When I was a kid, the Thanksgiving bird had to come with green salad and gelatin salad, mashed potatoes, olives and cranberry relish. On top of that, there had to be New England succotash and Boston brown bread for Granddad. Grandma, a displaced Southerner, insisted on sweet potatoes and hot biscuits, and as a teetotaler she always brought Graham pudding, an alcohol-free sort of fruitcake.
But with the passing of the older generations, nearly all those traditions are gone. Both my brothers married Italian girls (well, one is half Irish), and a certain carefree experimentalism has entered the picture. This year I expect there’ll probably be cheese grits, scalloped potatoes and green bean casserole on the groaning board, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find ratatouille or risotto with porcini.
In this spirit I once made khachapuri , a big, showy bread with two pounds of Muenster cheese baked inside it. It’s a Georgian recipe from the 1969 Time-Life “Russian Cooking” book, making it about as far from Californian as you can get, but it was a big hit, doubtless because it’s so rich--there’s a whole stick of butter in the bread dough and even some in the cheese filling. (One tradition that has not disappeared is eating ourselves silly.) Bowing to popular demand, I’ve brought it to most Thanksgivings since.
I kind of miss succotash, though. Maybe I can make it just once, and then go back to khachapuri.