I’m not big on culinary traditions. The only must-have dish on our Thanksgiving menu is asparagus casserole – an oddity that came out of a Junior League cookbook in the ‘60s and somehow stuck. It’s made with canned mushroom soup and a béchamel sauce, which seems like a complete kitchen oxymoron to me.
This does not mean, however, that we are a family that lacks traditions. Like most others, our group succumbs to holiday formulaic behavior, from the mandatory cutthroat Christmas Eve greed game to the order in which our stockings are hung.
Stewart has a Thanksgiving tradition that inevitably inspires eye-rolling all around, but we all pitch in. (And don’t tell him, but the holiday probably wouldn’t be complete without it.) First, he makes each of us at the table name one thing we are thankful for. Which is nice.
But then he follows it up with a Twenty Questions inquisition, as only a lawyer can. What’s everyone’s favorite color? (Still green.) Favorite animal? (Still horse.) Favorite holiday? (Still Halloween.) Favorite family anecdote? (Do I have to go there?)
This year, I’m trying to get ahead of the curve, with a little early morning Turkey Day pondering. What am I truly thankful for? Can I think of any new embarrassing family moments to share?
The exercise turned my musings to New Orleans, a city I love unreservedly – and find occasionally beyond frustrating. (Not unlike family.)
Of course I love the obvious things about the Big Easy – its music, its food, its sense of fun. But what I really am thankful for are the city’s many quirky blessings, things that fly under national radar, but that make this the city the one we all love.
So I asked my family to modify the tradition, just a bit. This year, instead of general thanksgivings, I’ve asked them to think about what they specifically are thankful for about New Orleans.
Here are some of the things they tell me they will mention, as we gather around the Thanksgiving table.
We are thankful that New Orleans:
Renee Peck, a former feature editor and writer at The Times-Picayune, is editor of NolaVie.