Saturday Fluff — Nontraditional holiday food

With another Thanksgiving over with, I find myself thinking of my different viewpoint of ‘holiday food’.  I never think that what I make is weird, until somebody brings it up.

Case in point would be the stuffing/dressing I made for Thanksgiving.  It was a wild and brown rice dressing, made with celery, onions, pecans and dried apricots.  When I brought the bag of rice home, my Mother-in-law had no clue what I was going to do with it.  The bag came with the wild and long grain brown rice already mixed (although I’ve even made both types and mixed them in the past, this did make for one less step).  While it said “wild and long grain brown rice” on the package, my MIL asked me, “What’s this?  Bird seed?” 

I laughed and said, “Well, in a way…” then went on to explain it was going to be the stuffing.  After telling me how to make the stuffing (which she’d never had nor heard of before) she then said she was glad she’d be going to her niece’s house for Thanksgiving where she’d get “normal” food. 

This started me thinking about how some of the things I make and eat aren’t quite normal.

My ideas of what is good to eat have expanded a bunch since joining my hobby 18 years ago (was it that long, where did the years go?).  I’ve had things I never thought I would eat, much less enjoy.   I’ve also had things I’m glad I had the opportunity to eat once, but probably wouldn’t ever want again.  Because of this, I’ve incorporated some ‘weird’ things into what I consider feasting or holiday food.

For appetisers, I either make hummus (a chickpea/garbanzo bean paste usually made with garlic and herbs, a little bit of olive oil) and veggies, or a cheese dip that is out of this world rich and oh so addictive with breads (have to have something to carry the dip to your mouth).  Dinners a lot of times are roast meats, but I usually add ‘weird spices’ or other things (like a glaze for a pork dinner I’m going to make for some friends in a couple weeks will be cherry based).  Deserts have things like a “small cake” (or cookie) recipe that is attributed as being put on a Pope’s table in the mid-1500’s.  I would make the rose cookie (attributed as being served to Queen Elizabeth I in the 1500’s) but I’m the only one in the family that likes the taste of rose. 

I realize that I make weird things, sometimes.  But then, my family usually likes the weirdness.  Like the time a year ago that I started experimenting with a lemon sauce for pork chops.  I was asked to make that again and again and again.

Do you have any ‘nontraditional’ (by the ideas of your culture) food you make for holidays?  If so, what are they?  And when you made them the first time, were they accepted right away, or was it something that had to grow on people.

Mom doesn’t know it yet, but I’m going to be making my meat pie for Christmas soon.  It has lamb, pork, and beef in it, and is so good.  Hopefully, she won’t turn her nose up at it.  But if she does, that just means more for me! 🙂

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13 Responses

  1. The traditional Boxing Day food over here is endless turkey sandwiches, because no family can eat a whole turkey but a whole turkey is traditionally called for.
    My family has, generally, a turkey leg or breast for the two people who actually like turkey, and either gammon or beef for the three who don’t much. Plus all the trimmings ever.
    Then Dad makes fantastic stock out of the bones and leftover veg (leave the cabbage out. Very important, that.) and we have huge, delicious Boxing Day risotto.

  2. This Thanksgiving, I made a white potato pie. This is a family recipe from Maryland’s Eastern Shore and not widely known. It has a very unsual taste. It’s not as flavorful as a sweet potato or pumpkin pie, but it has a pleasant, subtle taste of potato, lemon, and nutmeg, and it’s one of my grandfather’s favorite desserts. He requested it, and this was the first time I made it.

    At a work Christmas lunch last year, I did the main dish, which was a Southwestern style orange chicken. The coating was orange juice, orange zest, stuffing mix, and paprika. Usually in my area, the traditional orange chicken is made with a glaze and can range from very sweet to very tangy.

  3. she then said she was glad she’d be going to her niece’s house for Thanksgiving where she’d get “normal” food.

    Well, that’s rude.

    Your stuffing sounds amazing. We don’t get holiday food over here for another month and hearing all this Thanksgiving chat is making it a very hard wait. Mmmm turkey. (We don’t make any non-traditional holiday food, because if everyone around us hasn’t been doing it for the last fifty years, my mother is not interested. *headdesk*)

  4. Your stuffing sounds a lot like mine. It’s a Russian recipe that uses rice (white only), onions, slivered almonds, dried apricots, golden raisins, and dried currants. Oh, and a bit of orange zest/juice. Yummy.

    Thanksgiving is a time when I love to play with new recipes, though. Pretty much only the turkey, the stuffing, and the pumpkin pie don’t change on my menu.

