I’ll trade you my turkey for your green bean casserole.

Isn’t it funny how every family has its own personal Thanksgiving food traditions?

Sure, most of us have turkey (or tofurky) and stuffing, but I’d bet that almost every table differs after that.

And people feel very strongly about their side dishes.

A neighbor told my mom that last year she “let” her new daughter-in-law host the family dinner. But because she was from the south, the daughter-in-law served all the wrong food.

There was fruit in the stuffing and she made a corn dish. “Everyone knows you have peas at Thanksgiving, not corn!”

Their family dinner is at my neighbor’s house this year and you can bet that peas will be served.

My friend Nan’s family is Italian. Almost every holiday meal they have some sort of traditional Italian dish.

(The only one I remember is calamari at Christmas because she told me a story about the eel trying to escape one year that still makes me shudder.)

Once I asked her what Italian food they served at Thanksgiving.

She gave me a look that made me feel like one of her first graders.

“Heath,” she said patiently, “Thanksgiving is an American holiday.”

My family’s traditional side dishes are fairly boring… squash, boiled onions (neither of which I enjoy).

We used to always make a tossed salad until one year someone realized that no one ate it and we stopped.

We also have celery stuffed with cream cheese. Apparently this is a holdover from the really big extended family dinners that they held long before I was born.

One cousin or uncle or some such would bring celery and cream cheese, but he would use a cake decorating tube and make birds and flowers, turning cream cheese into art.

We aren’t that fancy now, but somehow still always have celery and cream cheese.

As my mother and I were talking about our Thanksgiving traditions, I said, “Don’t forget the green bean casserole!”

That’s my personal favorite. Yes, I know it’s bad for you, full of canned soup and weird French fried onions. But it’s delicious.

When I listed it as a tradition, my mom said, “That’s one you started.”

“What do you mean,” I asked. “We always have green bean casserole.”

“We used to make it for Easter, but you’re the one that started making it for Thanksgiving. We never used to do that.”

This shocked me. Not only do I have no memory of introducing green bean casserole to the table, I would have bet everything I own that we had been eating for Thanksgiving my entire life.

I’m not saying she’s wrong. Since I don’t like squash or boiled onions, it’s very likely that I was the one who first said, “Hey, let’s make green bean casserole.”

But why would I misremember doing so? And why would I be so sure that it was a long time family tradition?

Oh well, I suppose it doesn’t really matter how it started as long as I still get to eat green bean casserole.


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