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Is your Thanksgiving menu/setting formal/informal, traditional/contemporary, family/friends?

JayVaBeach Oct 24, 2007 04:09 PM

We have a grown up setting, which through the years has become more formal than when we were children at our family shore home. We serve turkey with spinach gratin and smashed sweet potatoes with orange. We don't do stuffing - that's done the old-fashioned way with oysters at Christmas. People have more fun if they don't eat so much they have to be taken home on a stretcher. We serve no hors d'oeuvres - only cashews and Veuve Clicquot mixing one teaspoon of cassis per glass of Champagne and serve them in my "Provence" glasses from Baccarat - it's sort of formal; however, it's amongst family & close friends.

  1. pikawicca Oct 24, 2007 04:38 PM

    I use the good china and silver, but the meal is pretty informal. I agree on not killing guests with more food than they would eat in a typical week. Do raw veggies with a light dip as an appetizer. Turkey, stuffing (no oysters, thank you very much), mashed potatoes, homemade cranberry sauce, a couple of green veggies (not loaded with heavy sauces), pumpkin pie or pumpkin cheesecake. This is supposed to be an abundant meal to celebrate the harvest, but I don't want to serve up a home-cooked version of "Super-size Me!"

    1 Reply
    1. re: pikawicca
      JayVaBeach Oct 24, 2007 06:01 PM

      It's fun using the "good stuff" for a change. Our group is 10 (small enough to be formal, yet large enough to mix & match), so we mix & match with my late grandmother's vintage Wedgwood collections. Each place setting is complete, yet the setting next to it is a totally different pattern. The sterling is old, yet restored Hotel silver from a collection my Mother started many years ago visiting vintage hotel auctions. So we're formal, yet vintage - it's fun & causes great conversations.

    2. Judy Loves Entertaining Oct 24, 2007 04:49 PM

      It is a very casual affair. We invite anyone who is without family around. Or that work for our local Soup Kitchen. I do pull out the good china and cutlery but we have it outside around the pool! We have plenty of the traditional dishes as well as Deep Fried Turkey and oyster dressing (truly southern!) We so this meal for about 20 + people every year!

      2 Replies
      1. re: Judy Loves Entertaining
        JayVaBeach Oct 24, 2007 06:04 PM

        I think that's great Judy - inviting any & all who have family elsewhere. We do the same thing at Christmas. It seems these days that folks travel to family for Thanksgiving, but stay put at Christmas - we host a huge open house/buffet on Christmas for "any & all" - I love the holidays!

        1. re: JayVaBeach
          PDeveaux Nov 4, 2007 11:02 AM

          That's interesting because we invite people who don't have any family for Thanksgiving and everybody sticks with just family at Christmas. I think it's because of the gift dilemma you run into at Christmas.

      2. JungMann Oct 25, 2007 08:44 AM

        We serve "fiesta food," that is to say labor-intensive food that is nicer than what we normally eat with much more attention paid to presentation. The foods range from modern takes on traditional Thanksgivingania and traditional Asian foods to gourmet hors d'oeuvres before the meal. But we avoid stuffiness as we eat buffet style, in large part because there's so much food that not only is the entire table filled, but also the side board and even the radiator casing.
        Typical menu:
        Lumpiang shanghai
        Crabcakes
        Croquetas
        Crab rangoon

        Prosciutto-hazelnut turkey
        Sweet potato puree with pecan crunch
        Italian sausage-parmesan stuffing
        Mashed potatoes
        Roast squash
        Green beans and eggplant
        7-Layer Salad
        Chicken and crab gumbo
        Pancit bihon
        Rice
        Gravy and cranberry-ginger compote

        Flan
        Buttermilk pie
        Pumpkin pie
        Fruit tart

        1. OysterHo Oct 25, 2007 09:00 AM

          In the past it's been pretty traditional, but informal. For years my mom then my sister would put out the good china and silver. If there were too many people for that, she'd try to dress up paper plates. No one really minded though. The food was plentiful and traditional.

          This year my SO and I are having it and we really can't seat that many people at a table, so it's going to be VERY casual and VERY informal (assuming everyone shows up). We're also holding it earlier than I'm accustomed to, but I don't mind that either. I like being able to veg out late in the day without having to worry about cleaning up well into the wee hours of the night.

