Thanksgiving is one of my families favorite holidays and each year we alternate between my mother’s side of the family and my father’s side. Since I’ve become Frum, Thanksgiving definitely has some new considerations and every year is a bit different but in the end it is always time well spent with family. So to help you plan for your Thanksgiving feasts this year I’m going to post a whole bunch of stuff I’ve one over the years and then the breakdown for this year. Here goes…
My mother’s parents live in New York and are very familiar with the whole kosher scene. They know all about kosher butchers and separate dishes, not to mention glatt kosher caterers.
One year my grandparents had the whole thing brought in by a local kosher caterer. This was nice because everything was kosher and certified and required minimal work on our part. The only down side was that they were not our recipes and when you don’t work for something (or in this case, cook it yourself), it just isn’t the same.
Another year, I came early and kashered my grandparents oven and stove top. They had a new set of pots and pans and we made the whole thing together. Everything was going really well until about 5 minutes before we ate when someone took the wrong knife, cut a lemon and squeezed it on the green beans in the oven with everything else… It was a frantic phone call to my LOR and I remember I was still able to eat certain foods that had been cooked before, but it was a funny end after a lot of hard work. Another funny part of that year was that I decided to check all the lettuce, you know, for bugs. Well my 13 year old cousin got really in to it and was really excited any time he found a questionable speck. We spent over an hour checking lettuce and in the end there was so much talk about bugs that no one would go near the salad…I guess some things are left better unsaid… whoops!
When we go to my father’s side of the family we have either been in Illinois/Indiana, or more recently in a rented cabin in Ohio. When I would fly to Illinois I was limited in what I could bring on the flight so I remember thinking about what Thanksgiving foods I liked best. It was always the dairy stuff… you know, green bean casserole, candied yams, cheesy potatoes. So one year, thats what I prepared in advance, and I also brought a mini cheesecake from Crown Heights. That year, I was really newly frum, it might have even been my first kosher Thanksgiving… my strongest memory was missing out on turkey, and freaking out when my cousins kept passing the gravy over my plate… That was the last year that I intentionally sat in the middle of the table, now I run for a table end 🙂
In more recent years, we’ve rented a cabin in Ohio, “halfway” away from everyone. Between us and my aunt’s and uncle’s families we all make a list of what we are bringing and then we drive out and cook all together. Kashering is not an option there so I end up having to get creative. Another added complexity is that we are there Wed-Sunday and I stay at the cabin for shabbos. Its a whole bunch of extra meals with more consideration needed… On those Thanksgivings my crockpot is key. In the past I’ve pre-made my food and used the crock pot to re-heat it. Sometimes I make turkey meatballs, green bean casserole, and some sort of sweet potatoes and throw it all in the crock pot to re-heat. I use the leftovers for shabbos and throw in a few extras. Since being in the middle of nowhere in Ohio, with a bunch of self-proclaimed foodies all showing off their food, I always try to bring food that everyone else can have too, but it makes me a bit anxious that I will run out of food for me, so I always go overboard.
But then again, that’s what you do for family. You go overboard, you push beyond your boundaries, you allow yourself to be less comfortable, because you love them, and they love you and at the end of the day, they are the one constant in an ever changing world. To all my family, on both sides, I love you all dearly, and look forward to our Thanksgiving dinners, this year and next.