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Each generation has a defined food memory of what they consider tradition and from my personal experience there are huge disconnects among "The greatest generation" of World War II; Baby Boomers born in the late '40s and into Generation Joneses born in the mid to late '50s (we are now experiencing culinary middle-age); Generation X (born between 1965 and 1976) who have been experimenting in the kitchen with global ingredients for awhile; and Generation Y, born in the '80s, now top chefs who have had the entire world at their fingertips since birth, because they have never not known the Internet. Among these generations a traditional disconnect is not just about what they want for dinner, but what they think is tradition.
Thanksgiving food was plentiful, but I always found it a bit bland in Natchez. Having a father with deep Louisiana roots, I was accustomed to smoked, spiced meats, savory crawfish and shrimp stews, gumbos and spicy fricassees, so the typical cornbread dressing and overly sweet yams never were my favorites. When I had the chance to bring cranberry chutney, cornbread dressing with crawfish and Andouille, and smoked peppered brisket to the table, I welcomed the responsibility of Thanksgiving at Twin Oaks.
Food trends are forever changing, but there are some foods that seem to remain the same ... especially at holiday time. So each year I try to slip in a few new recipes or a few twists on the standards.
If I were going to compare food to fashion, I would have to say turkey at Thanksgiving is like Coco Chanel's little black dress. Just as the little black dress is essential to a well-balanced wardrobe, the turkey is essential to the Thanksgiving meal—a must-have. So, if turkey is the little black dress, cranberries are the classic pearls. But food also just like fashion in another way: You can reinvent it all you want, but if it is worth doing it has been done before. Knowing that, we continue trying to update and reinvent, and on a rare occasion it works and becomes fashionable, even if just for a season.