still a bit wary of trying it. I found another recipe that is really darn good and everybody seems to like it. Instead of oysters, this dressing has sausage and fruit and it is very tasty. But I still make the oyster dressing because it's just one of my favorite things about Thanksgiving dinner. And it's all the more to add to that Thanksgiving buffet.
Now I'm really looking forward to Thanksgiving. Heck, I'm looking forward to lunch. This talk about food has made me hungry. I can hardly wait for that oyster dressing. Someday I'm going to try that camote recipe that I found.
What are your favorite Thanksgiving dishes that are traditional for your family? Have there been any Thanksgiving surprises that were introduced to your family's traditional meal? Do you also find your Thanksgiving buffet table growing with more new dishes?