It's likely that tomorrow, on Thanksgiving day, my children will gorge on the same type of food they normally consume on nearly every other major national holiday: Crackers and juice, sometimes Chex Mix if it's available. Or PB&Js. (No PB for the Girl.) And maybe some dessert. But only if it's "normal."
One would think from the way that my offspring react to the food served at holiday meals that I never feed them anything that isn't thawed, reheated and served in its original, store-bought container. Or that comes directly from a take-out bag.
In the past few months I've served my three amigos (ages 4, 7 and 7) California rolls ("cooked" sushi that were purchased, OK, got me there), paella (Spanish chicken and rice), chili, stir fries, grilled seafood and other assorted delectables. They will occasionally eat my empanadas (meat-filled Spanish turnovers) or chicken matzo ball soup (the Girl will only eat the chicken after it's extracted from the broth, the littlest one will only eat clear broth while he smashes up the matzo ball into a mushy mess).
It's not as if the food at holiday meals is foreign to them.
Why do I care? Because this year we're hosting Thanksgiving dinner. For 22 people, including five kids, five kids who likely won't eat a lick of the holiday dinner. At least my three won't eat anything we're making. Why? They don't eat "holiday" food.
On a recent Sunday morning, my husband and I perused cookbooks and recipes to determine what we'd have for the feast. Butternut squash soup with sizzled sage. Maple pan-roasted carrots. Orange cranberry sauce. Carmelized onion rolls. Corn bread stuffing. Deep fried turkey (alongside a traditional oven roasted bird) and some form of potato.
We made lists and drooled over glossy color photos in magazines and books, photos that will bear no likeness to our finished products. (The chefs in the books likely didn't have a house full of relatives leaning over their shoulders to a) complain that they weren't going by the family recipe b) note that Martha Stewart doesn't do it that way or c) silently complain by scrunching up their noses and walking away in disgust.)
My hubby and I were quite pleased with our working menu (before having kids we loved to cook together). Then we made a grievous error by sharing the list with our in-house food critics whose standards are, shall we say, unpredictable and erratic.
"Yuck," declared my 7-year-old daughter upon hearing the list. "What are you having for dessert?"
I rattled off the list of items to be made or brought by family: Pecan pie, apple pie, cheesecake, cranberry tart. To which she said, "Is that all? (Pause.) I guess I'll just be having a little turkey."
"We'll have ice cream with the pies," I offered in vain, as if I were trying to save myself from a bad review in the paper the next day.
"What kind of ice cream? Chocolate or cookie ice cream?" asked the 4-year-old, eyebrows arched suspiciously.
"Vanilla," I said.
"Aww! No! I like chocolate," he complained, contorting his face more dramatically than the situation warranted.
"Vanilla goes with the pies," I argued.
I looked at my husband who just shrugged his shoulders. We already knew their review: This food stinks. It's not "regular." Where are the crackers?
When I go shopping for the dinner fixins', I'll be buying one of those industrial-sized, bulk containers of crackers. Maybe two. And some chocolate ice cream. The kids need at least some dairy to go with the grain.
Meredith O'Brien is a journalist who lives with her family in the Boston area.