Every year since both of my sets of grandparents have been deceased, my parents and my sister and I have made it a new tradition to join my mom’s oldest sister, Judy, and my uncle Gene; my cousin Eric, his wife Mary, and their children Christopher and Meredith; my cousin Bethany and her husband Dennis; my cousin Gina, her husband Jack, and their son Jay; and Gene’s mother, Sylvia, at Judy and Gene’s home near Roanoke. Every year there are extra people, like a family Judy knows from church who need a place to celebrate Thanksgiving. Every year we drive two hours each way to be with family for this holiday. And every year, without fail, I eat until I secretly have to unbutton my pants as stealthily as possible under the table. That’s how much I love Thanksgiving food: sliced potatoes and turnips, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, homemade rolls, seasoned turnip greens, rum cake, carrot cake, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, dill pickle slices and green olives, ham biscuits, (now for me) venison and turkey… With all of those delicious foods, who wants a healthy Thanksgiving?
This morning, like the nerd that I am, I was reading the latest issue of Reader’s Digest. I’m secretly 75. I came across some recipes the editors recommended as “Fill-You-Up Fare.” The first that caught my eye was Hummus Deviled Eggs (via). The recipe called for mixing 5 or more yolks from 12 hard-boiled eggs with one cup of hummus, piping the mixture into the eggs, and garnishing with parsley and smoked paprika. Lightbulb! What if I offered to bring the deviled eggs this year?! I could eliminate the yolks altogether and simply fill the eggs with hummus! Another recipe that got my attention was Baked Feta with Capers and Tomatoes under “Easy Cheesy.” The recipe was even simpler: place feta cheese, chopped tomatoes, red onions, capers, oregano, and olive oil on foil; wrap; bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. What an incredible appetizer idea! The magazine also offered ideas for edamame, avocado crostini, roasted chickpeas, white choc–
…That’s when Mom interrupted my daydream with reality. She reminded me that we’re talking about generations of Grady women, here. Born cooks who use real butter and heavy whipping cream in their recipes. Men who hunt deer and turkey with precision. We’re not talking about people who have heard of or even considered the PALEO diet or veganism. We’re talking about people who want “real” food on Thanksgiving, not substitutes or alternatives to tradition and taste.
I have no doubt that since my family are loving people, they would all politely try my recipes and smile and comment about my creativity or how “interesting” the glaringly obvious menu addition was. I also have no doubt that no one would shed a tear if my mashed-up-chickpea-filled-eggs were ostensibly absent next year… It isn’t that my family members aren’t trying to watch their waistlines, or that they refuse to try unfamiliar foods. It’s that we are a family of traditionalists; things are done the same way every year, and there’s no reason to shake up the routine.
Just in case there’s some confusion here, allow me to elucidate. I am not interested in healthifying our family’s Thanksgiving menu or tradition; I am interested in exposing my family to all that I have learned in the past year about all the different ways “healthy” can be applied. I am interested in opening up my people’s minds about foods that are foreign to them and that may taste a little different, but that offer more nutritional value than some of our old stand-bys. I’m still incredulous that there is a whole foodie world out there, just waiting for me to experiment with it, and tweak it, and make it my own. I want to share that feeling with everyone! …but maybe Thanksgiving isn’t the right time 😉
Do you eat a “healthy” Thanksgiving meal? If so, how did you introduce healthy “alternatives” to your family?