Thanksgiving thoughts, with all the fixin’s

The Halloween candy isn’t even stale yet and I’m already thinking about Thanksgiving. Because: I have much for which to be grateful. I love watching Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and Miracle on 34th Street. And (who are we kidding), the annual feast!


thanksgiving Cornucopia
source: pixabay

My list of Thanksgiving dinner must-haves:

Turkey. I’ll admit here, somewhat red-faced, that I’ve never cooked a whole turkey by myself. My mom always handled it. When I was growing up, her general credo for my sister and me was, “Stay out of the kitchen until it’s time to wash the dishes.” After I married, we continued with Thanksgiving dinner at my parents’ home until we moved out of state. At some point, my mother started having the turkey catered from a local restaurant, but she never entrusted that part of the meal to my sister or me. Since we moved to Michigan, we’ve spent several Thanksgivings with friends at their kind invitation. When hubs and I have had a quiet holiday alone, I have managed to cook a turkey breast, which is plenty for the two of us.

Dressing. I’m partial to cornbread dressing, probably because I’m Southern. (In the South, we call it dressing, not stuffing, regardless of whether it’s stuffed inside the bird cavity or not).

Gravy. I prefer my gravy without giblets, but I can work around it.

Cranberry sauce. I know some people will vehemently disagree, but I like my cranberry sauce from a can. Cranberry sauce is best when it’s cylindrical, with ridges along the sides.

Sweet potatoes. After my siblings and I married, my mom allowed us to bring some side dishes to the feast, while retaining custody of certain parts of the menu, as well as the venue. My contribution was always sweet potato casserole. I make it with pecans on top instead of marshmallows, but with no dearth of sugar, I can assure you. By the way, my husband kindly peels the sweet potatoes because I have a bad habit of scraping off some of my own skin whenever I use a peeler.

Deviled eggs. We never have so much as a Sunday dinner at my mom’s without deviled eggs. I make them fairly regularly. I actually own two platters designed specifically for deviled eggs. I think it’s a Southern thing.


Fried okra. Okay, again this is a Southern thing that makes its way onto the table at most big family dinners at my mom’s. A few years, we celebrated Thanksgiving with some sailors and Marines stationed at the Navy base near Memphis. My parents’ church facilitated matching families with military personnel who couldn’t make it home for Thanksgiving. Growing up, okra was as common a vegetable on our table as green beans. So as a teen, I remember being surprised when one of these sailors, who hailed from somewhere “up north,” revealed it was the first time he’d ever eaten okra! (He had second helpings, natch.)

Green bean casserole. Yes, the kind made with cream of mushroom soup.

Mashed potatoes. I know, I know. We already have starch in the dressing, but you need some vehicle to dispatch the extra (gibletless) gravy.

Pecan and/or pumpkin pie. These are only extras at my house. My mom, who is well-known for her sweet tooth (my sister-in-law calls her the sugar fairy), always has both pecan and pumpkin pies – plus chocolate eclair, some variety of frosted layer cake, and chocolate chip cookies.

I like to save dessert for later on, after I recovered a bit from the big dinner, with coffee, while watching Kris Kringle win in court —and thinking about how much Christmas shopping I have left to do.

What about you, do you have a special Thanksgiving memory or tradition, or your own must-have dish for the big meal? Share in the comments.

73 thoughts on “Thanksgiving thoughts, with all the fixin’s

  1. I am from Texas and my Thanksgivings sound so much like yours! Turkey, dressing, gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, cranberries, green bean casserole, rolls, pumpkin and pecan pies. My grandparents always celebrated with us.
    My grandpa worked pipeline and they normally lived in a gas company community with other workers. One Thanksgiving, when I was 6 or 7, they were on the road with the job and did not have the time to come to our house. They were living in a hotel and we decided to go to them for Thanksgiving. The gas company had Thanksgiving dinner for them and their families in the hotel restaurant. There was so much food and not just normal Thanksgiving fare! I remember that I had tacos and french fries with my turkey! That was a very fun Thanksgiving!

    Liked by 6 people

  2. We always went to my grandparent’s house for Thanksgiving when a I was growing up. I love in texas so we had pretty much the same menu as you. At a certain point, my mom started cooking Thanksgiving and everyone came to our house…we had the same menu, though. About 10 years ago, my dad was sick, so one of my cousins took over Thanksgiving. Still the same menu…

    Liked by 5 people

    1. With the same menu, do you start to crave those things around Thanksgiving every year? There are things that were served every year at ours that I would start to crave in November, but never at any other time of the year!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Leslie, we usually do buy a few and freeze some! And as to why they’re so stingy, my only guess is because there’s not enough demand for them throughout the year. I’m just glad they haven’t discontinued them altogether. Trader Joe’s has a habit of doing that with the products I like.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I don’t think we get super hungry for days, Lisa! But, later on we have pie and make a sandwich, if anyone is so inclined!


  3. Vickie, I have never had okra! Also, I can share a little secret our moms didn’t want us to know: turkey is super easy to make. And you know I’m not a cook, but I am, in fact, the cranberry sauce queen. I’m sending you Martha’s recipe. You won’t go back!

    Liked by 5 people

    1. OMG, Lisa! I must cook okra for you sometime. Sliced thin and pan fried, not big chunks with loads of batter like you find in most restaurants. I’d be happy to try your homemade cranberry sauce, but if it doesn’t have ridges I’m afraid you’re standing in the wrong bog for me! ❤

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I grew up with Italian Thanksgivings. What is that, you ask? My dad was an only child, so we always spent the holidays with my mother’s brother’s family, who lived upstairs from my Nonna in Astoria, Queens. The meal began with meatball soup, now known to all as Italian wedding soup. It was followed by a homemade dish of either lasagna, manicotti, or pasta, and a giant bowl that contained meatballs, sausage, and bracciole – yes, all of those things. Eventually there was turkey, maybe with green beans, but always with fried potatoes and sweet potatoes. Salad ended the meal. Someone usually bought a pie, but it was the least interesting part of the meal. Well, after the turkey, which was always dry and rarely eaten.

