Redefining Traditions: Why Tinned Food Is Better Than Homemade


cranberry sauce Michelle Madden

I remember Thanksgiving fondly, but not because of the food. My parents were practical people and when it came to Thanksgiving the food was practical too. There were no pine nuts in the stuffing, bacon in the Brussels sprouts or wine in the gravy.  The cranberry sauce was from a can. I can still see the circular imprints from the tin  – the not so subtle evidence of its time in cramped quarters. The evidence was destroyed as it was crushed with a fork and shaken into the ceramic bowl. The Brussels sprouts were boiled in salt water and drained – never roasted. The potatoes were roasted. The skin was peeled off and placed around the bird – my Dad always referred to the turkey as “the bird”-  and cooked for as long as the bird cooked. The stuffing was made from toasted bread with lots of melted butter, salt and pepper, oregano and thyme and definitely cooked inside the bird. (This was before any concern that sticking something inside raw poultry and eating it, might poison the family with salmonella.)  The gravy was made by taking the drippings scraped from the bottom of the turkey pan, and adding seasoned water (that came from boiling the turkey innards). The gravy was thickened with flour and seasoned with salt and pepper. The pie was only ever pumpkin pie with whipped cream on the side.

And I loved it.  I loved that every year, it was the same predicable, comforting meal with no adjustments. Ever.

But I’ve moved on and I no longer see my parents at Thanksgiving. (They live in Canada and Thanksgiving’s actually on a different day in Canada – I still don’t know why that is, but Canadians are sort of like Americans but different, so celebrating Thanksgiving on a different day seems perfectly fitting.)  I now have Thanksgiving with friends, and it’s a big group affair and everyone vies to bring the dish that everyone goes back to for seconds and hopes there will be enough for them to take some home in a Tupperware. I’ve also started my own family with my own traditions.  My tastes have evolved too and I like pine nuts in my stuffing and bacon in my Brussels sprouts and wine in my gravy. I will never boil something that can be roasted and I don’t really like pumpkin pie.

But there is a tiny part of me that feels a sense of betrayal when I eat fresh cranberry “relish”, and help myself to extra slivered almonds from the bottom of the Beans & Almonds dish.  I am reminded of how far away the childhood years are when I consume third helpings of stuffing accented with sausage rounds. Maybe one year I’ll volunteer to bring the cranberry. I’ll open the white tin, crank the can opener around the top, drop it into a glass bowl and leave the tin marks on.

What have you changed over time at your Thanksgiving meal?  What will never change?


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