When my son was in first grade, he came home from school one day in late November and asked if we could have a “cornacoopa” for Thanksgiving. That’s how he pronounced it: “corn-a-coop-a.” He was such a sweet child and we were so traditional.

At the time, I had two young children and a full-time paid job. Still, when Thanksgiving rolled around, I apparently had plenty of energy because I made the whole meal, I mean the whole shooting match (except for the pies) from scratch. I roasted the turkey, adding my secret ingredient, a half a cup of sherry poured over the bird in the final hour of cooking, which made the whole house smell amazing. I made the giblet gravy, using the liver from the bag of turkey innards stuffed inside the frozen turkey’s butt (on the years that I didn’t accidentally cook the turkey with the bag of giblets still tucked inside).

I put the yeast rolls in a warm corner and let them rise for five hours before baking them at the last minute.

The stuffing was a true “stuffing,” not a “dressing,” because it was stuffed inside the turkey. The candied sweet potatoes were a lot of work, and I usually made those a day or two in advance of the holiday to make things easy on myself.

I may have purchased the pumpkin pies but, by golly, I made the whipped cream myself, putting the bowl and the beaters in the freezer for an hour so they’d be nice and cold when I poured the whipping cream into the bowl and turned on the mixer.

I made the salad dressing. Yes, you read that right. My family has a special holiday salad dressing. The recipe comes from the Black Angus restaurant in Chicago. It combines sour cream, mayo, tarragon vinegar, scallions, anchovies and black pepper, and this special salad dressing was de rigueur for every single holiday occasion in my family.

As the years went on, I started making my own cranberry sauce because it turns out it’s really easy to make, so why not?

Before we sat down for the meal, everyone snacked on my mother’s divine mushroom-cream cheese baked hors d’oeuvres, made by my own little hands. Mmm, wonderful stuff.

Some years I even made that silly green bean casserole, though I usually tried to be a bit more chi-chi with something like roasted brussels sprouts or roasted root vegetables. 

But the world has changed. Who am I kidding: The world and I have both changed.

Come Thursday, I still will roast a turkey but there won’t be any sherry poured over the bird because my son-in-law is allergic to sulfites. In addition, this year I will also roast a plant-based Field Roast.

If I remember to remove the frozen bag of giblets, I will still cook the turkey liver and chop it up, but this year it will go into the jar of Heinz “homestyle” turkey gravy I purchased with my own little hands. And if my daughter wants vegan gravy, we have a jar of some sort of vegetarian “bouillon” in the cupboard and she’s welcome to make it herself.

No more candied sweet potatoes because it’s so much work. Instead, Bob Evans makes a tasty and oh-so-easy version of heat-and-eat mashed potatoes full of milk, butter and cream, that those of us who are not vegans will enjoy eating. 

The “stuffing” will be made with vegetable broth and vegan butter and will actually be “dressing” because it will not be cooked inside the turkey, at the precise optimum temperature for growing bacteria, or so the health department says.

This year, there will be no rolls because somebody, maybe everybody, will be gluten-free.

Homemade whipped cream? That’s crazy talk. The can of “whipped cream” with the spritzy nozzle has already been purchased. It’s a non-dairy Reddi Wip product made from almond milk.

There will be no special salad dressing this year because my daughter-in-law can’t abide foods that are both creamy and savory, my daughter doesn’t do anchovies, and my son never really liked the family salad dressing anyway. In fact, this year, there will be no salad. Instead, I will slap some carrot sticks, celery sticks and black olives on a small tray and call it a day.

The cranberry sauce will come from a can because everyone prefers the canned, jiggly stuff to the tangy homemade version.

Before we sit down for our meal, everyone will snack on the dried shiitake mushrooms that I have poured directly from the container into a cute little serving bowl with my very own hands. Well, my daughter and I will snack on the dried mushrooms, and everyone else will make retching sounds when they look at them.

Finally, the green bean casserole, that nod to ‘50s cuisine, has disappeared, never more to be seen. So, too, have the roasted brussels sprouts and the roasted root vegetables. My son-in-law is a picky eater and plain green beans are pretty much the only vegetable he can manage, so boiled green beans with vegan butter it is.

But, no matter the changes to the meal, the table will be full. Full of food, and more important, full of family and friends. I’ll get to play with my grandson, cook with my daughter, and dance with my daughter-in-law. And I will be thankful for each and every one of them.

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all.

Cathy Frisinger is a former writer and editor at the Fort Worth Star–Telegram.

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