The Thanksgiving Meal: To Tweak or Not To Tweak

And just like that hypnosis inducing cylinder of cran, one needs to constantly nudge one’s family to shake them from routine.

“We’ve been slowly injecting foodie things into it, while taking it over from my parents,” Kelli Sterling says. Six years ago—a year after her and my friend Brian met—they brined her family’s Thanksgiving turkey.

“My parents were flipping out,” Kelli says. “It was a battle—but then they loved it.”

Another year, Kelli and Brian conspired to upgrade the string bean casserole via a shallot enriched béchamel sauce dotted with wild mushrooms and topped with crunchy roasted onions. Last year, they tweaked it another way: a parmesan and fontina béchamel holding steamed baby spinach and a generous dusting of breadcrumbs.

“My parents were freaking out when they saw I was adding nutmeg to it—don’t add to much, don’t add too much—but they ended up loving it,” Kelli says.

Brian’s home brew frequently makes appearances, such as the spot on nut brown ale he brought last year. This year, however, they’re taking a white wine mulled with cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and citrus peals.

“Using a white base [for mulled wine] is nicer for a holiday meal,” Kelli says. “It’s palate cleansing and it matches the food better.”

As for the brandy her mother applies to pumpkin pie, they changed course by making a ginger snap pumpkin cheesecake with brandy whipped cream.

As with everything else, it disappeared quickly.

But, their approach is a measured one.

“If it was just us, it would be fine. But, you have to appeal to the masses,” Brian says.

“You can’t stray too far,” Kelli says, before quickly adding, “but they’ve turned around. Now they’re anticipating it. They’re asking what we’re doing ahead of time now.”

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