cranberry salad

As a child eating in the school cafeteria, I was introduced to cranberry sauce. I hated the stuff. As a young bride, sharing holiday meals with my new family of in-laws, I politely refrained from voicing my dislike and ate a small serving of the homemade sauce. Eventually I learned to appreciate cranberry sauce, but meanwhile my children came along and they had a similar distaste.
In my quest to appreciate the highly touted holiday food, I studied the recipes on the back of sacks of cranberries at the produce market. I found one for cranberry fruit salad. Intrigued, I bought the requisite cranberries, ground them into a pulp, added sugar, pineapple, marshmallows, diced apples, oranges and whipped cream. Thus began our family tradition: Cranberry fruit salad for holiday feasts.
In fact, the year my oldest stayed at college to celebrate Thanksgiving with his friends, he promised to bring cranberry salad as his contribution for the community feast. With long-distance coaching, he chopped, measured and stirred up the family’s favorite to share with the others. He did a great job making it. They would have loved it if he hadn’t dropped it as he left for the dinner.
This year, we could not get together with him and his family. But, Thanksgiving eve his wife called. She wanted to know how to make the cranberry salad for their dinner the next day. No one dropped the salad, they ate it.
In a way, not having much family around for Thanksgiving is almost a tradition. Since moving south, we infrequently share holidays with relatives. The first time we stayed home for Thanksgiving, my husband and children watched TV, played and read books. I scurried around, cleaned the house, cooked for days, baked desserts, made the dressing and set the table with linens and china, then rounded them up for the table.
They took all of 25 minutes to eat, burp and leave me with a huge stack of dishes.
The next year, I was a non-traditional college student and swamped with science labs and calculus problems. I wanted a break. A week before the holiday I announced that everyone was cooking something. Thus began our tradition of sharing the cooking. Some years the kids go wild in the kitchen and we have a feast. Other years we stick with the basics.
So this year when we were invited to share Thanksgiving dinner with my new step-family, I had no qualms about sharing the meal preparation. As I left to buy vegetables for a salad, my daughter pulled me aside, “Let’s take cranberry salad, too. We always have that.”
Wednesday night, she pushed cranberries through the food processor and mixed them with pineapple and marshmallows. Thursday morning, she diced fruit while I cut up vegetables. It was a congenial Thanksgiving dinner with time for everyone to become better acquainted with each other. Sounds like a great start for a new family tradition to me.