My husband and I are hosting Thanksgiving for the second time ever. I have to say we’ve gotten a lot better at cooking stuff up and hosting parties in general. Our first year staying home for the holidays, we made a barbecue meatloaf, mashed potatoes, macaroni, and corn. I didn’t know alcohol wasn’t sold on Thanksgiving in this state so we shared a few drops of Chardonnay and called it a night. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed entertaining guests even when I was terrible at it. I hope I wasn’t so drab as a hostess that they wouldn’t attend another function of mine again.

Our second year, my sister and her then-boyfriend accompanied us for Thanksgiving. We made a reasonably-sized bird (my mother’s recipe), my cousin’s famous stuffing (he makes the best stuffing), Haitian macaroni (you’ll only find a recipe from the Haitian women in your family so don’t even think about searching Pinterest), mashed potatoes, overcooked broccoli and cheese, corn, caramelized carrots, biscuits, and salad to wash it all down. My sisters and I always shared a platter of cinnabons and baklava for breakfast so, that year, my sister and I made homemade cinnabons. I wouldn’t do that again. I’m not so much for the rolling pin. I also made mini apple pies from scratch for desert. And I was pregnant but I drank my one glass of red wine that day.

This year! This year, we’re making pretty much the same things but I got a popcan of cinnabons and we’re doing pumpkin pie. I wanted to do a plain pumpkin pie but my sister and her now-boyfriend wants Cheesecake Factory pumpkin cheesecake so we’ll do that. I’ve added spinach and gruyere quiche to the breakfast menu because this recipe is my absolute favorite quiche recipe. We’re making a bird of course, homemade stuffing, Haitian macaroni, mashed potatoes, broccoli and cheese, corn, caramelized carrots, biscuits, and salad if my sister remembers to get the pack.

Can I just say that my husband and I did the bulk of the market at Walmart and it totaled a little over $120.00. Reasonable and honestly not that bad. I went to Safeway yesterday to get some counter-top wipes and some miscellaneous appetizer ingredients (I might make that jalapeno dip I adore so much) and the bill was $127.00. Well, they also want rice. We never have rice on Thanksgiving; rice is for everyday dinner. I’m gonna make a small side– I just need to mention that I only ever eat my mother’s, my grandmother’s, and my aunt Marraine’s rice and it always comes with a chicken sauce that you can throw on top of anything. When I make my rice, it’s for my son and my husband so I skip the sauce because I’m not eating it. My son eats it dry just fine and, anyway, the sauce might not be particularly pro healthy living (doesn’t mean I won’t eat it though). Anyway, my sister says my rice is too dry so, with the rice, I’ll have to make sos pwa (a kind of pureed pea sauce that goes over the rice). Like, can I please itemize Thanksgiving on my taxes?

Anyway, I like cooking so it’s worth it. While I was browsing the aisles at Safeway, a mother and her daughter were going down their shopping list. They thought about grabbing a box of stuffing but the daughter reminded her mother that the father got two boxes already. I thought, How are you not gonna make stuffing from scratch? And then I thought about what the rest of their menu might look like– some unsanitized turkey thrown into the oven, unwashed rice; the starch sticking everywhere, unscrubbed potatoes with the garden dirt all in the crevices.

Perhaps I am biased because I take a lot of pride in where I come from. I don’t mean to downplay other cultures because I appreciate the value in what other cultures consider sacred. There are things other countries excel in that Haitians are terrible at. Cooking, fortunately, Haitians hold themselves to a high standard when it comes to cooking– the organic nature of the food, the preparation of the food, the method in which the flavor is literally inserted into the food.

And it’s so traditional. Although the template is the same, I refused to learn Haitian rice from some YouTube video online. Only my mother, my grandmother, and my aunt Marraine was allowed to teach me and I had to learn by watching. My mother taught me just once rushing around the kitchen just as my grandmother (paternal) and my aunt Marriane taught her. And I absorbed every step and now have the recipe forever. It’s the way I’ll teach my son when he’s ready. When I was a teenager, I wasn’t ready to learn how to cook. Even if my mother talked slowly and let me write it down (which is a violation of tradition), I would have been thinking, I’m not gonna need this, I’m not getting married, and you make it best anyway. I had no interest in it. It wasn’t until my son was born and my husband was all, “Where’s my dinner?” that I wanted to learn. Well, my husband had to wait until my mom came from Flarda to my son’s baptism. In the meantime, the poor guy’s rice was better than mine in his search for the Haitian rice my mother makes for us when we visit her.

By the time she arrived, my motivation was so high that my retention was strong enough to hold onto the first time I willingly paid attention to her making a pot of vegetable rice. She left the next day. Watching her that one time was my only shot!

My son will be ready when he can stand over my shoulder, watch me perform every step, and do it on his own. My mother always reminds me that she won’t always be here (in life). I mean, I won’t either. My son better learn it once or resort to miscellaneous YouTube videos from other weird family recipes he shouldn’t trust.

Anyway, that’s our menu. What are your cultural traditions in terms of food prep and just plain cooking food? What does your menu and cooking schedule look like?

Hope you don’t burn the peas! Happy Thanksgiving!