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Why I Don’t Make My Mother’s Pie On Thanksgiving

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On a flight this week, I heard two flight attendants talking about what they were going to make for Thanksgiving. One said his mom made the best oyster stuffing. Another said she equated Thanksgiving with her mom’s apple pie.

I realized that many folks’ favorite Thanksgiving dish is actually just the favorite thing their mom made. Thanksgiving is frequently about recreating holiday traditions from years ago. My husband can hardly talk about a holiday without reminiscing about his mother’s cooking and baking. And it’s true, she’s masterful in the kitchen.

But if I were to think of my mom’s signature Thanksgiving dish, I’d mostly come up empty. I mean, one of her specialties is a jello salad with mandarins. Another is a salad with slivered, candied pecans. It also has mandarin oranges. If I put out a relish tray consisting of Lindsay olives and celery sticks, it’s true that I think of my mother. But where’s my oyster stuffing? Where’s my turkey gravy?

What’s particularly interesting about all this is that somehow my sister and I both developed a tremendous love of cooking. Her holiday meals are exquisite: roasted meats with luxurious sauces, perfectly seasoned vegetables. I make a mean turkey. I spend hours on a fruit compote.

Now, we always had a great Thanksgiving. My grandma made a great turkey with fixings. The whole family would gather around and I realize now that my mom’s side dishes were perfect for either easy assembly just before the meal or easy transport on the day of. How do you compete with your mother’s perfect turkey or her artery-clogging gravy? You don’t. You make something refreshing to go alongside it. [tagbox tag=”Thanksgiving”]

And if I were being honest, my mom’s pies are also great. It’s only my misfortune that I’m not a big sweet eater. A huge pile of mashed potatoes is my dessert.

I don’t spend Thanksgivings with my family, so I’ve developed a whole new set of traditions around Thanksgiving. I love to start with a good butternut squash soup. I roast vegetables and try to include things that don’t make it into my typical repertoire. Think: fennel. I insist on stuffing since it’s the one time a year I eat it. Likewise, I make sure my mashed potatoes are unhealthy as can be, loaded with butter.

Who knows what my kids will think of these things over the years or how they’ll react.

I’ll only note that the main thing missing from my Thanksgiving menu, the thing I have to request others to bring, is the pie. Perhaps it’s because I don’t have a sweet tooth. Perhaps it’s because I lack the precision needed for baking. Or is it because, even though we’re separated by 2,000 miles, I just don’t want to compete with my mom?

Image via Shutterstock.