Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving | Guest Post

Nothing gets you a bye week from traveling for Thanksgiving like being eight months pregnant with twins. The only chore I have today is to post for Serina, so while the turkey is cooking I'll share what I think about every Thanksgiving: the similarities and differences between Thanksgiving in New England and the Deep South.

I grew up in New England and my family is still there; I left for Tennessee when I was 28 years old. After four years of too much Rocky Top, I now make my home in Jackson, Mississippi married to a man who's never lived outside the Magnolia State. I still boggle at the idea of having to go north to get to Memphis, but it's worked out well and I only get homesick in the Fall. On Thanksgiving in particular.

And that's because Thanksgiving is a particularly family oriented holiday, celebrated in each home with traditions and foods that are special to that family. Regardless of the fact that we all take the day off and spend it eating with relatives, what we do and eat depends largely on what that family has developed as their style over the years. And that's how Thanksgiving is similar in every home in this country: it's about your favorite pie that you eat every year, your favorite after dinner past time, your least favorite relative cornering you for a thirty minute chat. It's about your family and your traditions and we all have our own.

And that's also what makes it different in every home too, especially those that are in diverse areas. Pie, for example, could be Concord grape or mincemeat at my mom's in Massachusetts, while Granny's pecan pie is the only favorite here in Mississippi. Still pie for dessert, but different pie. After spending a good deal of time in both the North and the South, I steadfastly hold to the fact that it's all just America and the differences we love to point out to each other strike me more as the differences between urban and rural cultures or the differences between individuals (and are due more to people's adhering to stereotypes than actually experiencing both places and developing an informed opinion). That said, here are a few things that I really think are different about Thanksgiving in the North and the South:

Five Food Things
1. Cranberry sauce is rarely served in the South and it usually comes from a can; cranberry sauce is frequently served in the North and it is just as often made fresh from whole berries as popped out of a can. I am still annoyed that Kroger had zero fresh or frozen whole cranberries for sale yesterday.
2. The breaded substance cooked inside a turkey is called dressing in the South and stuffing in the North. Dressing is thinner in consistency.
3. Southern pies: pecan, pumpkin, sweet potato, chocolate. Northern pies: pumpkin, mincemeat, apple, Concord grape.
4. Southern vegetables: greens, black eyed peas (field peas, grandfather peas, you call them whatever your mom called them peas), green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, and any other vegetable overcooked with bacon or made into a casserole. Northern vegetables: green beans, lima beans, brussel sprouts, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, sweet green peas, garden salad, acorn squash, or carrots.
5. Southern drinks: tea (which means iced brewed orange pekoe with sugar added), unsweet tea (the same without the sugar), Coke, Diet Coke, other kinds of "coke," water, canned beer, milk. Northern drinks: wine, bottled beer, milk, water, coffee, any "soda," hot chocolate, egg nog, and mulled hot apple cider.

Three Tradition Things

1. Dinner time: Way too early in the day in the South (Thanksgiving dinner at 11am anyone?). Usually 2-6pm in the North.
2. Football: college preferred in the South, NFL preferred in the North. (Because the SEC is best.)
3. Alice's Restaurant: my Yankee Dad told me today that they had "one radio station playing Alice's Restaurant at 5:30. And if two radio stations, two radio stations do it...can you imagine fifty radio stations, I said fifty radio stations playing Alice's Restaurant all at the same time...they may think it's a movement!" My Southern father-in-law: "What's Alice's Restaurant?"

So, it's not without a little selfishness that I decided today's Thanksgiving in Jackson, Mississippi would have whole berry (canned) cranberry sauce, stuffing, mincemeat pie, acorn squash, and mulled apple cider served at 7pm while my husband watches college football and I listen to Alice's Restaurant. I'm sure Serina enjoyed her dinner at her Mamaw's several hours ago without cranberry sauce, but with dressing, pecan pie, greens, Diet Coke (Diet Pepsi if they had it), no football, and "what Alice's Restaurant?"

And for that I'm grateful. We both celebrated our traditions, enjoyed our favorites in our own way, and had a lot to appreciate. Different in the details, but the same in our memories. Happy Thanksgiving, y'all.


John said...

Great post. I laughed at the Alice's Restaurant comment. (I have the album--that's right, the old vinyl 33 1/3 LP!) I'm going to have to play it when I get home.

Cranberries from a can? No thanks.

SEC?! Big Twelve this year.

Secret Agent Mama said...

Oh I loved your post! I'm a displaced Yankee (have been three times) and I totally agree. Except my southern MIL doesn't do turkey, she fries chicken and her husband bakes a ham.

I think you need to open up a blog, Leigh!! Congrats on the twins, best of luck, and countless blessings!

-Mishelle (born and raised, Buffalo, NY; living happily in Metro Atlanta, Georgia)

P.S. If you read this TODAY (the 23rd) please email me. Serina forgot to send me her login info and I'm guest posting today. I'll be really sad if I can't do this for her.


Serina Hope said...

Perfect perfect perfect.
Actually we ate at 1, NFL football was on the TV, but I didn't watch, and although there were several pies, my dessert of choice is chocolate stuff. Not pie, just magical stuff that Mamaw makes.

Pamela said...

you should have got some input from the northwest and the southwest.
I'd love to see all the comparisons of the TG feast.

Bilbo said...

Okay, so I'm a transplanted Yankee (from Pennsylvania) now living as a wannabe Southerner in Northern Virginia (which, I'm told, isn't really the South, anyhow). I can still enjoy Thanskgiving, family, food and football with the best of them. Check out my Thanksgiving story on the blog!