I both love and hate this time of year. I love it for all the cooking shows and magazines full of fall and holiday recipes (that I drool over yet never make). I hate it because those same shows and magazines are a painful reminder that my husband and I are separated from our immediate families by a great big ocean and hours upon hours of travel that costs a bomb. Oops, maybe I shouldn’t use the words “travel” and “bomb” in the same sentence… In any case, it’s around the holidays that I really miss family. To be sure, my husband has extended family who are all very close to us and with whom we have spent recent Thanksgivings and Christmases. We also have our share of friends that have become an extended family of sorts. But still, when you’re bombarded with ads showing happy families gathering around the table and children returning home from faraway places while coffee is brewing in the kitchen, you can’t help but feel a little empty. I was recently talking about this very thing with a friend of mine who finds herself in a similar situation to ours. As a recent transplant to a new city not only does she miss her family and friends, but she feels extremely isolated because it seems everyone around her is gearing up for celebrating the Holidays with large family gatherings. My take on this is that being separated from one’s family is actually more common than we all might think and that these cheesy holiday ads represent an ideal and not a norm. Families are scattered these days due to employment, deployment, or because they just don’t plain get along. And not everyone can afford to travel even if they wanted to.
Now that we are a family unit of our very own complete with our two year old little missy and less than 2 week old little guy I think it’s time to start thinking of establishing our own holiday traditions, especially when it comes to food. With my Finnish background and my husband’s Irish heritage we have lots of dishes and traditions to draw upon. I realize that my timing is not exactly on point with Thanksgiving a day away, but I have to start somewhere. Thanksgiving was going to be a bit of a throwaway this year anyway as my son was due to be born a week later, and then decided to throw us a curveball by showing up a little early. Not only that but with my gestational diabetes, I didn’t exactly feel like partaking in any feasts. So, there is no turkey thawing in our fridge and no plans for oodles of the traditional side dishes. But still, I feel the need to do something special. Now, some of you may be gasping in horror that there will be no turkey, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, and biscuits in our household. But really, is that necessary? My husband doesn’t even like turkey, so what would be the point of making it, especially when you can’t seem to find any birds smaller than 20 pounds?
This year, our menu will include a spiral ham, green bean casserole, Brussels sprouts, and potatoes of some sort. Yeah, it’s pretty simple and not a lot of food but there are only three adults (with my mother here to help with the baby) and one very picky toddler, so why torture ourselves with loads of food to prepare and tons of leftovers? And why put myself out cooking a feast when I am still recovering from giving birth and need to feed my baby every couple of hours? Honestly, I’d rather spend that time bonding with my little man. I am no Martha Stewart, so the ham is pre-cooked and just needs to be heated, the green bean casserole will be made with canned ingredients and the potatoes might, just might be a boxed mashed variety I have in my pantry (perhaps jazzed up a bit with cream cheese or something). The only fresh ingredient is the Brussels sprouts! But the idea is to enjoy a nice meal with my family and contemplate the things for which we are thankful. Isn’t that what Thanksgiving is really about? Oh, and since I do not have gestational diabetes anymore, there will be dessert; apple spice caramel cake (store bought).