The great holiday meal debatesNovember 12, 2014 by Darcie
In a recent Epicurious article, the writer opines that it doesn’t matter what you put in your stuffing. Rather, she instructs that whatever flavoring agents you choose, you should put in more than you think you need to avoid a bland dish. That being said, the author notes that friendships are formed and “families torn asunder by painful debates over what ingredients belong in Thanksgiving stuffing.”
The post reminded me of discussions I’ve had with friends on the obstacles they faced changing recipes for holiday meals. On one side you have the staunch traditionalists: they believe that Aunt Mabel’s sweet potato casserole must be made in exactly the same way at every holiday meal, with the slightest alteration amounting to sacrilege. On the other side, you have more free-spirited family members who wonder what harm can come from trying Martha Stewart’s sweet potato casserole.
The traditionalists make the point that the holiday meal is a celebration not only of food, but more importantly, of family and friendship. Coming together with loved ones and sharing time-honored customs make the holidays special, not stuffing yourself full of, well, stuffing. Changing recipes that have been handed down for generations diminishes the sense of togetherness or, worse yet, slights an elderly family member.
Generally speaking, foodies inhabit the other side of the debate. While they recognize that the sweet potato casserole has graced the holiday table for decades, they would remind us that while everyone takes a scoop, no one actually eats it because it’s bland and too sweet. Besides, creating new traditions should be welcomed even as we honor old ones. A compromise is sometimes reached where competing dishes are made, but when Aunt Mabel notices that no one is even taking her casserole, her feathers can still get ruffled.
Food safety is yet another aspect that comes into play. A family member will tell the cook that putting cool stuffing into the turkey and letting it sit on the counter for hours before being put into the oven is not a safe practice. Often the reply comes back that “we’ve been doing it this way for years and no one has ever gotten sick.”
What’s the story at your family gatherings? Do you cringe at lax food safety practices? Are there foods that are sacrosanct and must be served regardless of whether anyone enjoys them? (Jellied cranberry sauce in a can, I’m looking at you.) Or do your relatives and friends enjoy creating new traditions during the holidays?
Photo of Sweet potato and sage-butter casserole from MarthaStewart.com by Martha Stewart Living Magazine
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