Thanksgiving’s around the corner. Earlier today, some of the alumni from my college group were asking about everyone’s favorite Thanksgiving dishes. Once upon a time, my alma mater represented 86 countries. It was always fascinating to hear from so many different cultural traditions, both in holidays and in food.
John and I both love to cook. While we’ve always had the traditional turkey, mashed potatoes, dressing and gravy, we’ve also developed some of our own traditions for a special holiday dinner.
Part of the tradition for us is to trot out our grandmothers’ recipes. John makes his grandmother’s brown sugar pecan pie recipe – still recorded on a paper plate. And while we don’t have the original cornbread dressing recipe that was hers, John got her to teach him how to make it once. So he’s pretty much got that down.
There’s also his grandmother’s sweet potato casserole. Which does NOT have marshmallows in it and is NOT sickly sweet like so many sweet potato dishes. It has coconut in it and it’s to die for. If he/we don’t make it, then his mom or sister do. John’s grandmother also had a sherried carrots side dish recipe that usually his sister will make.
For me, pumpkin pie was what my grandma Leona always made. She often added a dash of cloves, which I like to do too. But I prefer to use brown sugar in mine. And while I grew up with Cool Whip, the last 20 years or so I always make real whipped cream sweetened with a dab of honey. To perfectly compliment our pies.
My grandmothers were also ones to make some type of seasonal candy. Grandma Dorothy made cinnamon candied pecans, while Grandma Leona usually made peanut brittle and sometimes coconut “Mounds” type chocolate covered candies. I want to pull those recipes out this year.
When it comes to the rest of the meal, we usually try to add variety. While my sister-in-law usually hosts, we all generally cook and bring stuff.
Some years I make cornbread, because we used to have it when I was a kid (and I love cornbread). In my version there’s less sugar. But recently, John’s mom designed a blue cornbread that is simply to die for. I love her recipe, and I think that will become one of our new traditions.
I also enjoy making decadent chocolate deserts, especially chocolate truffle pies. I used to make chocolate raspberry, chocolate mint and regular chocolate truffles pies. However, some of the flavorings I used to use aren’t available anymore. So when I make chocolate truffle pie, it’s usually straight up chocolate. I used to use Marie Callender’s chocolate pie crust for it. It was the best, but I haven’t seen it anywhere in years. So I switched to Oreo chocolate pie shells. But usually I can only find them at WalMart, only this time of year. They’re getting harder and harder to find anymore. Don’t know why.
And I often make a lime and cumin seasoned salad that is most definitely a Texas dish.
Some of my most favorite main courses at our Thanksgivings have been John’s handiwork. John’s smoked haunch of venison is amazing. And then there’s his creature feature we called deerdoveon. Think turducken, but it’s deer/dove/bacon. He’s king of the grill.
My sister-in-law is also an amazing kitchen magician. She’ll make savory vegetables, often she does the turkey (sometimes John smokes a turkey), cauli-taters and there’s never any telling what creative thing she’ll try next. Usually when it comes to sides, we all get a bit creative and try to think of something we’d like to try and bring for everyone to enjoy.
To me, Thanksgiving has always been about family coming together. We rarely watch football or do the other things that it seems so many families do. Instead, we come together for a bit to celebrate with our taste buds, and to commune. We go around the table and we talk about what we’re thankful for. Reminisce about the year. And in the end, usually we end the night with rounds of karaoke, from swing standards to rock and roll.
I’m looking forward to time together as a family. And lord knows, this year there’s so much to be thankful for.