In talking with a lot of friends, I've determined that Thanksgiving, of all of the traditional holidays, seems to demand the most "set" menu. For instance, my family will welcome unusual foods for virually any other holday dinner, but Thanksgiving MUST be pretty much what it always has been.
Believe me, I cook a lot, and cook a lot of different things from many different cultures, but the menu for Thanksgiving has to be:
Turkey (roasted, but I have also done an additional smoked breast or two). One year my chef nephew did a turduckinish (cornish hen inside a chicken inside a duck inside a turkey). That ain't happinin' again unless he's here to do it.
Stuffing (bread/cornbread stuffing, with onions & celery -- maybe apples or dried cranberries)
Mashed white potatoes, with gravy
That disgustingly sweet concoction made with mashed sweet potatoes, pineapple and melted crusty marshmallows on the top. Other than the turkey, this is probably the least negotiable menu item. My kids are grown, but they'd kill me if I didn't make it. Gag.
The ever-popular green bean and fried onion casserole. I play around with the basic recipe, but it is what it is.
Creamed onions (they were my Dad's specialty, so they stay)
My brother-in-law's brussel sprout thing that uses onion, bacon and (because the sprouts are cut apart into separate leaves) dosen't remotely look like it contains brussel sprouts.
Cranberry relish made with raw cranberries and oranges. The other acceptable option is a cranberry jello mold.
Canned whole cranberry jelly. No substitutions.
Pumpkin pie, or something else with pumpkin (pumkin cheesecake, for instance)
The apps are very free-form, as are the rest of the desserts.
What, besides the turkey and stuffing, are your families "must have" Thanksgiving menu items? Am I the only one with a rigid Thanksgiving audience?