          We will definitely serve some sparkling wine and regular wine before and during dinner. All our food will be traditional and I'm quite sure there will be too much as my SO likes cooking for armies. ;)

          At this point we've decided to have: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce, apple pie, my mom's jello mold and god only knows what else we'll "need" to add in because it won't be enough food. ;)

          2 Replies
          1. re: OysterHo
            JayVaBeach Oct 25, 2007 03:38 PM

            OysterHo - you must do the famous Virginian Oyster Stuffing from The Williamsburg Inn...it's a family tradition at Christmastime; however, we've done it plenty of times at Thanksgiving for a super test run (it goes along with your Chow name too) <grin>

            * 1 1/2 c. onion, chopped or 1 T. onion powder * 1 1/2 c. celery, chopped
            * 2 T. parsley, chopped or pulled apart * 1 t. salt
            * 1 t. pepper * 2 T. poultry seasoning
            * 16 c. stale bread, cubed and lightly toasted (can use cornbread)
            * 1 quart cold water oysters * Melt butter in large skillet.
            * Add onion, celery, and parsley & saute until tender. Do not brown.
            * Add salt, pepper, & poultry seasoning. * Cook over low heat, stirring for 2 minutes.
            * Place bread cubes in large bowl.
            * Add vegetables and stir. * Reserving the liquor, drain oysters through a sieve.
            * Chop oysters coarsely. Add to the mixture. * Toss and stir with chopstick.
            * Add a little of the oyster liquor if dressing is too dry. * Taste for seasoning.
            * Stuff & truss turkey. * Place leftover stuffing in a buttered casserole.
            * Bake in oven with the turkey for the last 30 minutes of roasting time.

            1. re: JayVaBeach
              OysterHo Oct 26, 2007 06:17 PM

              That sounds wonderful! :D

              Shhhh, keep it on the down low - I snuck some oysters into some stuffing one year (probably for Christmas). Nobody knew *snort*

          2. a
            AGM_Cape_Cod Oct 25, 2007 10:02 AM

            We are the same sort of formal/informal. The table is set with the turkey plates my mother (at 82 still hosting) has used for years and linen but with 23 people the table goes from one room through french doors into another. My mother complains that she is allowed to add things to the menu but not remove anything. We are going to make our own breakfast sausages for the sausage and chestnut stuffing. Two turkeys, a vegetarian stuffing for those who don't eat meat or pork, sweet potatoes, brussel sprouts, turnips, green vegetable, assorted cranberry products, pies-apple, pecan, pumpkin and lemon meringue. Champagne to start with crudite and dip. This meal is just to stretch the stomach for the following evening when we have a homemade chinese feast. As my cousin's son said Thanksgiving is just pre-Chinese.

            2 Replies
            1. re: AGM_Cape_Cod
              j
              Jeters Oct 25, 2007 12:16 PM

              Thanksgiving has always been a competition for my mom's side of the family. My grandpa, uncle and my mom all love to cook, so thanksgiving dinner usually looks like this:

              Grandpa's turkey (usually smoked)
              Mom's turkey (roasted)
              Grandpa's dressing (always something different, last year it was oyster)
              Mom's dressing (traditional)
              Uncles dressing, usually fruited- last year it was something with figs
              Sweet potatoes
              Mashed potatoes/ Au gratin
              Whatever I make (last year it was a wild rice dish)
              green bean casserole
              grandma's jello salad that we are all afraid of because it has celery in it
              homemade cranberry relish
              rolls and butter
              LOTS of pies, etc.

              In the last couple of years, we have started having a second 'thanksgiving' the next day just so that my uncle can also make a turkey.
              Yeah it's nuts.

              1. re: AGM_Cape_Cod
                JayVaBeach Oct 25, 2007 03:24 PM

                AGM - that sounds wonderful & I like the post asian idea - yumyum !

              2. jillp Oct 25, 2007 05:40 PM

                We have both.

                On Thanksgiving Day we'll go to my step-mother-in-law's house. It will be fairly formal but with little bits of food - she's 89 and doesn't eat a great deal.