    I miss those Thanksgivings a LOT.

    Loved the post, Vickie! It made me hungry. Oh, and I’ve learned from my Cajun friends that the only way to prepare okra is to fry it. My friends even fry it before putting it in their gumbo.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Thanks, Ellen! I would trade turkey for some homemade lasagna anytime — that sounds like a wonderful Thanksgiving meal! And, yes, okra must be fried — boiled okra is slimy!

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Fried okra da bomb! And yes, I agree with Lisa that the turkey is the easiest part of the meal (as long as you can talk someone else into carving the darn thing, which is messy and always takes place after the cook–that would be me–has had several cocktails).

    We always had/have similar things to those specified above, with the addition of my Grammy’s creamed onions–the very best part of the meal! (It’s pearl onions simmered in a white sauce. Heaven…)

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks, you guys, for letting me know turkeys aren’t really that hard to cook. How has that myth been perpetuated for so long?! Leslie, my sister’s mother-in-law (from Connecticut) always made creamed onions, so my sister took up the mantle to keep tradition for her husband. They were pretty good. But one year she forgot to rinse the onions which came jarred in vinegar. Pucker city! We never let her live that one down.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I’m from CT, and the creamed onions are a must. Another must: fried Durkee onions on top of the bread crumb topping. We use those little pearl onions. Every Thanksgiving morning during the parade my daughter and I peel them. Not our favorite task, but worth it (they’re good with cranberries).

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I love everything about Thanksgiving (yes! canned cranberry with ridges!!), but my favorite dish is praline yams, which involves (you guessed it) yams, pecans, and lots of butter and brown sugar. I have a yam obsession anyway (just ask my college roommate), and this dish puts it into high gear. YUM.

    My family is small, but my husband comes from a large Irish-Italian family. It’s not unusual for a Valenti/McGee Thanksgiving to include 40+ people. It’s big and noisy and exhausting, and I love it. ❤

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Kathy, thank you for publicly admitting the excellence of canned cranberries — LOL! And I think the more the merrier is the motto for Thanksgiving.:)

      Liked by 2 people

      1. The McGees are on my husband’s side (I was a Melkonian before I was a Valenti), but I’m convinced that we’re long-lost sisters! ❤ ❤ ❤ And maybe y'all are related. How cool would that be?!

        The praline yams are to die for. (Confession: Much of the topping doesn't make it onto the yams because I enjoy sampling. A lot.)

        Liked by 2 people

    2. Uh-oh. I’ve never had yams, either. But sign me up for the pecans, butter, and brown sugar. (I also like the toasted marshmallows on that squash dish–I politely only take a little, and leave the squash on my plate.)

      Liked by 2 people

  7. My family loves a sweet potatoes and apples dish that my parents have made for years. When my sister-in-law entered the family, she wanted to make a more traditional sweet potato dish that she grew up eating, so we had both. Now, I think everyone agrees we love having both each year.

    Liked by 5 people

  8. I have always done the big Thanksgiving dinner. Turkey, dressing (The Hubby is partial to one with sausage and mushrooms), cranberry sauce (but not from a can), gravy, mashed potatoes, two kinds of pie…the works.

    Last year, we did Thanksgiving at my sister’s place because she and her husband had just bought their house. All I had to bring was pie.

    This year, the kids and I are headed to my dad’s house – partly for Thanksgiving, partly to see the new nephew/cousin. My dad and stepmom are ordering dinner out so again, all I’m bringing is pie.

    Makes me a little sniffly, but hey, there will be pie!

    Liked by 4 people

  9. I was at a holiday bazaar where they sold jars of “Razzleberry” which was made of cranberries and raspberries. It was so delicious and now every Thanksgiving I make it (recipes are online and very simple!) I also always have to make a bourbon pumpkin cheesecake ~

    Liked by 4 people

  10. Thanksgiving was always a big deal at our house growing up. Now that we all have our own families it is toned down just a bit. I do all the cooking for hubby, daughter, son in law, grand daughter and myself. Yes, there is only 5 of us but it is still a big spread–turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, green bean casserole, corn, sweet potato casserole, rolls and butter. Pumpkin pie and some other dessert to have with coffee. There is always leftovers!!

    Liked by 5 people

  11. Wow! That all sounds great. Have many fond memories of Thanksgiving! My sister’s family tends to helm the holiday these days and is terrific at it. They do all the hard work because they are kind and wonderful cooks, and we traipse over with our little broccoli casserole (yes, the kind made with soup) that is often frankly better the day afterwards, plus multilayered jello casserole (made by my son every year over the course of several days…it’s a whole production), some dessert, and drinks.

    ps: Just realized that I do not even know what a giblet is. And I’m not going to look it up in case it’s something gross.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Or, in lieu of Vickie’s idea below of a treat if you hit today’s word count, you could write some recipes out and include them in your manuscript and REACH your word count (and get reward–see how this works?)

        Liked by 2 people

  12. My best Thanksgiving memory was the day after my youngest daughter was born. We spent most of that day in the hospital, but were released in time to make it to our friends’ house for our Friendsgiving. My favorite dish is my grandmother’s stuffing, which she calls French dressing, and is made of mashed potatoes, ground beef and pork, and seasonings. I’m looking forward to making it again this year, as I haven’t had it in a few years!

    Liked by 2 people

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