Hubby and I are from different backgrounds, as perhaps are a lot of couples. I'm from Kansas City, with Swedish roots on one side and hillbilly roots on the other. My hubby is German Mennonite all the way. Hubby and I met at college, and when he went home and told his folks about me, the first thing they asked is "Is she Mennonite?"
Of course, my family's traditions were very different from his family's. On my mother's side we had the exact same holiday menu for every single holiday. Here it is:
--Grandpa's homemade punch (as an appetizer while the meal was cooking)
--Mashed potatoes (made with "real" potatoes, as Uncle John used to always say. When I was little I had to ask what that meant. My mom always made mashed potatoes with potato flakes.)
--Buttered green beans
--Relish tray with cottage cheese, black olives, cranberry sauce, pickled beets, and cream cheese-stuffed celery. (Each of these items was-- I guess still is-- mandatory. Heaven forbid that you forget any of them!)
--Dinner rolls (used to be always homemade, and still are if I'm there. We live far enough away that we don't always make it.)
--Pumpkin pie with Cool Whip
--Mincemeat pie (at least when Grandpa was alive; no one else eats it.)
Now, on Hubby's side the menu is completely different. It looks like this:
--Ham (Pork is not the other white meat, it's the only meat.)
--Verenike (pronounced ver-RRAN-ick-kyuh) This is a Russian dish, actually, which the German mennonites learned to make when they were settlers in Russia for a hundred years, before they all emigrated here. It's noodle dough made in the shape of little turnovers and filled with dry curd cottage cheese and egg and salt and pepper. It's heavenly when drowned in...
--Onion cream gravy (made with lots of onions and real cream.)
--Tweiback/tweibach/zweibach (pronounced either TWAY-buck, or ZWEE-buck. Low German is not a written language, so no one knows how to spell anything. Take your pick which spelling you like.) It's a kind of bread. Literally, the name means, "two bake." They're made of two balls of dough, one on top of the other. If you tear the top ball off, you see that the bottom half now has a crater which just begs to be filled with...
--Homemade jelly. We usually have two kinds-- one is always mulberry.
--Pluma Mos (Plume-uh-mohs) Um, how do I explain this? It's sort of a fruit soup. Picture prunes or plums and lots of raisins in sweet, thickened milk. You can make it with apples or cherries, but then it would be Oppel Mos, or Cherry Mos. I remember a elderly woman giving a talk on her Christmas memories and she said, "Now I'm old enough to not have to eat pluma mos!" You either love it or you hate it.
--Baked sweet potatoes with marshmallows
--Jello salad, either carrot-orange, or something the grandkids fondly call, "Fish Eye Jello." (I think it's made with pearl tapioca, but I don't usually get close enough to tell.)
These are what Hubby's mother makes. Then every year we have various dishes, contributed by the daughters-in-law, which could be any or several of the following:
--green bean casserole
--seven layer salad
--Dessert. Which also varies. Either pie (pumpkin, apple, chocolate, or pecan), or something rich made of cherries and cream cheese. Or pumpkin and cream cheese. Or cherries and whipped cream. Or pumpkin and whipped cream. Or chocolate and cream cheese and whipped cream.
That is just half of Thanksgiving, however. In this neck of the woods, I mean prairie, there is also "Lunch," which is the late afternoon/early evening meal. Lunch consists of ham, ring bologna, chunks of cheese, jello salad, taco salad, ramen noodle salad (or whatever it's called), tweiback, lots of mustard and ketchup and barbecue sauce, and about six kinds of dessert. There, now please help carry all the chairs back upstairs and take the tables down and you can all go home.
If we go back one more generation, you will find another completely different tradition. When Hubby's grandmother was still hosting holidays we would be treated to the traditional meal that Hubby's dad's generation grew up on:
The reason for this slightly odd menu was this: In those days in this small community, there was a church service on every holiday and everyone went to church in the morning. The mothers of the families would prepare ahead in order to have food ready when they all got home. The ring bologna was store-bought for the occasion. The potatoes were baked ahead, ready to cut up and fry when the family got home. The baked beans were simmering in the oven all morning. Everything else was made the day before. Even as times changed, this remained a traditional holiday meal.
Sometimes I wonder what I will do when it's my turn to host holidays. Which footsteps will I follow? I know Hubby will want me to carry on his family's food tradition. But I'd like to keep mine as well. Besides, sometimes I miss turkey for the holidays. We never have turkey! (Unless we happen to manage the trip to Kansas City for the holidays.) So here's my plan: Keep my family's turkey dinner for Thanksgiving. And after having my fill of turkey, I'll gladly make ham and verenike for Christmas and Easter. At least, that's MY idea. Check back in a few years...