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!
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.