                On the Saturday after Thanksgiving we will have a family get-together where everyone will be in blue jeans (except my mother) and it'll be very relaxed. There will be lots of food, but no turkey - the sister who hosts that get-together is not a fan of the Meleagris family. That means that the following weekend Jackp and I will probably have yet another meal that involves (at long last) an entire turkey. It won't be formal, either, but it will involve bone china, sterling silver and crystal. since my attitude is that if you have them, you should use them. But you can still eat with your shoes off.

                1 Reply
                1. re: jillp
                  JayVaBeach Oct 26, 2007 05:30 PM

                  I love Jill - I'm born & reared on the shore - I love being barefoot - love Barefoot Contessa too for that matter.

                2. mrbunsrocks Oct 25, 2007 06:31 PM

                  Pretty traditional. I add a few small twists, but in my family, messing with tradition is akin to sacrilege. hehe.

                  You can read about it here: http://definitelynotmartha.blogspot.c...

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: mrbunsrocks
                    revsharkie Oct 27, 2007 04:29 AM

                    I know about that "messing with tradition"...one year my uncles decided my grandma didn't need to cook all that stuff anymore, so they had everyone down for Thanksgiving at their house in Tulsa. I don't remember what they had, but it wasn't turkey & dressing, mashed potates and corn, although it was very good. Afterward my dad (who, by the way, hates turkey) asked my mom, "Why didn't we have any Thanksgiving food?"

                    My mom got a very similar response once years ago when she and my uncle Bob got their heads together and decided to do a different Christmas dinner. They served boeuf Borguignon, various fancy side dishes, and a dessert involving ice cream and rum. I am Not Making This Up: I am the only person in my family who actually remembers this Christmas dinner. Everyone else has blocked it from their memory entirely. At the time it went over like a lead balloon.

                    1. re: revsharkie
                      pikawicca Nov 19, 2007 03:51 PM

                      In our house, Thanksgiving dinner is sacrosanct, but Christmas dinner is up for grabs: Could be roast beef, leg of lamb, lobster, anything but turkey redux.

                      1. re: pikawicca
                        revsharkie Nov 21, 2007 07:18 PM

                        We've gotten a great deal more relaxed about Christmas dinner the last few years. My cousin is a chef, and he's taken over cooking Christmas dinner. It's something different every year, and we've begun to have fun with that, wondering just what he'll make this time. Previously it was turkey for Thanksgiving and again for Christmas--which might be a good thing in families where turkey and dressing are only available at that time, but my dad's cafeteria served turkey and dressing every Sunday all year round, and that's what I usually had when we'd go there after church. We should have been able to appreciate something different at the holiday meals, but no...the most anyone could get away with was making ham IN ADDITION TO the turkey.

                  2. f
                    foodandscience Oct 25, 2007 08:31 PM

                    I'm originally from Wisconsin but I've been in LA since I came here for undergrad. It was always too close to finals to fly home for Thanksgiving so we started a tradition our senior year of college to get all our friends together for Thanksgiving who couldn't make it home. My best friend and I have continued this tradition for 7 years, having the holiday at either of our homes.
                    We consider ourselves foodies but some traditions can't be messed with. We make my grammy's cranberries (with Grand Marnier!) and my best friend's mom's dressing made with half biscuits/half cornbread. His mom is from Alabama so they have very southern, traditional stuff at home. We also try various turkeys. Brining it seemed to make it our best yet.
                    Embarrasing side note: last year we bought a turkey breast from Whole Foods, pre-ordered. When my friend went to pick it up, it was 110 dollars. The world's most expensive turkey. My family from the Midwest was aghast, and said every time someone would take a bite, I'd think of of it as 5 more dollars eaten!
                    Traditional sides: Glazed Carrots, Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Dressing, Green Beans, Cranberries, Homemade Gravy, our guest bring dessert. The rest we make just the two of us. Its all part of the experience.
                    We love it because we get all of our friends who can't make it home together. We remember our families we can't be with and celebrate good friendships. We've taught ourselves how to do make all this over the years. Plus lots of good wine we've picked on various wine tasting excursions. I love this tradition; wouldn't trade it for the world.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: foodandscience
                      JayVaBeach Oct 26, 2007 05:40 PM

                      Food&Science - what a fun story - I can relate to your freind's extravagant Turkey from Whole Foods. One year I hosted a Christmas supper & "pre-ordered" a beef tenderloin from Dean & Deluca for 8 - it's still referred to as the "fanciful filet" - many 8's later, it was full-flavored to say the least!

