Do The Oysters Have It?

Now that the calendar says November, I want to skip ahead and think about Thanksgiving. It’s always been a special day in our family, all about getting together and enjoying great food—sometimes a little too much wine—and catching up with each other’s lives. And now that our three children are grown and have significant others, it carries even more meaning as they introduce our family’s traditions to those they love.

One glance at the date and I want to grab a pad of paper to start jotting down a menu. (Even though it really doesn’t change much from year to year, but it’s never too early to start putting together a shopping list. Right?)

No matter how often I’ve tried to steer us toward some alternative menu choices that don’t resemble what the pilgrims would have served (including tapping into the cuisine we’ve enjoyed during our Caribbean travels), we still end up with the staples—roasted turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and a few typical desserts like pumpkin pie (not my thing, but I go along with it. After all, how un-American would it be to not like pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving?), pecan pie, and apple crisp.

But pumpkin pie aversion aside, let’s look at the other dishes I tend to serve that you might not have found on a table at Jamestown. Well, let’s narrow it down and look at my favorite dish. You undoubtedly have yours. This is mine.

Oyster stuffing. To be accurate, it would be called dressing since my husband, who is in charge of preparing the turkey, and everyone who doesn’t particularly care for oysters, won’t let the slippery bivalve mollusks anywhere near the inside of the turkey. But I’m okay with that. Cooking it in a casserole dish allows the dressing to get a little crispy on the top.

I learned to love oyster dressing from my father—which is interesting because he was from the Midwest, hundreds of miles from the nearest briny shore. The original recipe called for canned oysters, which would undoubtedly elicit a gag from oyster connoisseurs, but surprisingly, it works.

Maybe making the oyster dressing is my way of connecting with my father after all these years that he’s been gone—and if that’s what it is, so be it—but I keep making it year after year. Depending upon who shows up for the feast, I’m either sharing it with someone who is trying it for the first time—and often politely tells me how delicious it is—or I’m the only one who is scooping the steaming sage-infused lumps of bread chunks, onions, and oysters. And I’m okay with the latter. You know . . . as they say . . . more for me. (Wink!) And it seems to be even tastier heated up for leftovers.

Do you have something unusual that you include in your Thanksgiving menu? Is there a story behind why it’s important to you? Leave me a note in the comments. I’d love to hear about it.

Next blog post I will explore Brown Bread—a New England tradition that may actually have found its way to the table at the original Thanksgiving.

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