Friday, November 16, 2012

Cottage Cheese for Thanksgiving?...Yes!!!

Can almost smell the turkey cooking!
Who else has cottage cheese on their Thanksgiving table? Come on, let me see a show of hands. There we go… no one else. But my table does and it is a very popular side dish. Let me explain how this came to be. Well actually, that may be a little difficult because the people that started this rather unconventional tradition are all gone now. But for as long as I can remember, there has been a delicious mixture of small curd cottage cheese, shredded sharp white cheddar and diced bell green pepper next to the turkey every Thanksgiving. And believe it or not, it is a popular item. 

Our family holiday table can range between 15 and 20 people, depending on the year, and I will hear several of them say "pass the cottage cheese please". Not something that is probably being said around most tables. But since I remember this concoction as a very small child, the oddity of it's presence wasn't brought to my attention till my sons and nephews started bringing guests to dinner. The look on their faces when they heard someone asked to pass the cottage cheese was priceless.

I think it is the irony of the dish that takes most people off guard. Thanksgiving is a day of feasting. Gravy, pies, heavy sauces and such. It probably is the only night of the year where on or about nine o'clock, someone still watching football will request a stuffing sandwich on a left over dinner roll with mayo and a diet coke. It is caloric ground zero. On the other hand, cottage cheese has long been associated with dieting. So you can see the gestational confusion here.

Now, over the years, my core family has divided into two areas, south and north. The northern transplants to Florida will migrate to my brothers house outside of Tampa. Those that have stayed north will gather at my house. We even have an exchange program going on. My sister's daughter moved to Florida a few years ago, her and her family now go to my brothers. That same brother's son, has moved to New York, so he now comes to my house. Sometime during the day, the phone will ring and the tables from the north and south will meet. By the way, they do not have the infamous Thanksgiving cottage cheese, but the former northerners who now live south will make sure there is, what I have learned recently is another rare dish on this day...coleslaw.

Pop's Creamy coleslaw!!
My father, who was always the cook in our family, made coleslaw every Thanksgiving. He also made it every time he made a roast beef for Sunday dinner. It is creamy and rather sweet, and is forever known in my family as "Pop's coleslaw". After we lost him, it took me a few holidays to get that great taste he created nailed down, but I believe now that I have.

At a gathering with friends recently, we were talking about Thanksgiving traditions and when I brought up coleslaw, the conversation came to a complete halt. "You make coleslaw for Thanksgiving?" was almost simultaneously asked. At that point, I didn't think it wise to bring up the cottage cheese thing.

"Would you like to try some cottage cheese?"
So, with a few days left to prepare the annual feast, I would like to hear from anyone else who also makes things that are traditional to them, but the rest of us? Maybe not so much. It would be fun to compare notes on this subject. Let's bring together our own individual versions of what makes this day so special for our families. Even if we end up thinking outside of the box. After all, the Indians and the Pilgrims managed to merge their culinary cultures to such success that it has been celebrated for hundreds of years since.  Although, both sides did show up armed so maybe it took much less convincing to have someone try something different. Come on! What is that one thing you make that is not on my table?

Photos by ImageGoggle


  1. I know you love your stuffing, but post is about things that are usually on everyone's Thanksgiving table! Ok, I'll concede. Your stuffing is not on anyone else's table.

  2. My father's family always used to have coleslaw for thanksgiving too! My father is the one who took over making the coleslaw from my grandmother, and I remember helping dad for many years. He said the secret was drying the cabbage between layers of paper towels so that the final product wasn't too watery. Sadly, as families have grown and moved apart, our Thanksgiving gatherings aren't as large as they used to be, and there aren't many people left who appreciate the coleslaw. Dad rarely makes it anymore because it's sad to see your specially prepared dish go mostly untouched on the table.

  3. Thanks for sharing Carrie. It is hard that each year someone is missing from the table that was there the previous year. The coleslaw will be on the table probably longer than the cottage cheese, but I am hanging in there! Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!