Thursday, November 25, 2010

In praise of dressing

I was chatting with a colleague based in New England the other day and the topic turned to Thanksgiving.

"What kind of dressing do you make?" I asked. "Oyster?"

"No, just traditional," was her reply. I pressed her for details and it turns out traditional for her meant bread dressing.

When I was growing up, traditional meant cornbread dressing -- more specifically made from cornbread baked according to my East Texas granny's cornbread recipe. It is *not* the same as the cornbread dressing you'll get from most Thanksgiving venues.

Since my wife's family is from Chicago (though she was born in Ohio and grew up in Dallas) her Thankgiving tradition is for whitebread dressing. Hence at my table we have two types of dressing every year. She makes hers, I make mine.

One of my wife's best friends makes oyster dressing. Another makes chestnut dressing. This year I noticed (and bought) tamale dressing from the Central Market chef's case.

Unfortunately there are some in our national life that seem to think their traditions are the only correct ones. It's as if I tried to insist cornbread dressing was the only "correct" type of dressing to be served at Thanksgiving.

My point is this: we are a diverse and non-homogeneous nation. Our traditions embrace many cultures and are constantly evolving -- and that is what makes us great. What a boring place this would be otherwise.

None of us have a monopoly on what's the "correct" tradition. As in years past there will be cornbread and whitebread dressing on my table when we eat. And I'll eat a little (well, more than a little) of each. There will be raging carnivores and vegetarians. I've added the tamale dressing this year just to keep things interesting.

May you have a happy Thanksgiving this year, whether your family traditon be cornbread, whitebread or chestnut dressing; turkey, or ham, tofu or sushi, or what your family looks like: single, married, straight or gay.

It's not about what goes in your mouth, it's about what comes out of your heart.

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