A few years ago there was a trend on Facebook to post about your family’s “Gloop”.
For those of you who missed this fleeting meme Gloop is that strange pink Jell-O powder, pineapple, cottage cheese dessert that magically appears only at Thanksgiving. Very few people eat it and no one takes credit for making. A touch of holiday magic and mystery.
The premise of the Facebook posting trend was: every family has that one dish that is much maligned, but still signifies Thanksgiving to such an extent that its absence would nullify the meaning of the holiday completely.
I am not sure if our family Gloop actually qualifies as Gloop because it does not meet the requirements of only a small portion being eaten by a small number of the family and the maker denying its creation.
It does however fit the criteria of having Jell-O as a main ingredient and only appearing at Thanksgiving.
Our Thanksgiving-only dish is strawberry Jell-O (fully made, not just powder sprinkled in) on a baked crushed pretzel base with strawberries, whipped cream and crushed walnuts on top. I would love to have the full recipe, but grandma always says it is just something she throws together.
The fights over Pretzel Salad (a name we coined for this dish because it brims with creativity) are spectacular. I am not saying my family is a violent lot, but the threats of such over the last slice are where we really display our creative nature.
There is something heartwarming about being threatened to have your nose hairs set on fire by someone holding you down while they rub sticks together in your nostrils.
I love my little sister’s command of the English language.
Pretzel Salad does fit the bill for being the dish on the table that truly embodies Thanksgiving for our family, ousting turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing from their traditional roles as harbingers of fall.
Last year there was a minor complication with our annual helping of Pretzel Salad. Due to an unfortunately timed shortage of Pam Cooking Spray grandma was forced to use an off brand cooking spray. This led to the Jell-O pretzel base being stuck to the bottom of the pan like bacteria in a city water line.
At the table at the end of the meal sat 12 of us trying to figure out how to extricate the Pretzel Salad from the pan. We pried, sliced, chipped and almost literally, at my father’s suggestion of tools from the garage, chiseled at this pan of dessert. All of this while 10 pounds of leftover turkey cooled its drumsticks at the other end of the table.
Eventually we were able to remove the Pretzel Salad from the pan and onto our plates where it rested for mere seconds and once again Thanksgiving was restored thanks to teamwork and a common foe.
Thanksgiving ranks as my favorite holiday.
It is a low stress holiday. There are no crowded malls, hours of wrapping, tents to set up or fire hazards. There is just a large meal with special once-a-year dishes and laughter at dad trying to figure out if a reciprocating saw would get him closer to Pretzel Salad.
I like the traditions. I like knowing I am expected to peel the potatoes and keep the wine glasses full.
My favorite tradition of the day is after the prayer and before we eat each person at the table has to list three things they are thankful for. I am sure many families do the very same thing, but it always opens a window to each person. Showing where their priorities live and what changes have come their way that year.
This year I am thankful for new beginnings. I have been able to do things over the past year that were not open to me before now. These are things I have wanted to do, but I could not because I was so far from home and support.
This year I am thankful for community. I keep thinking I have found the width and breadth of how much support this community gives me and I keep finding more and more support and friendship. It is especially comforting to know I could come home. I am equally thankful the trust this community has given me.
This year I am thankful for lessons learned. Some have been wonderful and some have been painful. Either way I am thankful to know I am here to learn and feel the wisdom of each lesson.