                    2. cayjohan Oct 25, 2007 10:15 PM

                      The prep of the meal is fairly informal - that's when all the laughter and hijinks occur. I am the Thanksgiving-go-to-gal in my family, so I can steer it. Somewhat. There would be an insurrection if I varied the menu, so I don't. There are other days for improvisation.

                      We eight (immediate family) sit down to a formal meal after all the hijinks. Well-set table, centerpiece, candlelight and toasts. We have a raucous good time prepping, and a happy salute to one another as we commence on the feast. The meal is a lovely time for memories of the year past. Even the youngest member is able to participate, although we have to remind her what formality is, from time to time. :-)

                      Our menu is not that interesting as far as "new" foods go - we do tend to cleave to classic and rather American foods in homage to the holiday.

                      Roast turkey (we roast it on the Weber now so I have room for everything else)
                      Buttermilk mashed potatoes
                      Roasted sweet potatoes with maple syrup
                      Standard stuffing (outside of the bird, as we make a lot) with lots of onion, celery and fresh sage
                      Cranberry sauce
                      Scalloped corn
                      Green salad with vinaigrette (preferably with seasonal apple cider)
                      Pumpkin pie

                      We always make a LOT of food, not for gluttony's sake, but to send off with College Boy and my Widowed Dad. Well, and for the weekend fridge-cruisingas well.

                      My kids refuse to let me change a thing about Thanksgiving dinner. While in other things I bridle at their stridency, in this I can see some sense. It's nice to have the same meal, with the same people, over a lovely table stting, every November.

                      Happy planning, and Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

                      1. ccbweb Oct 26, 2007 09:35 AM

                        Our thanksgiving menu is mostly etched in stone.

                        Shrimp cocktail to start...while the prep and such is still going on
                        Champagne and martinis
                        Beaujolais Nouveau (new but once a year)

                        Turkey (in recent years, organic, free range, and fresh) brined and roasted (get this) in an oven bag. I'm all about the gravy and am willing to sacrifice the crisp skin for amazing gravy...the bag helps accomplish this. Seasoned with salt, pepper and sage. Some aromatics in the main cavity and stuffing in the neck cavity only (whoever keeps the chef's glass full gets a reward).
                        Mashed potatoes (plain old)
                        Peas and pearl onions in cream sauce
                        Yeast rolls with whipped butter
                        Sweet potatoes sliced thick then baked with bourbon and butter topped with brown sugar
                        Dressing with oysters (some with celery and some without)
                        Tons of gravy with sage....I have been known to roast the smallest turkey I can find earlier in the week, pull all of the meat off and freeze it, then make a long simmered stock so I can have a serious head start on the gravy. Defat that stock, save the fat, use that to build the roux for the gravy.
                        Pecan, Apple and Pumpkin pies with whipped cream and vanilla ice cream available
                        Canned cranberry sauce, sliced along the indentions from the can
                        Cranberry relish with orange and onion

                        As for who comes....pretty much anyone. We always sit around a table (or two, or three...) and basic table manners are expected but the eating itself isn't formal and only a few people dress for dinner at all to speak of. We basically try for really good food and really relaxed times. We eat dinner at half time of the first game, do the major dishes between the games and eat dessert at half time of the second game with a final cleanup after the second game.

                        1. j
                          Janet Oct 26, 2007 10:55 AM

                          Thanksgiving is the only meal we do traditional. Linens, crystal, china, sliver always. We have our son and his wife and others who have no family in the area. Some years there are 4 of us, some years 12 or 14. The meal is always a blowout feast.

                          appetizers are stuffed celery, olives, and maybe some nuts

                          We serve a roasted turkey, sometimes also fried turkey, giblet gravy, country ham, soft dressing, hard dressing,sometimes even oyster dressing, homemade rolls, cranberry salad, cranberry relish, corn pudding, green beans, mashed potatoes, asparagus cassorole,spoon bread, pumpkin pie, chess pie, and pecan pie. Yes way too much food, but there is something for the picky eaters, the gluttens, and varying ideas of traditional food. And no one is forced to eat it all.

