When I started grad school, I began visiting one aunt’s for Thanksgiving. The meal is classic, and not much changes from year to year. I skip the stuffing, have my own cornbread, and made a mini-apple crisp for myself last year (never did like gravy and prefer my peas plain). One of the elements I enjoy about the meal is that everyone ends up with a plate full of vegetables even as some of them smoother the greenery in gravy and luxuriate in rich buttery white rolls. The vegetables, more than anything else, represent the harvest and stock of food on which to survive the winter. Think about it– roots like potatoes and turnips supply much needed calories along with a minimum of vitamins while sturdy greens like brussels sprouts supply additional vital nutrients. The many different vegetables helps protect the grower against crop losses. One scholarly book on gardening quoted one diarist as having 50 varieties of vegetables in her eighteenth century garden. Impressive, no? What role do vegetables play in your Thanksgiving?

Traditional Thanksgiving Meal
Roasted Turkey
Cornbread Stuffing (with oysters, grandmother’s insistence, but only one can, aunt’s insistence)
Steamed Brussels Sprouts (homegrown, usually)
Peas and Onions Casserole
Surprise vegetable
Mashed Potatoes (with turnip, per uncle’s family tradition)
Giblet Gravy
White Rolls
Relish platter (celery, carrots, black olives)
Cranberry sauce
Champagne

Dessert
Pie: apple, pumpkin, and sometimes mincemeat or pecan
Tea and coffee

This year, we might skip the peas and onions in favor of a red cabbage salad, parsnips, roasted cauliflower, braised root vegetables, or a great squash dish. What do you suggest?

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