Thanks(giving) for the Memories

Our typical Thanksgiving dinner

On a recent flight, my daughter sat next to an actress affiliated with a Chicago based comedy troupe. The actress needed some ideas for an upcoming Thanksgiving sketch routine and asked my daughter if she had any funny family holiday meal stories. The story my daughter shared was one my husband and I have no memory of. She insists we were there. Clearly the scene made a vivid impression on her.

She was a teenager, and we were enjoying a delicious feast with my sister’s reserved family when for no reason my daughter could fathom, my husband started talking about beef testicles – their size, texture, cultures that eat them and how they’re prepared. For you Westerners, maybe this isn’t such an unusual topic (what with your famed Rocky Mountain Oysters), but we’re Midwesterners with a strong dash of New England in us. Then again, my husband is a person of broad and varied knowledge and knows how to sound certain about things. He insists that he currently knows nothing about beef testicles in general and their culinary possibilities in particular.

I do remember a few odd Thanksgiving vignettes. In the mid-1970’s I was eager to get from Boston back home to Chicago for Thanksgiving. I saw a posting for someone looking for other Chicago-bound students looking for riders in their car. Five of us – three of us complete strangers to the others – squeezed ourselves into a Volkswagen Beetle and drove 18 hours straight, making only occasional stops. At one stop in the middle of the night I ordered a cup of chili at the all-night rest stop restaurant and spooned up a gnarly chunk of gristle that I swear was hairy. By contrast that year’s Thanksgiving meal with my family was beyond fantastic. When the weekend was over, I flew back to Boston.

When Chris and I were first married we joined our friends to make a feast. Not being totally comfortable yet with cooking and kitchens we wondered why the half and half never became whipped cream. We also learned the indelible lesson of making sure to have the lid on the blender before you puree the pumpkin soup.

One year my Chicago clan joined us in Boston for Thanksgiving dinner at Plimoth Plantation. The plantation was interesting with its period costumed interpreters who never broke character, but the meal was uninspired traditional fair served by waiters in a modern building with bland walls. More compelling was a visit to the Wampanoag Homesite where we got quite a different take on the first Thanksgiving Day.

What fond or funny Thanksgiving memories do you have? And, while we still have a little time before grocery shopping, can you share a favorite recipe?

Here are two exquisite recipes my family has nearly every Thanksgiving. (They’re recipes for flatlanders. Adjust as needed for higher altitudes.) In the picture above, the Rice Pudding is in the large yellow pot and the Praline Squash is toward the back in the orange pot.

Elegant Rice Pudding

1 c. water
1/2 c. short or medium grain white rice
1/2 vanilla bean, split (Whole Foods carries them. You can order them – and practically any other spice in the world from The Spice House.)
1/4 tsp. salt
2 c. milk
1 c (1/2 pint) heavy cream
1/2 c. sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 c. dark seedless raisins or dried sour cherries
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon boiling water

1. In 2-quart saucepan, heat water to boiling. Add rice, vanilla bean, and salt. Cook 10 minutes.

2. Add milk and cook over very low heat until rice is tender – about 10 minutes.

3. Preheat oven to 350. Lightly butter 1 1/2 quart shallow baking dish.

4. In small bowl, combine cream, sugar and eggs; fold into rice mixture along with raisins or cherries. Remove vanilla bean and pour rice mixture into buttered baking dish. Sprinkle top of mixture evenly with cinnamon.

5. Place baking dish into a large baking pan in oven. Pour boiling water into baking pan to a depth of 1 inch. Bake 30-45 minutes or until pudding is firm and top surface is golden brown. Cool to room temperature on wire rack.

Serve at room temperature or refrigerate (covered) to serve chilled.

Praline Squash

2 packages winter squash, thawed
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
a dash of pepper
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons soft butter
1/2 cup chopped pecans
• Combine 1st four items and cook over low heat until butter melted in.
• Add this mixture to the beaten eggs.
• Pour into a greased 1 quart casserole.
• In a separate dish, combine the remaining 4 ingredients and sprinkle on
the casserole.
• Bake at 350o for 30 minutes. (adjust for altitude)

You can also find my dad’s fabulous apple sausage stuffing recipe (and many other great food related essays and recipes by LDS authors) in my book Saints Well Seasoned: Musings on how food nourishes us – body heart and soul here literally for pennies! (Warning: there are typos in Camilla’s cinnamon rolls and Jan’s Red Jello.)