    Some friends of mine invited a friend of theirs for Thanksgiving this year and she insisted on bringing something for the table. She’s originally from Norway and wanted to bring something really, really traditional to American tables for the holiday. Alas! She had heard a lot of people eat green beans, and she had heard that a lot of people put marshmallows on their sweet potatoes/yams and somehow that conflated in her mind into mixing onions into the green beans and then melting marshmallows over the top.

    I’m kind of glad I wasn’t there.

  5. Your stuffing sounds wonderful. Very similar to a recipe I made for Christmas a few years ago. I’m sad to say that I had the same response from some of my family members, ever though it tasted great.

  6. Twistie: Marshmallows on greenbeans with onions? Ummmm… wow. I can’t even imagine how that would taste!

    My wild and brown rice stuffing recipe is one I developed back in the early nineties. I usually put raisins in it too, but knowing that the MIL would eventually eat it (she doesn’t like raisins) I kept them out. Your stuffing sounds great, and I think I’m going to have to try the orange zest and juice in mine the next time I make it! 🙂

    Caitlin: My MIL is in the upper 70’s and is having some issues with senile dementia. When my husband and I first moved in here to take care of her (she has a lot of physical challenges too), she was a very sweet lady. As her dementia is getting worse, well her personality is changing. Most of the time, I don’t take it personally. Last night for dinner we had the left overs from Thanksgiving, and she loved the rice stuffing. She was having a good day yesterday.

    Froth: What is gammon? I googled it, but it didn’t make sense to me… bacon steaks? Am I understanding that correctly? I have never had risotto. One of these days I’ll need to correct that. 🙂

    Bree: White potato pie. That sounds really interesting. Do you mash the potatos like you would for a sweet potato or pumkin pie? And I can see where the lemon would add to the taste of the potatos. Sounds wonderful!

  7. I love your stuffing recipe, it sounds delicious. Since my family and I are fairly new to Thanksgiving we try to keep things traditional. But I always have non-traditional touches. For example, this year I also made a huge batch of chicken wings, salads, and salmon pizza bites, as well as some other things. I have the complete menu listed on my blog: http://annasrecipebox.wordpress.com/2008/11/24/thanksgiving/
    -Anna

  8. The fiance and I made turkey potstickers (a chinese dumpling that is fried on one side and steamed on the other) for our Thanksgiving dinners. Everybody was surprised when we said we’d brought dumplings, but everyone seemed to enjoy them.

  9. i’m mexican-american & vegetarian for this thanksgiving i made vegan menudo. (menudo is a traditional chile based soup that includes garbanzos and tripe). it was the second time i made it, and the first time i spent thanksgiving with mostly my bf’s family.

    he’s half greek (mom’s side) half mexican-am(dad’s side). we went to his mom’s house first & when we told them i had made vegan menudo his aunt made a face & nobody tried it.

    when we went to his paternal g-ma’s she tasted it & gave it the OK (which is the highest praise coming from an hispanic grandma!), his dad & his tio liked it too. his tia asked me all about how i made it.

    we then went to his friends’ house, most of them are vegetarian or vegan & the menudo was gone! everybody loved it. & i had a request for the recipe. my parents had some of it the night before & they loved it too.

  10. welshwmn3: Gammon is thigh of pig. If you cured it, it’d become ham. It’s generally sold in thick slices for grilling (often with pineapple on top), but you can also buy whole and half gammon joints, which are circular and semicircular respectively. It tastes like you’d expect uncured ham to taste – mild, lean, fairly tender.
    You can also get bacon joints. I am not clear on what the difference is – it’ll be a slightly different part of the pig. Probably the rump, since we make bacon from there rather than the belly. Bacon joints are salty.

  11. We had a fairly traditional one. I think it was fairly Alice Waters inspired, my boyfriend got Simple Foods or Eating Simply or something like that last year for Christmas, so I’ve been reading it. So this year instead of just covering the top with sweet paprika, and sticking a few smashed cloves of garlic inside, I also put half an onion and a whole lot of fresh sage. It made for a “fragrant” bird. Also a hit was my mom’s short cut stuffing. Half from a box with real sauteed veggies in real butter. A first for me was brussel sprouts.

  12. Nothing you mentioned sounds particularly “weird” to me.

  13. I love wild and brown rice. Everything you made sounds excellent to me. I love experimenting.

    I had to start cooking for my family when I was a little girl and had to prepare a full course(meat, starch, vegetable, dessert) every night. When I got older I started making food from scratch and experimenting as a result, I will pretty much try anything. 🙂

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