                          1. s
                            swsidejim Oct 26, 2007 11:10 AM

                            Informal, family only.

                            Typical offerings are roasted turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, green bean casserole, cranberry relish, and pumpkin pies. I may break out a Turducken this year as a surprise.

                            Thanksgiving for us is a chance to gather with the family, eat alot, drink alot, and watch alot of football enjoying the company of family we see often, and others we dont see quite as often.

                            1. rockandroller1 Oct 26, 2007 11:28 AM

                              Our regular eating style is WAYYY informal. For Thanksgiving, I would say it is slightly more formal for us, which would still be way informal for most people. For example, we will try to have all matching plates, glasses, etc. We will use a tablecloth and eat at the table instead of in front of the TV. We buy nicer wine and try to use nice serving dishes instead of "buffet" style, which is what we usually do - take from different plates or pans on the stove and put it right onto your plate. So for us, it's more like formal, but still informal. I don't have fancy china or linens or silver or anything, I never got any of that stuff for my wedding so there's nothing really to switch to. But the fact that we have apps, mains and dessert and eat at the table with a tablecloth (and likely some small centerpiece) makes it formal for us.

                              1. ArikaDawn Oct 26, 2007 01:51 PM

                                My family's Thanksgiving is very informal and has not changed much since I was a little girl. There are typically about 20 of us, all immediate family, and it takes place at the home of my Grandparents. We always have about double the food we need, but this provides enough leftovers for 5 different households which is nice because the last thing you want to do the day after preparing a feast is cook some more.
                                The things we always have are:
                                Turkey (roasted)
                                Turkey (fried)
                                Rolls
                                Cranberry Relish
                                Chicken and Dumplings
                                Green Bean Casserole
                                Broccoli and Rice Casserole
                                Squash Casserole
                                Mashed Potatoes and Gravy
                                Sweet Potatoes with Marshmallows of course
                                Corn
                                PotatoSalad
                                Sliced Tomato and Onion(present at every family meal for some reason)

                                Then for dessert
                                Fruit Salad
                                Pumpkin Pie
                                Chocolate Pie
                                Pecan Pie
                                Chocolate Pecan Pie
                                Banana Pudding Pie
                                Coconut Cream Pie
                                Cheesecake (my uncle tries a new one every year)
                                Chocolate mayonnaise Cake (no one ever touches it)
                                and of course plenty of Cool Whip, haha, this is IN we're talking about.

                                Sadly, this is the first year I will not be making it home, the first time ANYONE will be missing it in fact, so I suppose the feast will just have to go on without me =(.

                                1. Cookiefiend Oct 26, 2007 02:53 PM

                                  Ours is fairly formal in that we do use the china, crystal and silver, we eat in the dining room with a table cloth, candles and a centerpiece. Fairly informal in that the appetizers are in the kitchen and everyone is there drinking champagne and laughing. What is it about champagne loosening everyone up?

                                  Mr CF will spend inordinate amounts of time deciding which wine to drink and will bring up (probably) 4 or 5 bottles - a Cab, a Pinot Noir, a Bordeaux, a Burgundy and something in case something is corked or he doesn't like it.

                                  This year we have a Mr CF's sister and BIL from Florida coming and so there are more of us than usual, we are usually 13-14 people, this year we'll be 16. It will be tight at the table!

                                  Appetizers are simple - almonds, a hard cheese (probably an aged Gouda) and olives.

                                  Our dinner is very traditional, it's the same dinner I've served for 19 years. Mr CF's grandmother taught me how to make it and I really think there would be a mini riot if I changed anything. My boys would have a fit, I've already heard about it.

