I hope everyone has had a wonderful Thanksgiving so far! We don’t usually make a Thanksgiving dinner – I grew up with my mom making Thanksgiving type foods for the Shabbos immediately after Thanksgiving, and that’s what I’ve tended towards. But my inlaws do make Thanksgiving dinner, so for the last three years that they’ve lived here, we’ve had the meal with them at their home.
This year my mother in law unfortunately wasn’t feeling up to it, and asked us if we’d make everything if she’d bring the turkey. I had such a very, very full week and I felt putting all of this into my plans would really push me more than I wanted to be pushed. But this is a big deal for them, and as much as I really didn’t want the burden of taking on something that isn’t a priority for me in any way, I felt it was the right thing to do. (Note – I’m hesitant to write this because I feel very strongly that women need to learn to recognize their limitations and learn to say ‘no’, stop worrying what everyone else will think and do what is right for them. I overrode myself in this case for the sake of family peace – it would have been a big withdrawal from the relationship if I had said I couldn’t do it.)
All of the kids got involved in preparing today – the house needed a lot of organizing because of my full day shopping trip on Tuesday (all that food to organize and find space for!). We got home in the evening, and were out all yesterday afternoon (my older girls led a cheesemaking workshop for our homeschool group), so it couldn’t be done sooner. So add up house that is a disaster and lots of cooking. And I didn’t mention that we’re having a family of ten for Shabbos lunch, did I?
But because of how we split everything up, none of us felt pressured, and we ended up having a nice day getting ready together. It was a very busy day, but it was manageable. Early in the day, I made it clear to my kids that my priority was a calm and pleasant home environment, and that making a nice dishes wasn’t worth it to me if it meant anyone would get tense about it. Here’s the menu we ended up with:
- clover leaf dinner rolls (dd14 made a double challah recipe and used half of it for this)
- turkey and gravy – courtesy of my mil
- green salad (lettuce, tomatoes, cukes, lemon) – dd14
- carrot salad (shredded carrots and pineapple) – carrots peeled by dd8 and I think ds9, shredded and put together by dd12
- sweet potato pie – made by my mom
- sweet potato casserole – made by my mom for those in our home who don’t eat sugar or wheat
- mashed potatoes – made by my 9.5 year old son
- white asparagus with mushrooms – dd12
- cornbread stuffing – made by my mom
- fresh cranberry-orange relish – dd14
- baked yams – made by my 6 year old
- gingerbread cookies, a pan full plus a bunch shaped like gingerbread men – dough made by dd14, rolled and cut into shapes by ds6, dd8, ds9
- pumpkin pie – made by dd12
- and a bowl full of clementines accompanied dessert
As I wrote that all out, I realized that my oldest son was nowhere in the picture, and he in fact was doing work for me all day, but it was outside of the kitchen realm! All of the kids were doing cleaning and organizing throughout the day, but I don’t want it to seem that my big hulking son was nowhere around. My husband was working and got home at 5 pm, and I was overseeing and coordinating everyone (oh, and canning butter – I needed room in the freezer to put the frozen vegetables I bought :)).
When I told my husband I would agree to host the meal, I told him that I felt it is important to have a meal that focuses on gratitude, especially on Thanksgiving, not just to sit around together and have nothing but the quality or quantity of the food to talk about. Gratitude is something we really try to integrate into our way of looking at the world, and I think that gratitude for the many blessings in our lives is the real message of Thanksgiving. So to have the meal and not talk at all about all the gifts we’ve been granted, particularly as citizens of the US, is missing the point.
After my husband talked a little about the significance of Thanksgiving, and the Jewish concept of gratitude, we throughout the meal went from one person to another to give everyone a chance to share things they were grateful for. (Our guests were my inlaws, mother, and friend of my mother.) I feel so grateful to live in a country where we have religious freedom, tremendous abundance (even for those of us on the super frugal scale, we have so much more than those in other countries), and for my wonderful family.
I grew up not seeing my grandparents often, and it’s a source of great joy to me that my children have the opportunity to know and spend time with our parents, who have all moved here in the last few years. Yes, sometimes there are challenges in getting along with everyone, but there’s something so special about it that I feel it’s worth all of the challenges.
I hope all of you celebrating had a meaningful and enjoyable Thanksgiving!