It seems that every year we have the same debate here at the Downtown Z Studio. We plan a company luncheon and Critter fries up a glorious Cajun turkey. Everyone else pitches in the traditional sides, we spend fifteen minutes eating a delicious meal and spend the next four hours being miserable trying to make it through the day.

It's literally the same meal year after year with the same results. For a decade I've been trying to get people to opt-in to my own family Thanksgiving tradition that never disappoints, and I'm almost unanimously met with side-eyes and disgust. Let me elaborate.

I don't remember what year it was, but sometime in my early teens, I remember my mother was beside herself when my father finally admitted that he hated turkey. She had been preparing it in the traditional way that single day each year as long as they had been married. I want to say it was around 20-ish years at that point, but he had to get it off his chest.

I'm sure at least one person is probably thinking right now... "No problem, eat a ham..."

Problem: Mom hates ham. We all agree that bacon is awesome, ham is just... What I mean is it's not very... Well, I don't like it either.

Over the course of a very short discussion, the two 100% purely American Thanksgiving main dishes are out the window in my family. We went ahead and carried through the meal my mother had been cooking for two days that year, but everything changed after that.

I remember that next year, mom didn't talk about the Thanksgiving menu leading up to the holiday. She wasn't stressing out, running herself ragged trying to keep up with the cooking duties, working days in advance, and asking us to pitch in. She was remarkably calm even as we all woke up to watch the parades on that fateful Turkey Day. We all knew she was cooking something, you could smell it in every corner of that tiny trailer.

My eldest sister rolled into town with her first-to-be-ex husband that year. She had her normal yeast rolls and homemade cookies she's so good at making, but they would clash with the lunch my mom prepared. When she and her loser-husband walked in the door, mom announced it was dinner-time. I'll never forget, it was so early... 11:03 AM.

We all wandered into the kitchen, which was about four steps from the living room couch, and stood there waiting to learn what we would be feasting on. It had to be good, there were four different crockpots sitting on the table and paper plates stacked up ready for that moment that would change our family history forever.

Dad said a quick blessing and mom handed him the first plate and started taking off cookery lids...

"This year, since everybody can agree on the dish, we are having a taco smorgasbord."

Even as it had the risk of being a family controversy, I'm pretty sure we all busted up laughing at the same time. It's true, my family grew up a taco-night family... or at least we grew into a taco-night family. Technically, being so poor with so many mouths to feed, we were a spaghetti family growing up. A dish I still refuse to eat today because no matter how good it is, it tastes like being poor to me.

Every year thereafter we gathered together to break taco shells and share that same meal. Eventually, we all grew up and started living our own lives. I don't think I've been home for Thanksgiving since 2004, but my sister conned us all into showing up to her little house on the prairie to have the family meal this year... but she's already spilled the beans and it has the rest of the family a little nervous.

Out of all five of us, she's the only one that truly loves turkey... So she created some rouse to get everyone to her house so she can once again eat America's true national bird the one day a year it's supposed to be eaten. What she doesn't know yet is I'm bringing a few meats to smoke on their pit so the rest of us can chow down on something we enjoy.

So if you ever had second thoughts about turkey for Thanksgiving, you're not alone. It'll be the first time in fifteen-ish years my own family is taking a crack at it, and let's just say the expectations are pretty low.

Join me next month when I share with you why serving a lunch of finger foods that remain around long enough to be supper for Christmas is far superior to any festive meal you had planned. It'll be a fun one too.

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