Most people who have known me for a really long time realize that at heart I’ve always been a really serious traditionalist. Don’t get that mixed up with conservative (which I’m not)–but the sentimental type of traditionalist.

As a native of America’s Heartland, I was pretty much raised that way. Holidays and the changing seasons dictated a specific pattern to daily life: meals, decorations, shopping patterns, clothing, cleaning (spring, fall, post-holiday, etc). Most people raised in the Midwest before the 1990s probably understand what I’m saying here. There were just Traditions & Customs. And we Followed them.

As an adult, one of the first things I think I shook up in my life was food (well, really it was the cleaning–I’ve spring cleaned. I don’t think I’ve ever fall cleaned. In fact, I hate cleaning to an extent that my mother wonders where she went wrong). But after the cleaning, came the cooking.

My mom is a terrific cook–as was her mother. I must just genetically love food and cooking, from creating sauces and changing up long-standing family recipes to trying new recipes. But when it comes to holidays, I’ve been a traditionalist. I’ve added something here or there to this or that, but if my grandparents walked in on our Thanksgiving meal, they would certainly recognize some standard dishes:

Turkey (although unstuffed and fixed with my super-secret herb rub)
Cranberry Sauce (mine again)
Mom’s Apple & Onion Stuffing
Mom’s Mashed Potato Casserole
The Relish Tray
Pumpkin Pie

This Thanksgiving, I’m shaking up some traditions. For instance, I’m skipping the corn dish. Instead, I found a great yellow squash casserole recipe that I tried last night when we had friends over. I’m also considering swapping out the pumpkin pie in favor of the Sweet Potato Pie. I made it long before kids came around. It’s secret is in the bourbon. I usually make a roasted root vegetable dish with sweet potatoes, rutabagas and parsnips. But this year, I’m making a recipe from Whole Living (if I can find my copy) that features roasted brussel sprouts and beets.

Black Box Wine

Black Box Wine

Finally, when it comes to wine, we are all used to the traditional wine bottles. But I took part in a word-of-mouth product campaign. I received coupons and promo information for Black Box wine in exchange for trying it and introducing it to friends and families.

Yep, Boxed Wine. But Black Box is not the swill of the 1980s college party days. We tried the Chardonnay and the Malbec. The Malbec was my favorite. Breaking with traditional bottles, we’ll have it around for some entertaining this coming holiday season.