Thanksgiving dinner was just another family meal until my paternal grandmother started serving a cylinder of quivering cranberry jelly, gingerly laid on its back and sliced into thin discs. Not only did it inject a flash of color into the meal’s otherwise narrow spectrum of ivories, beiges, and chestnut browns, it was geometric and precise, and I was a child of all things orderly.
Later, barely into my double-digit years, I noticed a bowl of juicy cranberry sauce on my maternal grandmother’s table. It had probably been there each year, pooling in its faceted crystal bowl, but only then did I realize that mashed potatoes and cranberries and stuffing and cranberries and turkey and cranberries are all better when paired in a four-to-one ratio than when each is eaten alone. It was the first meal—and is still the sole meal—at which I willingly commingled my food.