When you think of the traditional holiday feast, visions of turkey overflowing with stuffing, rich green bean casserole and heaping helpings of mashed potatoes slathered in rich brown gravy likely come to mind. While it’s hard to shake a fork at the traditional holiday feast, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut after 20 years of basting good ol’ Tom Turkey and cracking open the annual can of cranberry sauce.

This holiday season consider starting a new tradition — incorporating an element of edible whimsy into your otherwise traditional holiday menu. Because if you make it, they will come, but will anyone remember what you worked so hard to create?

While shaking up a time-honored tradition might sound unsettling at first, charting your own culinary destiny during the holidays is a simple way to add a sense of excitement to the occasion and a clever way to get family involved in the process. When you get right down to it, it’s not what you eat, it’s with whom you eat that makes a holiday meal special.

Begin the process by inviting your guests to participate in the decision. After all, you’re bringing the family together to share and make new memories, shouldn’t they have a hand in the making of the meal as well? Let your guests know you’re trying something new this holiday and that you’d like their input. Ask them what food they’d love to see on the table. But equally as important is determining what they don’t want, especially if any guests have food allergies. Once you have a feel for the types of food your guests would like, it’s time to consider your options.

To help narrow the cornucopia of possibilities, turn to the holiday experts who spend all year doing your holiday homework for you. Companies like The Tender Filet, an online and catalog foodstuff purveyor, offer a wide assortment of gourmet and down-home fare to get you started. If you’re the type of chef who’d rather spend more time at the table with your guests and less time in the kitchen, these retailers offer a wide assortment of pre-prepared appetizers, sides and entrees, with helpful serving suggestions — and your friends and families won’t know the difference.

If your family is deeply steeped in holiday traditions and resists the thought of anything new, turn to the Victorian ages for inspiration — they practically invented modern-day Christmas. In Victorian times, lobsters ruled the seas and were a staple of the holiday feast. Today lobster is largely reserved for special occasions, and what could be more special than your annual holiday get-together? Consider introducing some lobster starters, like the lobster cobbler or lobster bisque from The Tender Filet, into your holiday menu. That way Uncle Dave can still have his turkey, but gets a chance to try something new that could become a holiday tradition for your family.

If you’ve got an adventurous group with wide-ranging tastes, you have more license to get creative with your menu planning — but if you intend to serve chicken alfredo pizza for dinner, keep in mind there might be a few skeptics around the room. But you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to inject some freshness into the holiday feast — little tweaks to the menu, such as adding a soup course or swapping out pumpkin pie for an old-fashioned caramel apple cheesecake, can add a little pizzazz to any Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year’s Eve feast.

Regardless of your menu selection, when it comes right down to it, the holiday gathering is all about making new memories together, and that’s what truly matters when the last bite of pie disappears, the dishes go in the sink and the guests make their way back home until next year.

For more ideas and tips for creating the perfect meal any time of the year, call 800-228-1214 or visit www.TenderFilet.com.