Thanksgiving on Mendenhall 2010

A familiar picture is above, my Mod Meals on Mendenhall stock photo has been updated after another year. Winston, my pup, is larger and calmer, the house is a bit fuller (and dirtier) and yet everything has remained very similar for the most part. As I reflect. I’m not sure whether that it is good or bad — or just a moot point.  Most importantly the fact, I guess, is that we should all be looking and moving — forward.

My parents and sister traveled north and east to spend Thanksgiving on Mendenhall again this year. We spent most of our holiday cooped up inside avoiding some unforseen cold and wet weather and creeped out to blow leaves and plant tulip, allium and daffodil bulbs when we had a chance or were brave enough to weather the cold. Luckily, and predictably, we had planned ahead for our annual feast. Several weeks ago I helped orchestrate the menu – splitting up the duties. Dad took the main (the meat), Mom chose the dessert, Maggie had an itch to make a popover recipe she saw on TV and I took two sides that I ended up (at the very last moment) picking to compliment the rest of the menu. We, again, skipped the turkey in lieu for something more appealing.

At Thanksgiving, I tend to get a lot of grief from friends when I tell them that my family hasnt celebrated a Thanksgiving with turkey in about 10 years. They claim that turkey is a tradition and I usually joke and ask them if they also like to watch Fiddler on the Roof every year. The only turkeys around this year were painted on my grandmother’s (now my mother’s) antique turkey plates that traveled north from Florida for the celebration. The plates originally belonged to the hotel that my Grandfather grew up in, The Vila Plumosa in Tarpon Springs, FL,  which was torn down before I was born. They remind me of one of my favorite phrases –  “If these walls could talk.” If those antique turkey plates could talk I imagine they could tell quite the stories and capture many of the traditions that carry generations of Thompson family holiday celebrations. What we tend to forget is that traditions are self-made and not manufactured. While our Thanksgiving was slightly different without the typical roast turkey and a bit more modest (though it may not be terribly obvious considering the menu) this year, I’m sure that those plates made their way through the years seeing both better and worse days. They most likely were eaten on during the great depression when my grandfather was a young boy and saw more moderate and most elaborate meals served on them as years went by. Our personal perspectives create traditions and expectations. And whether or not they meet our own – or our family member’s and friend’s traditions and expectations – is up to us to ponder. Perhaps that is what this holiday is all about.

What I gathered most this year is that – in spite of all things – is that I’m lucky to have a healthy family that is willing to put in whatever it’s worth to continue a tradition of cooking without turkey – regardless of how messy we all are (or clean freaks) whether or not we are drinking the finest champagne or leftover two-buck-chuck — we have each other. We choose to put up with one another because of tradition. And, that in the end is better than any 27 pound free range turkey.

And so I realize that there is much to be thankful for. Especially the fact that we are all versed in the kitchen and that we enjoy fantastic meals year after year on this holiday.  As you look forward to your holiday gatherings to come, this is a great one to consider as you plan. I’ll post the recipes this week.

Thompson Family Thanksgiving on Mendenhall 2010 Menu

  • Popovers from the BLT Steakhouse in NYC
  • Aged Standing Rib Roast
  • Mushroom and Potato Gratin
  • Roasted Lemon Green Beans and Onions
  • Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake


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