It is no news that Thanksgiving has a taste. It has lots of them, actually. First in line, of course, would be the Thanksgiving turkey; whether roasted, baked or deep fried. After that will likely come the dressing or the stuffing, whatever your recipe card says. Then there is a parade of traditional holiday food, from green bean casserole to salad to some kind of concoction involving sweet potatoes. We know all of these. But chances are there are some other items – some different tastes – that are unique to your holiday and your family. They will convey Thanksgiving only to you and your nearest and dearest. One of those tastes for me is Coca Cola Salad.
A couple of weeks ago, as our family was preparing for our holiday in Florence, Alabama, I asked my mother what I could bring to our Thanksgiving dinner. She suggested Coca Cola Salad. I was confused. “Have I ever had that?” I asked. The name was completely unfamiliar, but the taste it turned out was not. Mom e-mailed me the recipe, and although the dish is extremely easy to make, I tried a practice round and served it at dinner one night.
The taste took me back years and years – to my grandmother’s kitchen, to dining rooms of relatives near and far, to pot-lucks and to picnics. Yes, I had eaten Coca Cola Salad before, numerous times. Not all of these were Thanksgiving memories, but all were occasions important enough to be tucked away in some fond if forgotten corner of my mind, waiting to be called forth again by a jello salad.
They say that smell is the sense most closely linked to memory. But taste has to be a close second. The important occasions of our lives, and the gatherings of our most significant friends and kin will nearly always have a food memory attached. Our taste buds can be the channel between past and present, calling near all those precious recollections.
I wish you this kind of eating for Thanksgiving. (Because I know you’ll be eating!) Each Thanksgiving we express our heartfelt gratitude to our Creator for the gift of being creation and for all the perks that come with it. We thank God for the food that sustains us, and also for all that the food evokes, for the many people, places and events that have shaped us.
So if you find yourself running dry on the list of things to be thankful for, ask your neighbor to pass the potatoes, or the macaroni and cheese, or the green beans, or the cranberry relish. Try a dish you think you’ve never tried before because you might just find out that it grew up with you.
This Thanksgiving, I wish you a Coca Cola Salad moment. I wish you many. May your day be filled with memories, happy and bittersweet, of all that has brought you here. And may we continually give thanks for the many ways we are nourished by the God whose hand feeds us.
1 (small) pkg. black cherry gelatin
1 (small) pkg. strawberry gelatin
1 can bing [or dark] cherries, pitted & drained
1 8-oz. pkg. cream cheese
Heat juice drained from fruit. Add gelatin & dissolve. Add cream cheese & melt. Cool.
Add remaining ingredients. Chill till firm. Makes 10 servings.