As I plan my Thanksgiving dinner, I think about dinners past. The tradition, and the solid expectations guests bring with them often fuels my preparations. People love tradition. But I wonder, is the excitement surrounding the meal also simply a tradition? Should I be thinking of a way to make some new party food recipes that excite?
Admittedly, as a host, you aren't always in control of the spread. Thanksgiving dinner is a huge undertaking, and typically, people want to help. That's when you wind up with the standard sweet potato casserole with little marshmallows, stuffing from a box, or green bean casserole with cream of mushroom soup and crunchy, bland things on top. Shudder.
Would guests mutiny if these items weren't served? Or would they be grateful for a change? Since the holiday is about giving thanks, why not give them something they may truly be thankful for – a delicious meal that gives a nod to tradition, but also embraces the new and exciting with unique party food recipes.
I understand that what we now know as a "traditional" Thanksgiving dinner is nothing like what the settlers and their Wampanoag friends would have had spread before them. In 1621, there were few turkeys. Some say there were no turkeys at all. Potatoes were thought to be poisonous, and there were no ovens for baking desserts.
What they did likely have was other fowl (ducks or geese) squash, and lots of corn. The Wampanoag Indians may have brought venison, and some onions or cabbage were likely offered. But the different meal most people serve today has remained largely unchanged for some 70 years since Thanksgiving became an official US holiday.
Nonetheless, I don't mess with the turkey. I know some people like to offer a different main dish in the name of being unique, but the turkey stays. I do, however, agree with tweaking the sides. You can always prepare the "usuals" with a twist. How about sweet potato casserole that is made with cheeses, rather than taking the sweet-on-sweet route. Mix up a stuffing recipe that has some zing and some flavor. Use spicy sausage and apples, or this with pancetta and figs from Country Living.
If you're not ready to step too far outside the box, but want to make a shift, take a look at these unique Thanksgiving side dishes from Cabaret Squidoo. Pastas, salads, even traditional foods with a little flair can get your guests excited, and make for a more memorable experience. Why not challenge your contributing guests to find the "most unusual, yet tasty, Thanksgiving side". It could generate some joy in the preparing, not just the eating. That's something to be thankful for.