Bread Wars

Before: For as long as I can remember, once a year, my dad cooked one thing. Okay, that’s not fair. For much of my childhood, he did fix dinner during my mom’s annual trek to her parents’ house. Like the time he made hamburgers with the ketchup and mustard inside. Which didn’t work out.

His real shining moment came each Thanksgiving, when he was assigned the stuffing. I’m not sure at what point my dad started taking his stuffing duties so seriously, but it eventually included weeks of planning – digging thru recipes, planning out the grocery needs and an early morning Thanksgiving wake up call.

The stuffing ritual is what I remember the most about Thanksgiving growing up. There was really no telling what would be in the stuffing – but always bread, sausage, walnuts and apples.

Fast forward to my first Thanksgiving with Rich and his first experience with Bo’s stuffing. Actually it’s a short story – there was no talk of the stuffing. Fast forward to our second Thanksgiving…at which point I learned the previous year very nearly sent Rich into an emotional tailspin because there was no Stovetop on the table. Errrr, what’s happening…?

Since then, there’s been zero discussion about what kind of stuffing we would have – and while I miss my Dad’s stuffing, it’s probably an emotional blessing that my parents spend the holiday at the beach – too far for us to venture to the cursed side.

I have silently supported my beloved husband’s strong opinion on Stovetop. I felt his panic last year when we got to Kroger too late – the Stovetop gone – quickly contacting the ‘Is it Thanksgiving without Stovetop Center for Stale Bread Fanatics.’ We trudged together through five years of Stovetop Thanksgivings, me edging closer to rebellion each November.

This was my year. A few weeks ago, I came by a recipe for Chorizo Cornbread Stuffing. Come again? My favorite meat? With delicious sweet bread? Sign me up! This was my chance! My one moment in time! In my drooling excitement, I forgot myself and blurted out my plans to grace the table with this delight.

Father Pilgrim was not amused.

Father Pilgrim had a very strong reaction.

For a recap on the ‘It’s not Thanksgiving without Stovetop’ lecture, please dial 1-800-I-LIKE-IT-DRY. I’m not sure my eyes have returned to their non-deer-in-headlights size brought by the shock of the push back I got on making a foreign stuffing substance.

I back-peddled and dodged and weaved finally landing at ‘but we can bring both!’ I realized this would be an ongoing conversation. And it was. Daily. For two weeks. Possibly with me egging Rich on with pre-emptive apologies for my superior stuffing and the possibility that I’d be the new Bell of the Barlow Turkey Ball. During one slightly heated conversation, I called his mom so she could confirm that it was fine to bring a second stuffing option. Yes. I told on him.

I started my prep work Thanksgiving Eve, trying to get it as close to made as I could and hidden in the fridge before Rich came home. Which didn’t happen – he walked into a kitchen smelling of chorizo and cornbread. I held my breath, naked under my apron (not true, but would have been a good distraction) waiting for the fallout.

No fireworks. Okay. We might survive this trial. He let me carry on, asking me about timing and oven needs and working this alien food into the ‘timing’ of Thanksgiving Day cooking. It felt like a trick.

After: The Stovetop was better. He won. The end.

Okay, well… the alternative stuffing was not received with the same enthusiasm with which it was made. It’s debut on the serving island at Rich’s grandmother’s house was short-lived before it was quietly moved to another, less prominent location. Oh. I see. In fairness, it was not Rich who moved it. Probably just someone who had no idea what it was, other than not Stovetop, and assumed it’d been delivered by a lost Door Dash Driver.

I’d say the most telling comment of the day (and actually unrelated to stuffing at all) was ‘But we’ve done it this way for years.’ Oh. I see.

Traditions are a wonderful thing – alter with caution – but shouldn’t there be some flexibility to them? Especially with the growth of a family? Is there no space for making new traditions? Or have I just landed in a no-fly zone? I guess I would have felt better if more than two people had tried it. But then I remembered Rich’s first experience with oysters – something he never would have eaten if I hadn’t (in his words, he didn’t want to look like a p****). Perhaps these are not adventurous people. Not sure why it took me this long to figure that out. And that’s okay too – there is some comfort in knowing what you’re getting, knowing who will arrive when, who will sit where and who will say what. I’ll save my food adventures for my own table where I can torture those closest to me.

Now, I’m not missing the obvious. Did we have a nice family get together? Yes. Were we all glad to catch up and start planning for Christmas? Yes. Were there any weird conversations? Maybe a few, but survivable. And was our table full of deliciousness? Holy Moly, yes. Including Stovetop.

Which is actually quite delicious.

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