What would you do if you sat down to your family's Thanksgiving dinner, only to find the most important dish was missing?
Maybe you look forward to the sweet potatoes with tiny melted marshmallows on top -- you start thinking about them, salivating at the thought of them, in September. Or maybe your mother made green beans in a specific way that nobody else can duplicate and if they're not on the table on Thanksgiving life will have no meaning.
One Thanksgiving when I was around 19, my parents, brother, and I joined a family friend's family for Thanksgiving. I didn't think it could possibly be that different, or that I'd care if it was. But then they served ham. HAM! On Thanksgiving!!!!
It's silly, but I remember being just horrified when that ham was brought to the table. And I remember being mad, actually MAD at my mother for bringing us to this turkey-less place. What the hell was wrong with these people?
Now, I was a kid then, and as an adult I like to think I've grown somewhat more adaptable. It might have to do with spending Thanksgiving with assorted other people's families over the last 10 or 15 years. And with the fact that I've yet to come across another family who dared serve me anything but bird.
But this year, some family friends are joining my new family (in-laws galore!) for Thanksgiving. And there was a discussion about these friends bringing something to the feast. One offered stuffing, and I found my alarms ringing. Mrs. Food Guy's mother makes the best stuffing I've ever eaten, and it was like I was 19 again:
"NO, Don't let them change the stuffing... Anything but the stuffing!"
And that's when I realized it doesn't matter how old you are. When there's a meal you love and you only get it once a year, you just don't want anyone messing with it.
So good luck, and may your friends and relatives chose another day to experiment with the menu.