The Smell of Thanksgiving

I hate onions. I love Thanksgiving. And weirdly, Thanksgiving to me means the smell of onions — and I can’t get enough this one week of the year.

It always smelled like onions when I woke up Thanksgiving morning. Downstairs there would be chatter of my mother and grandmother in the kitchen. I’d come into the room, and they’d be piling chunks of white bread into a huge, speckled casserole dish, where it would get mixed with onions, celery and a good amount of butter and become stuffing that night.

I’m not sure I ever ate that stuffing — I was more of a turkey skin girl (my dad always slipped me the first slice when he started to carve) — but that backdrop of laughter and the decidedly non-breakfast smell of stuffing in the kitchen was what kicked off my Thanksgiving, as I shuffled to the family room to watch the Macy’s parade.

A couple years after I got married, I started making my own Thanksgiving dinners. I chose a variation of my family’s stuffing, a version with apples and pecans, but it had the same base. And the second I sautéed the onions with the celery (in the butter, hello!), I smelled it. Thanksgiving.

I won’t deviate from that. I started putting together the ingredients for my stuffing and a recipe I kept from my grandmother’s table for Amish potato filling. They both start with chopping onions till my eyes sting. But as soon as those onions hit the butter and celery, I lean over and inhale as deep as I can. I tried to make sweet potatoes for a couple Thanksgiving, and it just wasn’t working for me. I needed onions. Won’t touch them the rest of the year, won’t even make these dishes the rest of the year.

These Thanksgiving dishes do taste good. But Thanksgiving is way more than taste. It’s tradition. And as much as I like eating stuffing and filling, I like knowing that up in Pennsylvania, there’s a kitchen that smells just like mine.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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