                                  Roasted turkey - and I also use the oven roasting bag so we have lots of drippings for the gravy. Gravy is the one thing (besides wine deciding) Mr CF does on Thanksgiving Day.
                                  Mashed potatoes with lots and lots of butter and cream
                                  Green beans with onions and ham hock
                                  Stuffing - baked in a pan. I used to make it in the turkey but it seems that everyone likes it to be a bit dryer and everyone loves the edges - plus you can add gravy! Our stuffing has onion. celery, chicken, and sage. I make the broth for this on Monday and shred the chicken for it.
                                  Cranberry relish, traditional with cranberries, oranges and a ton of sugar.
                                  Candied sweet potatoes with marshmallows - thank you very much - roasted on the top
                                  Homemade crescent rolls

                                  For dessert we have several pumpkin pies - I make 2 and my MIL makes 2. She also makes a coconut cream pie and a butterscotch pie. I make a bourbon pecan pie as well and my SIL will bring cookies.

                                  It's a lot of food but we'll send some home with everyone.

                                  I've really enjoyed reading everyone's post so far. It's so wonderful (to me) that everyone's Thanksgiving dinner is so traditional. Every year I read in magazines so many recipes for Thanksgiving that are different/trendy - and I think they sound great, truly - but I'd never make them for the big day.

                                  Arikadawn - Cool Whip is okay in my house too. ;-)

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: Cookiefiend
                                    b
                                    brendastarlet Oct 26, 2007 05:36 PM

                                    Our family is blended -- we all meet at my brother's and as many relatives from either side of their families who are in town are there. It's generally about seven grown ups and half a dozen children (although my nephews are now teens.)

                                    They are vegetarians so my sister in law's brother makes the turkey, and does a fine job.

                                    We have many vegetable dishes. My mother always makes fruit salad. I bring a butter turkey. My brother and his wife make two kinds of pie -- generally pecan and pumpkin. There's usually champagne or white wine.

                                    Afterwards, we play cards and eat Chex Mix.

                                    1. re: Cookiefiend
                                      JayVaBeach Oct 26, 2007 05:49 PM

                                      Probably because Champagne (Veuve Clicquot &/or Bollinger) is not indulged often, so our reaction is a bubbly surprise. I will say that the reaction of Bolli-Stoli is even more of a surprise. Mix a little Stoli (unflavored Vodka) & Bollinger Champagne & voila - have a little fun this Thanksgiving !

                                      By-the-way, I love Coconut Cream Pie - your MIL must be delectable <grin>.

                                      1. re: JayVaBeach
                                        Cookiefiend Oct 27, 2007 08:00 AM

                                        A Bolli-Stoli.... we'd probably never make it to the table!

                                        We'd just grab the plates from the table, serve from the pots and pans and dig in - actually might be fun.

                                        Tho the next day might not be... hee hee!

                                        My MIL actually only makes that pie once a year. There's only a few of us who love coconut and one of them is her youngest grandson whose birthday is a few days later. We throw his birthday party into the Thanksgiving celebration.

                                        It is pretty delectable!

                                        1. re: Cookiefiend
                                          JayVaBeach Oct 27, 2007 09:27 AM

                                          That's nice & I know we coconut connoisseurs are few & far between. My best friend who briefly worked for Ina Garten (yes - "The Contessa") makes Ina's Coconut Cream Cupcake recipe every March 7th for my b-day. They're extraordinary - the recipe is Ina's original 1st book, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook 1999 - her best book published !

                                    2. revsharkie Oct 27, 2007 04:36 AM

                                      It's pretty much just Mike and me for Thanksgiving. We go to my relatives' for Christmas, but for just the one day that's too much (seven hours away, and Mike often has to work Friday, and I always have to work Sunday). We cook a turkey of our own and enjoy the solitude. We usually eat off the regular dishes but use serving pieces instead of just right out of the pots and pans off the stove. We don't do the full spread; I require dressing and cranberry sauce, but we don't generally have mashed potatoes. We generally have one or two vegetables, too, and sometimes I also make some kind of bread. One of those vegetables is always my aunt Edna's escalloped asparagus, which has so much goo in it that it pretty much cancels any nutritional value the asparagus might have had (probably minimal, anyway, since it's made with canned asparagus).

