Passing the Gravy Gavel: Old & New Thanksgiving Traditions

“I made my cranberry sauce,” my mother said in a recent telephone conversation. “I’m glad I’m not making Thanksgiving.”  Someone rushing out of the bank had pushed her down, aggravating her arthritis. 

This is the first time in decades that Thanksgiving isn’t at my parents’ home in Connecticut, in the house and town where I grew up.  This year, my three siblings and I are each having our own dinners.

Summer, 2010

My parents are going to my sister Naomi’s, about an hour and a half drive.  Her three kids will be home so there will be 7 at the table. “I’m looking forward to the cooking even if it is a small crowd,” my sister said.

My brother is staying home, with his two daughters, nephew and in-laws.  His Russian wife says it’s the only time they don’t have any Russian foods. My sister Madeline, who customarily had traveled to the family homestead a few days earlier to help, didn’t want to leave Maryland this year. They just got a new puppy that needs attention. They’re going to her brother-in law’s about a 40- minute drive and she’s baking cakes and pies.  I’m having my kids, spouses and grandkids; we’ll be 10.

It’s all good.  Yet I miss that we’re not convening at my parents’. It was the only time everyone got together and the cousins (9) saw each other. With two married and working, another college graduate working, two in college, three high school juniors and one 5th grader, everyone lives in far-flung states. They have disparate interests and friends; I’d like them to have some connection with each other and their aunts and uncles. My parents’ have a long ranch house with a table that can seat 20; none of us have that kind of space.

Squished on a couch- niece, sister, sister, mom, niece

Along with accepting the gravy gavel from mom, we each make some of the foods that we always had. Cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, sweet potatoes. We use her recipes and call her for advice.  And we’ve adapted our own.

Given my Orthodox children, I have a kosher turkey and no dairy in the sides or desserts. We’ve all become quinoa lovers, so this dish will be making its Thanksgiving debut. I asked one daughter-in-law to make something “apple” for dessert, and opted for small-hand sized pumpkin muffins instead of a pie. I’ll still make a traditional pecan pie.

So as I tie my apron strings, I think about those dinners. A bit wistful and sad for times gone by; yet glad that my siblings and I can cook a bird with all the trimmings, just like we always had together.  I like that we blend the old traditions with new ones we’re discovering.

What about you? Have you taken on the dinner for the family? Do you feed a huge crowd or a small group? What’s your favorite family Thanksgiving tradition?

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15 Responses to Passing the Gravy Gavel: Old & New Thanksgiving Traditions

  1. Sounds lovely although I feel your longing for the whole family to be together. Canada had thanksgiving in October but I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving!


  2. Ariana says:

    His Russian wife is so right – Thanksgiving for us – pure American food with the exception of my mom gefilte fish. We can’t stop her even on Thanksgiving !


  3. We are going to Baltimore. I miss going home but Birmingham is to far away. When I lived in Tennessee, we just went home to all the commotion at my Mom’s house. Then went to visit the relatives and sampled cakes and pies. The baking is what I miss. Sweet potato pie and Coconut layer cake made fresh. I miss having my own Turkey. We usually cook one on the Sat or Sun after Thanksgiving. I like staying home if I have to work the following day. This is the first time in years where I do not have to see patients.


  4. I am definitely feeling the pull of not being on Chestnuthill Rd with the rest of the clan. At Debbie’s, we’ll be 12 at the table. It’ll be loud and boisterous and fabulous but Taylor loud isn’t quite the same as Klein loud!


  5. Barbara Klein says:

    Right on, MADELINE! Well we did Rosh Hashonah and my birthday, with most of the family at our house and that was just fine. I’m not giving the dining room table away just yet. Don’t intend to have this back ache forever!


  6. Barbara Klein says:

    Love the display of legs in one of the Thanksgiving photos.


  7. Actually, I’m happy I grew up without Thanksgiving, in England. The reason? It takes all the stress out of it because none of the traditions I follow are mine, they’re my husband’s. So I’m free to relax about things as I drop the turkey, forget to serve the mashed potatoes and trip over the empty bottles of fizzy apple juice. I wait until Christmas before I start getting het up. 🙂


  8. Isaac Morris says:

    Enjoy your Thanksgiving!


  9. Leah says:

    Happy Thanksgiving, Lisa! Enjoy your day with your family.


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