Thanksgiving……..Southern Style………

Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner

Time for a procrastination break. I’ve been working on a project that’s due tonight and my brain is starting to cramp. My mind keeps wandering to thoughts of Thanksgiving. My mom called me yesterday to confirm what dish I would be bringing for Thanksgiving dinner at her house and I’ve been trying to decide what I’ll cook.

First, I guess I should explain how we “do” Thanksgiving dinner in my family. The first and most important thing to know is that THERE IS NO ACCEPTABLE EXCUSE FOR MISSING IT! One year I was sick with the flu. I literally had a fever of 103 and could barely lift my head. Mama called me three times while they were eating to see if I didn’t want to “just come eat a bite and then go back home”. Bless her heart. I know she just wanted to have the whole dysfunctional family together but all I wanted to do was curl up and die. Food was the last thing on my mind.

Second, our family is so big, (I only have three siblings but between spouses/significant others, kids, grand and great grandkids, aunts, uncles, friends etc. we usually have 20 – 30 people) we all contribute a dish or two (or more) to the meal rather than put the whole burden on one person (i.e. mama).

Third, this is a culinary EVENT. There is somewhat of a friendly, unspoken rivalry that goes on, mostly between my sisters and me, but when I say “event” I mean my family is slammed full of fantastic cooks. To have Thanksgiving dinner at my mama’s is to experience Southern Cooking Nirvana. We each have our favorite signature traditional dishes that we bring but we also usually bring something new. And it’s not just the women in my family who can cook…my Granddaddy Fred knew his way around a kitchen as well or better than any woman (Jeff tells me this flies in the face of all that is Holy…that Grandmas are supposed to be the ones who whip up the family favorites, but this was not the case in my family.)

Granddaddy passed away many years ago but we still have men in the family who possess his culinary skills. My brother-in-law, Donald, is a whiz on the grill. My brother, Michael, can make homemade yeast rolls that rival anyone’s grandmother. My son, Jacob, is a budding chef-in-the-making and I haven’t tasted anything yet that “Chef Jeff” has made that hasn’t rocked my taste buds (okay, maybe ONE thing…the smoked salmon jerky was not my cup of tea).

Smoked Salmon
Smoked Salmon with Chutney and Potato Cakes that turned out to be Salmon Jerky!

Mashed potatoes are my “assigned” dish to bring this year (and most years for that matter). And by mashed potatoes I mean the traditional kind…no “fancy” seasonings like garlic….just potatoes, milk, butter, salt and pepper. I haven’t decided yet what I’ll make as my second dish….maybe my “MO” cake…a layer of creamy cheesecake nestled between two layers of moist, dense devil’s food and topped with chocolate ganache frosting that tastes like fuuuuuuuudge. YUM!!! It gives me the shivers just thinking about it!  I’ll let you figure out what “MO” stands for but suffice it to say certain members of my family have declared eating it to be the most pleasurable experience they’ve ever had….so much, that they must have “multiple” pieces. I tell the faint of heart and the easily offended that we call it that because it’s so good you’ve just got to have “some mo”!

Mashed Potatoes

That’s how we do Thanksgiving on the Georgia/Florida border. How do you do it in your family?

Do you have any unusual traditions or dishes that make it uniquely your own? Or recipes that would blow my sisters’ out of the water and position me as the Culinary Queen for the next 365 days?  Is it a big family event or just you and your kids? Do you spend it alone or with friends? We’d love for you to share your favorite recipes, time-saving tips or even memories. And if, in the process, I glean some sort of knowledge that gives me a distinct advantage over the other cooks in my family…well, so be it.

Here’s wishing everyone a blessed and Happy Thanksgiving!

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Contributed by Donna Warren


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