Talking Turkey

This letter originally appeared in the November 2020 issue of Lake Norman CURRENTS.

I have a confession to make. I’ve never cooked an entire holiday meal all by myself.

I wonder if this is a predicament a lot of women my age are in—they spend years either partially hosting a Thanksgiving gathering or traveling to another family member’s house while never being fully in charge of the preparation and planning until the baton gets passed, so to speak.

My childhood memories of the holiday include running around my grandmother’s house with my cousins while the fragrant smells from the kitchen began to waft through the air. I might have taken a break from playing to sneak a roll off the dining room table, but the extent of my worries back then was whether I was going to pile my plate with turkey or ham. My mom’s usual contribution to those meals were the ever-popular green bean and broccoli casseroles straight out of a Betty Crocker cookbook.

When my husband and I first got married, I had zero skills in the kitchen besides knowing how to boil water for pasta and using the microwave. Most of my extended family now lives in Texas, so Thanksgiving is a holiday where we usually stay closer to home here in North Carolina. My culinary skills have improved over time, and I now enjoy cooking a lot more than I used to. However, my cooking style is vastly different from my mother-in-law’s, and she still enjoys making most of the items that are served on Thanksgiving. Like most southern cooks, her favorite ingredient is good old-fashioned butter. For this reason, we jokingly try to fast a few days before the feast.

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My husband’s two sisters have taken turns hosting at their homes, we’ve eaten at my in-laws’ home, and we’ve also rotated duties at our house. Each time I feel helpless as my mother-in-law unpacks boxes of foil-wrapped platters from her car, wondering if I’m contributing enough with my side dishes, salads or the occasional dessert. My mother-in-law also only knows how to cook her recipes that she’s been making for years for a multitude of people—even if we only have ten family members in attendance and most of the time the kids don’t pile their plates with every dish (the yeast rolls, though, are always a must). This leaves a lot of leftovers to deal with for days that leave us reaching for our leggings or sweatpants from the calorie fest.

I enjoyed learning about how two other families celebrate their Thanksgiving in our holiday feature section for this issue, and as I was writing this letter one thing became abundantly clear to me. After the 2020 we’ve all had, no matter what Nov. 26 looks like this year, I will remember to be especially thankful for all we have as we sit down at the table.

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