I’ll be home for Thanksgiving this year for the first time since 2009. I plan to eat traditional food and by that I mean the cranberry jelly that makes a sucking noise when it plops out of the can, the kind of stuffing I grew up with (no cornbread or sausage, please) and the Jello salad that I started making when I was 11. I got the recipe for the Jello salad from the Oster cook book that came with our new blender back in 1961. I still have the cookbook and the blender but it will still be in storage this year.
I’m telling you all this not to make you jealous of the meal I have planned in my head. I believe the perfect Thanksgiving Day meal is the one that brings back memories. Usually good ones, but some clinkers thrown in too. Whose family doesn’t have a little drama around the holidays? It’s the predictability of the meal that makes it special, not necessarily the faultless cuisine or company. What I’ll be tasting isn’t canned cranberry jelly, it’s history.
I’ve been offering my Samoan family taste tests of some of my food. They have been polite guinea pigs but would probably starve to death if they had to exist on my palagi food. For example, I made spaghetti sauce for palagis. I think I told you about it. Not my best effort but pretty good. Since the Samoans have only tasted tinned spaghetti, to them it was gross.
I found tortilla chips in Apia. I made salsa with canned tomatoes, onion, garlic, hot peppers and a squeeze of lime. One bite of chip topped with salsa transported me to the every-Friday-night dinners my family had at Casa Molina in Tucson AZ. It was spectacular.
As much as I didn’t want to share the rare chips, I offered my brother a taste. I wanted him to be transported to nirvana, too. That was not the case. He didn’t spit it out, but would have if he could have figured out a way to do it without offending me. He suggested I not bother to offer samples to the rest of the family.
Today, I was feeling puny so decided to go with comfort food. And what could be more comforting for a southern gal than deep fried dill pickles? I made a batch and took them out to the family to taste. I should have also taken my video camera. My dad was the first to try them. The look that contorted his face said it all. It was his first dill pickle, fried or not, and he wasn’t a fan. His reaction did not help sell the concept to the rest of his family, but I guilted them into it. After all, I’ve at least tasted every single item of food that has been placed in front of me in Samoa. If I’m willing to eat a “sea worm”, they should be willing to dare to taste a vegetable.
The squinched up eyes and puckered lips were repeated by other members of the family. One boy started making a face before it ever hit his lips. These were very mild dill pickles and the frying makes them even mellower. And, I offered some very expensive ranch dressing as a dip. They decided that the ranch dressing would be stellar on fried chicken but I could keep the pickles. More for me.
One sister was munching on a piece of plain, boiled taro when I arrived with my samples. She was one of the ones who called my spaghetti sauce bland. She just doesn’t have the taste of my mom’s spaghetti sauce in her memory banks to help her appreciate it.