Not to sound too corney but..........Tradition is as tradition does.
For my tradition...... I've either celebrated the day with family at my Aunt's home (funny how that occurred in two different states with two different Aunts), with friends at our home or at theirs or with family (extended or otherwise) at our home. Being Italian, the ironic thing is and was......there have never been any of the typical family Italian dishes served. Never any pasta, never any seafoods (other than the raw oysters, clams and shrimp cocktail for appetizers. This was the only Holiday meal where we served what was suggested as "traditional" Thanksgiving day foods.;)
Since we arrived in Virginia, it's been just my Cousins family but this year we add 2-10 ppl from another family/friend celebration that has gone array.
As far as the food goes, since probably the 90's I started doing the turkey like Suzanne mentions. Always a hit! Best thing too is that the stuffing doesn't become toxic after the meal and can be saved. Bird seems to be much juicier too. Also this year...... we add a smoked country cured ham from Adams Peanuts and smoke house. It's a tradition here in VA (and I'm sure other areas too) and is the tradition of the added guests.
Anyhow, I was the only one to ever "tweak" the foods but never found myself straying too far from the original dish. It was easy because things were never served to the family that the traditions were started with. We're scattered all over from Virginia to Chicago to Atlanta to Denver to Tucson
For the Turkey......other than deboning the bird, I like to take a compound butter and stuff it under the skin (between the meat and skin everywhere except the back) whereas my family and friends always just basted it with butter pan drippings. I still use the pan drippings to baste.
Stuffing was always a sage/gizzards and breakfast sausage where I've made it into a melange of fresh herbs (sage, rosemary, thyme), chestnuts, morels and low country sausage (although this year I'll be using Surry sausage. This is a smoked country sausage from Surry Virginia.) By the way, I've removed the gizzards and they go into the stock with all the rest of the gibblets.
Cranberry relish was always of the canned variety but I never liked that so I opted for fresh made. I started to add real maple syrup instead of all the sugar as well as cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, lemon and orange zest as well as some orange segments from the fresh oranges. Since I made those changes......we never have any left over. Hehehe
Green bean casserole is hard to leave off and....... as yuk as it can be.........we just like it. Plus it wouldn't be the same without it. Most of the time..this is brought by a guest although.......... I have made this entirely from scratch (non Campbell's soup/Durkee fried onion recipe and it does improve it to the point where everyone has some.......:rolleyes:
Sweets (Yams) rotate from a candied pecan casserole type (yes....with marshmallows and all) to a Makers Mark roasted and mashed variety. Both have their niche and the funny thing is those that eat one won't touch the other. Have thought of just serving baked sweets and have butter, cinnamon and sugar available .....we'll see this year.
I quit doing a salad because of all the other foods. We have one person (one of my Cousins kids) request just some lettuce with french dressing so we always have that available. Corn is fresh sweet (when we can get it) cut off the cob and just buttered. Have thought of leaving it on the cob.....we'll see. Sure would save a step.;) This year we may add Greens too.
Breads are home-made white bread and biscuits. We had yeast rolls on the menu but since we left KC (BIL made these) we have just used the bread and biscuits. Made Croissants first year out of culinary school.....funny....haven't had them since.:rolleyes:
Pies are homemade and typical of the season. The pumpkin is as basic as possible but with fresh, roasted pumpkin instead of canned. We also have apple pie but usually a Caramel apple variety. Home-made ice creams' usually accompany these. Last year the choices were Vanilla bean or Spiced Jack Daniels/Cinnamon. This year I'm not sure.
Then there is the late evening snack of leftover turkey. This is served either on the bread (as a sandwich wth lettuce and mayo) or biscuits (hot browns style with the biscuits) or pulled and dipped in a bowl of just mayo.
That's our day of celebration in a nutshell. As with all....waayyy too much food. Good thing we have a month before Christmas to recuperate.
P.S. I shared a lesser known factoid about the day in last years discussion. Here is a link to info on it. (Not the discussion)Virginia Fall 2009: First Thanksgiving