I grew up in South Carolina. I don't know how this happened, but I didn't try pineapple cheese casserole until I was well into my twenties. Actually, I think I know how it happened. We had the exact same menu for many, many years. My mother and her mother were in charge, and they knew what was best. Their menu was perfection, except this one little issue. Pineapple cheese casserole is the bomb.
Our Thanksgiving table included turkey, gravy, green beans, asparagus casserole, oyster dressing, cornbread stuffing, white rice, "brown" rice (white rice made with consomme and canned mushrooms, delicious!), sweet potatoes with marshmallows, cranberry sauce, artichoke relish, and dinner rolls. I may be forgetting a dish, and I'm sure one of my siblings will let me know.
As my generation got older, we started contributing and, one very special year, my cousin Julian brought pineapple cheese casserole. I approached it with caution, then felt like a fool when I realized how delicious it was. As the years passed, my cousins, siblings and I scattered, moving too far away to return for the holiday, or marrying and spending the day with partners. Julian never brought the casserole again, at least not on a year when I was there.
Though this isn't the kind of dish I would serve every day, or even every month, I will consume it with abandon on Thanksgiving. This year, I decided to quit waiting for my cousin and make my own. After consulting my inherited collection of Junior League cookbooks, I came up with my own recipe, gluten-free even, for my middle child who isn't eating gluten these days. By necessity, I used fresh pineapple (a breeze with one of these!) instead of canned, since my local market only had the whole fruit. In an attempt to be different, I tried it with pepper jack cheese, instead of cheddar. To quote Julia Roberts in "Pretty Woman," because no one will ever stop quoting Julia Roberts in "Pretty Woman": "Big mistake. Huge." Cheddar is the only way!
What is your favorite retro holiday dish? And what will you only eat on special days?