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Don’t Change the Sides

Thanksgiving was my Father’s favorite holiday. He loved the thought of families all across the country sitting down at the same time with only one purpose … to give thanks for all that they have. His eyes would tear during grace and shine throughout the rest of the meal. He loved having the table surrounded with family, friends and friends of friends.
He always started Thanksgiving day with a football game. Neighborhood kids joined in, sides were picked, the game commenced. All chiefs, no Indians, and more ego than athletic ability, we would scramble, hit, and cheat. After a few tears, a little blood, and a lot of sweat, we would return home, one half winners and the other half losers.
Probably because if this, I like to get out of the house on Thanksgiving morning. I now live in Colorado, so my favorite thing to do is stuff the bird, put it in the oven, and then go skiing for a few hours.
When you sit in a house while a turkey cooks, the aroma builds slowly so you don’t notice how good smells. But when you’ve been outside in cold air, and then walk into the kitchen, the aroma hits you full force.
I’ve realized over the years, there are certain things about Thanksgiving you just can’t change. One year I made this great Pear Port Gravy from a recipe I found on epicurious. I think it was the best thing I’ve ever made. But my brother acted like I was feeding him dog food. “what did you do to the gravy?”, he asked with his nose wrinkled. The next year, I brined the turkey. “What are you doing?”, my mother asked in disgust as I submerged the turkey into an herb salt brine.
My grandmother used to make this cranberry jello salad. She’d grind the cranberries in an old meat grinder that you attached to the kitchen counter. Because of the jello, the salad takes up a lot of prime refrigerator real estate. To save the space, I decided to make a  spiced cranberry rum sauce instead. I start to salivate just thinking about the savory blend of cinnamon, ginger, cranberries and rum. This is one of my favorite side dishes. Everybody loves this dish …. Except my family. “I’ll bring the cranberry salad next year”, volunteered my sister-in-law as we cleaned up after the meal.
But still, every year, after the dishes are cleaned and everyone has left my house, I sit down pour myself a glass of wine think of my father and give thanks for all that I have … especially my family.

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