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: revsharkie
                                        Cheflambo Oct 27, 2007 10:55 AM

                                        Oh, you people are killing me! I would give anything to participate in any of these traditional or non-traditional feasts. I was raised on these, with Thanksgiving being our favorite time to bring out the good china, crystal and silver. We even had a nice outfit to wear, and the TV and football were turned off during the meal. Everything was made from scratch, that day -- pies, stuffing in the bird, real potatoes, fresh vegetables. The turkey was always too big and cooked too long (I was an adult before I knew was moist turkey breast tasted like) but the green jello w/pineapple squares made up for it. I can still see mom toasting all the bread in the oven for the stuffing, and my sister and I were tasked with breaking it into chunks until we were old enough to handing the pie dough (apple AND pumpkin) and raised bread for biscuits. Just before we sat down to eat, the bowl and beaters for the whipped cream were stowed in the freezer.

                                        Now I fly to another state for Thanksgiving with the in-laws, and I am not even allowed near the kitchen. Sad, because they'd have a MUCH better meal if they let me cook. The stuffing is boring and cooked outside the bird. Sides come out of cans and boxes, with no imagination (that's right - the green bean-mushroom soup - crispy onion casserole). Iceberg lettuce is salad, which does not come out until I stand around and insist on "something green". We eat on plastic plates with plastic utensils at a long table (paper tablecloth of course) on the patio, then the hostess washed the plates and cutlery (would I make this up?) and puts them all away for next year. The pies come from Publix. Whipped cream from a spray can. We usually stay through Sunday, but this is the only meal our hostess cooks for us, although we are all welcome to nosh through the fridge. Otherwise, we eat in restaurants the rest of the time. (I'ver offered to prepare meals with the leftovers or grill a few steaks Id be happy to buy for everyone, but Im always turned down). It should also be noted that our host and hostess have a LOT of fine china, crystal, linens and silverware (it has been brought out, admired and stashed away on more than one visit) but I guess she's afraid someone will drop a plate on the patio and break something.

                                        I would dearly love to prepare my own Thanksgiving dinner, even if it were just the two of us. The first T-day I spent with my (late) foodie husband we decided to thumb our noses at tradition and had a gorgeous standing rib roast, asparagus w. hollandaise, and lemon cheesecake. Im aching to try a brined turkey, so Mr. Cheflambo and I may just be doing that for Christmas this year.

                                        1. re: Cheflambo
                                          MMRuth Oct 27, 2007 11:07 AM

                                          How very sad - painful almost! Does everyone have a good time at least? Do you have to go there every year? I hate travelling over Thanksgiving - the airports are such a mess - could you develop such a hatred? Perhaps a newfound phobia?

                                          We usually stay in New York and have Thanksgiving with friends, which is what we're doing this year - I'll make tarte tatin, cranberry relish with candied ginger and toasted almonds - don't know what else yet since it's not 100% that we'll do it at our friends (our apt. is too small) rather than going out to a restaurant (which I prefer not to do). Actually - maybe I should invite them to our place, now that I think about it - though then their kids can't play on their video games etc.! Anyway, it's not a formal affair per se - but the good china and silver are used and we do dress up a bit - not jacket and tie, but not jeans.

                                          [OMG - I just reread this and saw the thing about washing the PLASTIC cutlery.]

                                          1. re: MMRuth
                                            Cheflambo Oct 27, 2007 12:06 PM

                                            Oh, MMR - if ONLY any of those excuses worked! Everyone does seem to have a good time, enhanced by excessive liquor consumption. I do, indeed, dislike the airport aspect of this trip too, but this is Mr. Cheflambo's family in Miami, and since they are Jewish, the annual family reunion is at T-day, rather than Christmas. We must go. Last year I insisted we fly over a few days early ( no need to join the ugly hords on Black Wednesday), and drive to Key West - it was a wonderful excusion, and the best food was along the way. One year we flew to Tampa and DROVE with BIL and SIL to Miami - I attempted to beg off, citing a penchant for car sickness. We went anyway, and I was provided with Dramamine and a 4-hour discourse from SIL on how to avoid puking, We have also (in the past) optioned to stay at a hotel rather than with the rellies (for a couple of years they had live-in elderly parents occupying the guest rooms) which helped a bit. I was SO sorry to hear that Grandma had passed away (for selfish reasons too, obviously!) And yes, they do wash the plastic forks and plates. Everyone I tell this to is flabbergasted. I was, too, the first time I saw it. Our host and hostess (Mr. Cheflambo's cousin and his wife) are wonderful people and I love them dearly. so the occasional cut on my tongue with a plastic spoon is a small price to pay for Mr. C. to have some quality time with his family and only sibling. He sure puts up with enough of mine.

