The Thanksgiving Nudge: How to Convince Traditionalists to Try Something New?

The Thanksgiving menu phone calls have begun. Questions that pepper the conversation include: Has the turkey been ordered yet? You are, of course, making the onion casserole you make every single year? And remember last year how they ran out of our favorite kind of stuffing? Maybe it’d be good to buy it now just to be safe.

If this sounds familiar, you too may live amidst a family of staunch traditionalists. Heaven forbid you try a new stuffing recipe or leave out the onion casserole in favor of something different. So how to go about shaking things up just a little?

I saw a recipe for sour cream mashed potatoes using a ricer last week and they looked creamy and wonderful, so I texted my mother to ask if I could be in charge of mashed potatoes this year. She texted back: they must be made with butter and milk — what exactly are you going to do to them? I responded that I wanted to try a recipe with sour cream and a few herbs, but yes there would most certainly be milk and butter. She complied, but hesitantly.

Along with the potatoes, I generally make a big salad for Thanksgiving (it makes a nice complement to all the heavier side dishes). This year I’ve been asked to stay away from raw kale or anything “untraditional.”

I’m all for tradition and I understand its value and importance, and I’m just as tied to it in some ways: I’d be disappointed if there wasn’t pumpkin pie for dessert and I like to have a glass of Martinellis sparkling cider just like when I was a girl.

But as different friends and partners come into the mix, it’s nice to feel that the meal can be fluid, too, and that new traditions and routines are welcome. And sometimes, even though you make the same casserole each and every year no one actually eats it or likes it.

If you do want to try something new, what are the best ways to get the staunch traditionalists to open up their menu a little bit? Perhaps planning far in advance would help, or finding a way to maintain all the traditional dishes while mixing in just a few unexpected surprises?

I really don’t have the answers here, but I’d love to hear your opinions — especially so I don’t have to be hiding in the pantry making the mashed potatoes this year.