The Thanksgivings of my childhood were grand affairs, rich and warm and comforting in the sameness of tradition. My grandmother, a true Georgia lady and a legendary cook, would bring basket after basket of steaming homemade yeast rolls to a table covered in the annual array: a huge oven-baked turkey, thick gravy, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, candied yams dotted with miniature marshmallows, biscuit-based dressing and pumpkin pie for dessert.
I never considered for a moment that anyone in their right mind would eat anything else for Thanksgiving. My mom, in her own right a fabulous cook, still prepares the same holiday meal that my grandmother did, and I always had every intention of following in her footsteps.
Then I got married.
My husband, raised a good Texan by a pair of great cooks, came to the Thanksgiving drawing board full of foreign and alarming ideas. He wanted deviled eggs. He wanted cauliflower and cheese. He wanted sweet potato pie. He even regaled me with stories of eating something called a turducken instead of the traditional turkey. I was watching my dream of the "right" kind of Thanksgiving dinner go up in flames.
But we did what every good couple does: We compromised. We blended our menus, promised to try his pie this year and mine the next and made our own small sacrifices for the greater good. The one sticking point was the dressing.
I wanted my grandmother's moist, salty, heavenly white dressing, sort of a lightly seasoned marriage of homemade biscuits and cornbread. He wanted his parents' yellow cornbread-based, pepper-infused, flavorful dressing. We both refused to give in. So that first year of marriage, we launched what we still refer to as The Battle of the Dressings.
Neither of us knows for sure who won The Battle (the friends we invited over for dinner were too clever to choose sides), but the end result was an obscene amount of leftovers filling up our fridge for a week. It was a dressing disaster.
The next year, we sheepishly realized that, when it came to the dressing, we'd have to agree to disagree. So, we pulled out a copy of Southern Living and found ourselves an alternative. Moist and salty enough for me, but packed with enough punch for him, Southwestern Cornbread Dressing Cakes served as our Thanksgiving dressing that year. Both of us were happy, there was no battle over whose tradition was better and there was a lot more room for leftovers in the fridge.
If you've found yourself and someone else having screaming matches over pumpkin vs. pecan pie, dressing vs. stuffing or candied yams vs. sweet potatoes, force yourself to break free of tradition and try something new. We've included a variety of recipes on Page 3C sure to tempt even the strictest of Thanksgiving traditionalists.
And who knows? By letting go of your grandmother's Jello salad recipe and opting for a whole new dish, you just might create a tradition of your own.
Kristen Roby can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.