“On Thanksgiving we give thanks for the gift of having people to love and the great bounty of life to share.” – Alexandra Stoddard
Several years ago, I came across an editorial published in The New York Times titled, When Thursday Vanishes. And, it begins; “Over the years, we have come to love the fixedness of Thanksgiving.” The word fixedness caught my attention and I began to reflect on the many holiday stories I have heard throughout the years. Therefore, today I would like to share some of my thoughts and perhaps give you something to think about as we approach this holiday season.
On Thanksgiving Day, we give thanks and celebrate our families. We set our tables with treasured family china, we serve recipes that were our mothers and grandmothers, and we also begin new traditions. A “day of grace.” Often, a day where mothers hand the wooden spoons over to their daughters and daughter-in- laws. And, transferring is change. Change, often can be a rather disturbing word. Why is it disturbing? Because, we all love the “fixedness.”
Through the years the size of our holiday tables change along with those who are seated around us. Children grow, marry, and leave home and loved ones pass away. There may be an entirely new family to include in holiday meals and celebrations. There may be new homes which will hold these gatherings. And, here is the big one – new traditions to learn.
So, what is one to do when the tradition in your family, for generations, has been roast turkey and your new daughter-in-law is accustomed to poached salmon? And, to make matters even more interesting, she or her family would like to host the dinner. Your “fixedness” has changed. The way you respond and what you do, may possibly be one of the most significant things you will ever do in the lives of your loved ones – you show grace. It is so important to step away from your “fixedness” and help your family grow together as a family. Let your new daughter-in-law know you are happy she or her family is hosting the dinner. Ask if there is a dish you could contribute, or how you may be of help. Most of all, let your daughter-in-law and her family know you are thankful for them as part of your family. Your willingness to embrace change will have long term rewards for the entire family.
The same holds true for a new son-in-law and his family. Maybe you will be invited to join them at his parents’ home and you are completely unfamiliar with the region of the country and its customs. You graciously accept their invitation and take a sweet gift. Check with your son-in-law to see if there is something special his mother adores. Go, relax, enjoy meeting the people your daughter will grow to love. And, remember you want these people to also love your daughter. Be grateful you were included, praise your son-in-law to his family and let them know how much the joining of the two families means to you. Never let words of love go unspoken.
You see, you never, ever want your children to feel torn between two families. Simply because a specific holiday has always been celebrated in your home, certainly doesn’t mean it won’t be as special or meaningful in another home.
Dear friends, holidays can be, and often are, stressful. We all know this is true. I believe the stress is due to as many and varied reasons as there are people. However, I have often thought how much hurt and disappointment could be avoided if one would simply pause – and show grace.
Sir William Schwenck Gilbert once said, “It isn’t so much what’s on the table that matters, as what’s on the chairs.” I agree with his every word; however, I will add – and it doesn’t matter where the chairs are located.
Wishing you and yours many blessings this Thanksgiving – “A Day of Grace.”
See you soon,
Author’s Note: As promised sending you special recipes, and these have been sprinkled with holiday magic – enjoy! More to come.
Janet’s Cranberry Sauce – Excellent served with turkey, pork, or beef.
This recipe is from my childhood and lifelong friend of – I won’t tell you how many years. She is an extraordinary cook. Enjoy!
- 1 – 12oz. bag of whole cranberries
- 1 cup orange juice – fresh squeezed or the type purchased in the refrigerator section of the grocery store.
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 Tbls. orange zest
- 1 Tbls. Grand Marnier – (orange flavored liqueur and is optional)
- ¼ cup finely chopped pecans (optional)
Rinse and drain cranberries well. Bring orange juice and sugar to a boil. Add cranberries and bring back to boil. Reduce heat and simmer over medium to low heat – about 10 minutes, until cranberries begin to pop. Add orange zest, pecans, liqueur and stir well. Remove from heat and cool completely. Note: The beauty of this sauce is it can be prepared a day ahead. You may want to double the recipe if you are having a crowd. I promise you, this will be a hit.
Herbed Potato Gratin – This recipe is from Williams and Sonoma. I was shopping in the store one day, many years ago and there was a charming young clerk passing out recipes to all the shoppers. Serve with turkey, pork or beef. It is delicious – enjoy!
Makes a 9×12 baking dish
- 1 ½ cups heavy cream
- 1 minced garlic clove
- 1 tsp. rosemary
- 1 tsp thyme
- ½ tsp. sage
- A pinch of nutmeg
- 2 lbs. russet potatoes – sliced 1/8-inch thick (4 medium size is perfect)
- 1 large onion – thinly sliced
- 3 cups grated Gruyere cheese
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 375. Butter a 9×12 baking dish and set aside.
Combine the following in large saucepan over medium heat and bring just to boil. Then remove from heat.
1 ½ cups heavy cream, 1 minced garlic clove, 1 tsp. of rosemary and thyme, ½ tsp. sage, a pinch of nutmeg and a dash of salt and pepper.
Peel 2 lbs. russet potatoes and slice 1/8 inch thick. Arrange a third of potato slices, slightly overlapping, in the baking dish. Add enough of the cream mixture to cover the potatoes, sprinkle with salt/pepper. Add ½ of the onion and 1 cup of the Gruyere cheese. Repeat: using another third of potato slices, salt/pepper, 1/2 of the onion and 1 more cup of the Gruyere cheese. Top with remaining potatoes, salt/pepper. Gently press on the potatoes with a spatula to compact them. Pour remaining cream mixture over potatoes and sprinkle with the final cup of Gruyere cheese and ¼ cup grated Parmesan. Cover with foil and bake until potatoes are tender, about 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes more. Let rest about 10 minutes before serving.