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Finding a place for tacos at our holiday feast

Friday, November 23, 2012

Declan's latest curiosity is, understandably, the Pilgrims. He bombarded me earlier this week with an assortment of questions, including whether or not we were pilgrims.

"No," I replied and explained our ancestors came over later from Scotland and Ireland, to be a part of the greatest country ever.

"Did the pilgrims teach us to farm?" he replied.

Being historically challenged as I am, I was sort of winging it at this point, "I'm sure they taught us all sorts of stuff and we taught them stuff as well."

Declan went into his rapid-fire questioning mode, wanting to know where the Indians went, if they had lots of puppy dogs and why we ate turkey? It's times like these I wish I had paid more attention in school, not to mention that one in every four questions Declan throws at me, is usually a control question of sorts that he already knows the answer to.

"I'm sure they had lots of hunting dogs, it was very different back then," I responded, adding that they didn't have many of the luxuries we do, such as our homes with heat and electricity. I attempted to summarize the harsh times of the early 1600's and briefly explain that we would have a grand feast in a couple of days, to commemorate the harvest festival they celebrated.

I got the impression Declan was much more up to speed on the pilgrims than he led on and was more interested in hearing me talk than seeking answers.

"What do you want to have at our feast? Pick your favorite dish and we'll make it," I said, envisioning all of the wonderful side dishes my Mom and "The Aunts" used to make at Thanksgiving.

There were so many regularly served dishes then, some with their own pet name. "Pink stuff" in our family is your typical Cool Whip, mini-marshmellow and cherry pie filling dish, with extras. "Oyster stew" is actually not a stew, but more akin to an oyster and corn casserole that simply is not complete without a Ritz cracker crust topping. "Yellow stuff" is a sauce comprised of some crazy mix of mustard, mayonnaise and sugar, that simply is unbeatable on sliced ham. Then there was always a healthy mix of other casserole and side dishes, all which followed an afternoon of snacking on deviled eggs, fresh vegetables and my favorite, black olives.

My stomach rumbled as I envisioned the Thanksgiving Day tables of my youth, they now seemed so under appreciated by me at the time. As I brainstormed for a way to duplicate those memories for my kids, without the cooking talents of "The Aunts" or my mother, I had almost forgotten I was in the middle of a conversation with the little man.

"Will we have tacos at the feast?" Declan asked, looking up at me for a response.

I heard him but was still deep in thought. Declan's face popped into the side of my vision, a massive table of casserole dishes, turkey, ham and finger foods. He crinkled his nose and waved his arms in decree, "This is all yucky food!"

I snapped back to reality and looked down at the little guy.

"We could I guess. I'm not sure they would go well with turkey. We could make turkey tacos the day after thanksgiving?" I replied.

"What's a turkey taco?" Declan asked, tilting his head and scrunching his nose in skeptical fashion.

"It's when you give a little boy a taco and say, eat your taco you turkey!" I replied, quickly ending the line of questioning in my own fashion, with a round of tickling.

I knew then, if this year was going to be memorable for him, the menu was going to have to change dramatically.

Post-Thanksgiving update: I will forever remember 2012 as the first year Declan allowed himself to discover the joys of roast turkey and pumpkin pie. Thanks to a stubborn stance by Uncle Casey, tacos were not served.

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Bruce Baker
Dinner with Declan