About Linda

(Prose Board) splits her time between the mountains of Utah and the prairies of Illinois, generally confounding the postal service. She compiles inspiring collections of LDS women talking about topics dear to (or prickly in) LDS women's hearts (visiting teaching, Relief Society, motherhood, etc.) through Cedar Fort Publishing. Her forthcoming book "Candy Canes & Christmastime: Enhancing the Holidays in the Real World" is available for pre-order on Amazon! She also writes for children ("Come with Me on Halloween"), illustrates, writes poetry, plays with fabric and can be bribed with dark chocolate.

10 thoughts on “Thanks(giving) for the Memories

  1. Growing up, my younger brothers didn’t like pie crust (or pumpkin) and would only eat out the filling of a pie piece, so my mom started making chocolate pudding (the thick, cooked with whole milk kind) for them for dessert to spare the wasted crust. Now, twenty years later, homemade chocolate pudding is an obligatory part of our Thanksgiving spread. I love how traditions like that get started!

    We also make my grandmother’s sweet potato and apple dish (slice and cook them together with a sauce made of butter, orange juice, sugar, and cinnamon) which is essential to the feast.

  2. One year my MIL forgot to put sugar in the pumpkin pies. My husband wasn’t in the house when we realized this and he loves pumpkin pie. So of course I said nothing, and let him take a big old bite of the pie. He said it tasted like some kids smashed jack-o-lantern out in the road. That was great.

    Another time, and my brother swears he didn’t do this, he cut a pie into 4 big pieces, took one piece out, and proceeded to eat the other 3/4 of the pie.

    One year we were at dinner and someone had the bright idea to mix mashed potatoes and carrots together. I was expecting some tasty sweet potatoes, and that was an unpleasant surprise.

    But the absolute worst is my husbands aunt puts noodles in her gravy. Noodles! Big old stupid egg noodles in the gravy! And she serves drinks out of washed yogurt cups. Mine had a crack in it.

  3. When I was 9 (ish) years old we had Thanksgiving with all of the cousins on my mom’s side. My oldest cousin was a notorious picky eater. But what we didn’t realize was the lengths he would go to protect his eating habits. We all sat down to dinner and began eating, only to discover that ALl of the rolls were hollow. He had tunneled up through the bottom, dug out the part he liked to eat, and then stacked them up so no one could see!

  4. I didn’t have enough time to drive home to Michigan from BYU during Thanksgiving of my Sophomore year. I didn’t feel like spending the day with relatives I barely knew so I made myself a cornish game hen, veggies, mashed potatoes and a little apple pie.

    I wore my fanciest velvet dress and ate all by myself in my apartment. It sounds a little depressing but I thought it was lovely. And no need for small talk!

  5. I had just graduated from college and had moved to a new city where I knew my boyfriend (we had to see if the long distance thing would work in the same city, plus my degree was more portable) and his family and friends. That’s it. I didn’t have enough money to go home for Thanksgiving, plus I had to work the lousy shift at an even lousier job. I was invited to my boyfriend’s family’s Thanksgiving dinner, but I had to go after work, so I ate dinner, all by myself, with him keeping me company and his grandpa staring at me the entire time I ate. The. Entire. Time. I appreciated the invite, but that was not one Thanksgiving dinner I would redo. (It worked out, by the way, even with Grandpa, and my boyfriend and I got engaged that weekend.)

  6. One year my uncle took over half of the mashed potatoes for himself. About 30 people were there to eat, and about 20 of us went without potatoes.

  7. The Thanksgivings of my youth were epic affairs with all of our local friends who also didn’t have local family coming — 20 to 30 people. Everyone had to bring the dish that “made” Thanksgiving for them. When we moved across the country, we spent our first Thanksgiving there on the phone with people 4,000 miles away getting recipes and instructions for the foods we’d been having for the past decade and so were now “must haves” at Thanksgiving.

  8. I love Thanksgving! I even invited my fil and his girlfriend to come even though our house was being remodeled and we only had 2×4’s for walls.

    The worst Thanksgiving was at my mils. All the veggies were the same baby food texture and halfway through the meal my 40 yo bil (who still lives at home) sneezed on the turkey (and it was a gross sneeze…) I was done.

    I don’t make it, but my mom always made a green jello salad with cottage cheeseand walnuts. Not as bad as it sounds, but not good enough I’ve ever wanted to make I.

    I have a recipe that sounds like Anita’s grandmas. It’s called apple yams. When I’m not in bed typing on my phone I’ll post the recipe! It’s my son’s favorite.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  9. We’ve had a string of accidents on Thanksgiving Day in our family. My 3-year old daughter ran into a sharp object right before dinner, and her forehead had a deep laceration (to the bone) that required plastic surgery. Then the next year my mother tripped while walking down the stairs in our home and broken her leg. I could go on and on…. We love the spirit of the holidays, but folks who visit on Thanksgiving are asked to be very careful and alert at our home. We want them to return home uninjured :)

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