Time spent with my family has always been the source of my fondest Thanksgiving memories. As a child, it was one of few times a year we’d find everyone gathered in one place to break bread, share laughs and just truly be a family. Now that I am a mother and (sadly) living so far away from the rest of my family, I hold these memories near and dear to my heart more than ever. If I could only narrow it down to the 3 fondest memories that still make me laugh out loud and shake my head at the same time, it would be these 3:
1. The Locomotion
As a child, Thanksgiving was always hosted at my paternal grandmother’s home in West Orange, NJ. We’d have family and friends come in to town from all over and it was always a blast. After dinner, the kids would all retreat to the basement as the adults sat around the living room talking about whatever adults talked about back then. All of a sudden–without fail–my 2 other female first cousins and I would get “the call.” Yes, it was my grandmother calling us upstairs to perform a song for the adults. The one song we’d always perform was The Locomotion by Kylie Minogue. You remember, “Everybody’s doing a brand new dance now…come on baby, do the locomotion…” Somehow, some way, I was the lead singer of our little singing group – which says a lot about the talent in my family because I CAN’T SING! My 2 cousins were the backup singers and we even had a dance routine! I’m sure the grown ups got a real kick out of it. Nonetheless, it became our thing year after year until we finally got to a point where we stopped accepting the call!
While we definitely bow our heads in shame at the thought our wannabe girl band, my cousins and I always get a good laugh about it we get together and wonder how soon before we can calling our kids up to perform.
2. My family’s East meets West Thanksgiving meal
One pretty unique Thanksgiving meal tradition my family always had was that we’d combine the traditional American Thanksgiving staples with West African food…and it was delicious! We’d have the standard turkey, ham, yams, and such. However, we were also guaranteed to also have a spread of our favorite West African dishes, such as Jollof rice, Cassava Leaf, Palm Butter, and, of course, Fufu and Soup. Fufu is a staple dish in West African culture and can be prepared by mixing instant mashed potatoes with starch and water to create a dish we served with a Liberian soup.
This actually leads me to my 3rd fondest memory, as well as a confession I’ve learned to share with only a few people to avoid the looks of complete shock and amazement. While at any given time, we always had a box of instant mashed potatoes in my home, we only ever used it to make Fufu and, for years, that was the absolute only use I imagined that box of instant mashed potatoes existed for. For YEARS!
And so on to #3 of my fondest Thanksgiving memories…
3. My first Thanksgiving with my in-laws.
While we weren’t actually married the time, my husband’s family had always welcomed me as part of the family. He comes from very warm, loving, large, traditional southern family. My mother-in-law is the youngest of 11 children and they all grew up on a farm in southern Virginia. Thanksgiving meals are just as special and spectacular in his family as they are in mine and are prepared by some of the most amazing cooks I know! Many of the dishes they prepared were not as familiar to me since I did not grow up on them, but I instantly formed a love for southern cooking thanks to them. Mashed potatoes were no exception.
By that point, I’d only had mashed potatoes prepared as…well…mashed potatoes a few times in my life and as delicious as I’d already discovered they were, it almost paled in comparison to my husband’s aunt’s mashed potatoes, served with an amazingly moist turkey and gravy! I pretty much decided then and there that I when I had kids, I’d have to introduce them to mashed potatoes before they turned 16!
Ps. They have been introduced…and love them of course. So, each year I try to introduce a new way to bring potatoes to our table and into their Thanksgiving memories.