What foods are required for a Thanksgiving dinner to be authentic? I like to ask that question of friends because the answers are surprisingly interesting. You'd think the lowest number would be one -- turkey. But I've found any number of people who said ham. Or Chinese food. Or "Anything at all." These last people are probably the holiday's natural citizens . . . folks who are grateful for all the good things they receive and do not dictate what they should be. I admire such people. But I'm not one of them.
For the record, then. Here's what I require for a Thanksgiving feast to be real:
Turkey (of course)
Stuffing (real sausage-and-bread stuffing, not those things involving oysters or cornbread or pecans)
Radishes (cut into radish roses)
Sweet midget pickles
Creamed onions (these last are so important that I cook them myself)
Cranberry sauce (the jellied stuff with the ridges, straight out of the can, and Mama Stamberg's cranberry relish both)
The smallest number of required items was zero. The largest -- and I apologize for not having counted; I was standing stunned with admiration -- came from my New England friend Gail, who required three separate cranberry dishes (one relish, but not Stamberg) and, among many other dishes, three different pies . . . and the squash pie had to be baked in a square dish.
It was only when she was an adult that she realized that the reason the squash pie was always baked in a square dish was that by the time the women of her family got around to it, every round pie pan had been used.
So how about y'all? What do you require for a Thanksgiving feast to be real?
Above: I spray-painted autumn leaves and stamped DEATH on them so I could strew 'em about the parks of Philadelphia. But it's been raining all week, so I didn't have the opportunity. Believe it or not, I found them waiting on the table yesterday, making a natural Thanksgiving centerpiece.