"With busy schedules not meshing and family scattered across the country, this Thanksgiving doesn't promise to be the mighty gathering of the clans as it has in years past. It'll be a small affair and that's enough to take the wind out of my sails.
Growing up, Thanksgiving in my family was a thing to behold! Weeks in advance, the strategy was carefully mapped out. Whose house would win the toss this year? Who would prepare what? Would we have enough chairs? Would we have to use a card table for the kids? Should we have black olives or green olives or both? What about hors d'oeuvres? Is the roasting pan big enough? Is the turkey big enough? Should we have stuffing or dressing? Will it be jellied cranberries or cranberry relish?
"After the talking was done, the real work began. And I loved it all. Polishing, dusting, washing, cleaning, making room in the closet for extra coats. As a second-generation American, I loved the traditions and the fact that the cranberries were always served on the gold plate, and that the men in the family got the dark meat, and that it was OK to drip gravy on the tablecloth, and that, only at this meal and Christmas dinner every year, we kids were allowed a sip of Mogen David wine for the toast.
"As I grew up, I developed a keen interest in other people's Thanksgiving traditions. My college roommate of Italian heritage had a Thanksgiving Day meal that always included spaghetti. And, until she came home on break with me, had never had pumpkin pie. And she was from New England! I've known some people who serve corn on the cob, and others who opt for succotash as side dishes, and yet others who have Indian pudding for dessert.
"Dessert always included several pies, not just pumpkin. She taught me to put cranberry sauce on a turkey sandwich and introduced me to pink catawba wine, among other things.
"Susan and I had been friends for 48 years until I lost her suddenly and unexpectedly this year [last year]. We were the yin and yang of friends. She was short and I am tall. She was a talker and I am a listener. She was glib and sometimes I stutter. I'm a great speller and she wanted to know what good a dictionary was to someone who couldn't spell. She saw the forest and I see the trees. We shared a sense of humor that borders on lunacy and stayed friends through geographical separation due to her sheer determination in continuing to write to a less-than-faithful correspondent. I feel blessed. You know, I think it's going to be a good Thanksgiving after all.
"I know Susan would be delighted with my sharing her Port-Wine Gelatin Mold Recipe with you. For those who celebrate, Happy Thanksgiving!"
Sign up for the Eastern European Food newsletter
Check out the Eastern European Food forums
Follow me on Twitter
Friend me on Facebook