For our family, no holiday is as draped in tradition as Thanksgiving.
Most obvious, there’s the food – eagerly anticipated and unfailingly abundant. Then, there are the activities: truly, there’s an unsettling sense that the earth might violently split open and gulp us down whole if we didn’t shuck oysters at Dad's on Wednesday, or whine about driving through the Festival of Lights after the Thursday feast, or slip out way before dawn to shop with Super Sis on Black Friday.
There’s the music, too. From this moment through December 25, only holiday music (and variations thereof, including, but not limited to, anything that’s ever been heard on a Peanuts television show) will blare in my car. And should Darling Daughter and Snarky Son complain, (as they will even before their seatbelts are buckled), I’ll also sing. Loudly. Enthusiastically. Off-key. With no respect for actual lyrics.
We are also proud defenders of the “I forgot my toothbrush” tradition – which usually isn’t even acknowledged until a good 48 hours after we hit I-77. There’s a variation of this at Thanksgiving dinner as well. Just after we’ve said the blessing and everyone has been served, Mom will announce, “I forgot the rolls/salad/cranberry sauce.” And we'll all be thinking the same thing: “For the love of Pete. I don’t want any rolls/salad/cranberry sauce. But lookey there, I can make extra space if I just shove this marshmallowed sweet potato casserole on top of that molded lime gelatin salad.”
All of this, of course, follows the decades-old tradition of pulling the turkey from the fridge and remarking, with great surprise, “Hmmph. This turkey is still frozen!” Come on. I don’t care what it says on the label -- no self-respecting turkey can thaw after two nights in a refrigerator. Sadly for our family, we can only remember that fact once a year -- Thanksgiving Day -- and no sooner.
Throughout the weekend, our family will also remain entrenched in the fine tradition of picking up other people’s full drinks and claiming them as our own. Until, of course, that drink is sucked down below the ice line (or, if a beer, below the coozie line), at which time it’s necessary to subtly abandon that drink and claim someone else’s. I actually tried to “remedy” this tradition one year, by handpainting our names on a set of glasses. Didn’t work. The glasses were pretty, though.
The best Thanksgiving tradition of all, though, is the stories.
I'm not certain, but in the TV shows I’ve seen, other families don’t engage in the full-on, get-down-and-dirty tattletaling we revel in.
There’s nothing like those “remember the time?” dinner stories that leave your face streaked with tears, your hands clutching your freshly fattened sides, and your eyes darting wildly about to make sure the kids didn’t catch the details and innuendoes. Most of the stories are about us growing up, but there are gracious plenty about the adults we knew back in the 70s, too. The way we see it is, “Hey, if you don’t want us to talk about you, then you ought to drag yourself to Thanksgiving.”
Nah. That’s a lie. Everyone is fair game whether they're here or not. But if you were here, at least you could defend yourself. Or distract everyone with a story about someone else. (And no, I’d rather not hear yet another re-telling of the night the bridge was stuck and the parents couldn't get home after work and we teenagers were left to our own devices. I was young, OK? And stupid.)
I guess we’re all kind of nuts. But it’s not just the time of year. It’s just us. And oddly enough, we all look forward to it. Just like these Sugar and Spiced Pecans.
Here’s to family. And traditions -- even those that are a little bit nuts.
Sugar and Spiced Pecans
2 egg whites
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
4 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne
2 pounds pecan halves
Beat egg whites, water and salt until frothy, but not stiff. Stir in sugar and spices. Add pecans and mix until all nuts are coated.
Spread on cookie sheets sprayed with nonstick spray. Bake in a 225 degree oven for one hour or until dry, stirring every 15 minutes. Separate nuts and let cool. Store in resealable freezer bags. Can be made 3-4 days in advance.