This past week, we started making plans for our holiday dinner (and anticipated leftovers for the days after the holiday dinners), and the topic of dessert came up.
The Thanksgiving dinner menu typically sorts itself out — turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and cranberries. The only debate is how to prepare the turkey — which is a column in and of itself — and which other side dishes to mix and match. Some kind of corn? Sweet potatoes with the marshmallows on top? Green bean casserole?
(For the record, I am all in on the green bean casserole. I am told that I’m the only one in the family who likes it, but sometimes you just have to assert the privileges of being dad. Extra crispy onions on top, please!)
I would like to say that I am grateful that we’re even able to have this debate. The past 20 months have hard on many families in our community. This holiday is about being thankful for what we have, but it is also a time to think about how we can help those who haven’t been as fortunate.
Thanksgiving is also about family traditions, and dessert is a big part of my family’s traditions — specifically, cheesecake. We follow my grandmother’s recipe, and we always joked that someone would need to marry into the family before they could get it. (Really, we were only half-joking.)
My grandmother’s secret ingredient was love. The recipe also calls for mixing the batter for about half an hour, and she insisted on using a hand-held mixer, and most certainly not a stand mixer. After all, if you didn’t care enough to put in all that effort, you clearly weren’t adding “love.”
So, cheesecake is on the list.
But wait, there’s more!
As I recall, there was frequently a pie in the picture, too. Usually, pecan pie, because that’s what my dad liked, and being dad has its privileges. I think the usually came from a local bake sale or church fair, so it was homemade, just made by somebody in a different home.
My favorite is apple pie, and we have a great recipe, with apple cider in the crust to keep it moist, and sour cream in the feeling to balance the tart apples.
Both sound great, right? But as we were discussing this year’s menu, it was suggested that we pick one or the other. Our holiday gathering is going to be smaller than it sometimes is, and it was argued that we didn’t need two desserts.
I happen to fall on the other side of the debate. We don’t “need” two desserts, but it’s nice to enjoy both. We’re hosting a foreign exchange student, and she should be able to experience the full holiday tradition. Plus, our son is bringing a guest home with him. And, my birthday is just a couple of days before Thanksgiving, so I should have some extra input on the dessert situation — in addition to my dad privilege, right?
In the end, I won the debate by declaring that I would take the day before Thanksgiving off and cook both a pie and a cheesecake. Then again, everyone on the other side of the debate gets to enjoy two wonderful desserts without having to put in the work — I mean, the “love.” So, win-win.
Now that that’s settled, let’s talk about green bean casserole …
Will Morrow lives in Kenai. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org (but he’s still not sharing the cheesecake recipe).