When people ask me who will be cooking our Thanksgiving dinner, I always say, “My children!” From the time my children were about two years old, I convinced them that Thanksgiving is the special meal we cook once a year where the whole family participates. Dad peels and mashes the potatoes! Everyone is responsible for picking one dish and making sure it is prepared just right, or almost right.
Patrick started making the stuffing when he was two years old. He would chop the celery with a plastic knife (a very dull plastic knife) and even chop the onions and mushrooms. He dumped the bread crumbs in the big stock pot on the table. Next, I would pour in the chicken broth and Patrick mixed the stuffing to perfection. He showed sheer joy as he spooned stuffing into a big baking dish and got it ready for the oven. Don’t worry, I was always there doing all of the “hot” things around the oven and stove.
When Katie was 2 years old, she decided that fruit pizza must have been a favorite of the Pilgrims and insisted on that being her special contribution. She loved spreading the sugar cookie dough on the pizza pan, mixing the cream cheese and sugar, and finally choosing and chopping the fruits for the topping. I’m pretty sure when she comes home from the University of Tennessee this year, she will still want to make a fruit pizza.
Our oldest son William is famous for sweet potatoes. He decided that if a little bit of sugar, butter and coconut was good on top of the potatoes, then doubling and eventually tripling the topping would be even better. I always let him experiment and my sweet tooth has never been sorry.
Paul was in the Army when our children were little and we often did not have extended family to share our Thanksgiving, but it is definitely one of my favorite holidays. On the occasion we did have extended family they were always impressed and a bit worried when we announced the kids had made most of the dinner. All of my children eventually took turns being responsible for each of our traditional family recipes and the good news is they can all now cook the entire dinner confidently. Patrick was the first one to cook the turkey when he was just 15.
Martha Stewart would have cringed at the sight of our dinners, but we always had much enthusiasm over the dishes we made. To us, they were the most beautiful meals in the world. I tell people that Thanksgiving is like doing art with small children. It is not the product that is important, it is the process.
Try asking your preschooler what they would like to cook for Thanksgiving. Even if you just let them make some marshmallow treats. You might just be surprised by what becomes part of your “traditional Thanksgiving dinner.”
What are your family’s Thanksgiving traditions? Follow this link and share with us in the comments section!