                                          2. re: Cheflambo
                                            OysterHo Oct 27, 2007 01:06 PM

                                            "Sides come out of cans and boxes, with no imagination (that's right - the green bean-mushroom soup - crispy onion casserole)."

                                            I'm so offended ;) because I think the green bean casserole is one of my favorite parts. For years we had it. Then suddenly it was gone and it its place were steamed veggies right out of the frozen box and overly cooked too. WTH were they thinking???

                                            One year my SIL, who can't cook if her life depended on it, was delegated the veggies. She made these overly done teriyaki stir fry snow peas. Yuck. Needless to say she was no longer delegated to any cooking tasks in the future dinners.

                                            Our family has taken what used to be a carefully thought out and lovingly cooked tradition and made it into a "let's make this as easy as possible and delegate everything but the bird which we'll buy at Publix evening and get everyone out the door by 9:00" affair. Sad but true.

                                            This is why my SO and I are doing it this year. And while we are still opting for the green bean casserole ala Durkee and Campbells, we are making everything else from scratch and looking forward to it.

                                            Oh, we'll probably have to use plastic, but I refuse to wash and reuse - no way! That was hysterical, btw. :D

                                            1. re: Cheflambo
                                              revsharkie Oct 28, 2007 05:20 PM

                                              That sounds like the one and only Thanksgiving I spent with my ex-inlaws. My ex-MIL was not much of a cook, but she was going to do it. Her son-in-law's mother was a baker by trade, so she brought the pies, but none of these beige suburbanites knew what to do with them other than throw cool whip at them. I absolutely insisted on making cranberry sauce, even though they all looked at me like I'd just arrived in a flying saucer.

                                              The piece de resistance at that dinner was the dressing. My ex-MIL made it from those dried bread cubes, and she didn't moisten them anywhere near enough. It ended up a burnt-crouton-and-celery mixture that would have been inedible--BUT for that cranberry sauce. A nice 1:1 ratio of cranberries to croutons and it was edible.

                                              The one salvation for the whole thing was that she knew she had wiffed the dressing, and she knew why. But I wasn't around for the next Thanksgiving.

                                          3. t
                                            tart1 Oct 28, 2007 02:33 PM

                                            Informal for dress, formal for layout. I'm hosting it this year and it'll be a challenge. I only have one, two-plug outlet in the kitchen, and it's not up to code (not grounded, so my adapters ground it) - but it's doable, because I'm quite handy at knowing what needs to be done ahead etc.

                                            There'll be between 13 and 17 people this year at my house. It's been about 5 years since I've hosted. I'll be using my grandmother's china, but I haven't decided on whether it's going to be linen or cloth placemats. There will be a few things to nosh at beforehand - olives, some crax and cheese.

                                            The meal itself will include standards and variations on them. So far, the menu for the meal looks something like the following:

                                            * Turkey with stuffing (Catherine Clark stuffing with added celery, onion, and mushrooms) and enough to fill another casserole to make enough to go around.
                                            * A couple kinds of gravy
                                            * Mashed potatoes, regular, seasoned
                                            * Twiced baked mashed potatoes with cream cheese and canned onion rings
                                            * Sweet potatoes with butter and brown sugar
                                            * Hand harvested wild rice with sauteed mushrooms, onions, and celery
                                            * Broccoli
                                            * Crudites
                                            * Homemade cranberry sauce from hand harvested cranberries
                                            * Pumpkin pie
                                            * Pecan pie
                                            * Various ice creams and whipped cream
                                            * Artisanal rolls/bread

                                            There will also be a trip to a dollar store or two to pick up cheap containers to send leftovers home with people, which is why I make so much in the first place - leftovers!

                                            Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year - both food and company-wise. There are NO EXPECTATIONS from anyone, other than some good food (easy to provide) and good company.

                                            1. jnstarla Oct 28, 2007 05:18 PM

                                              For actual Thanksgiving in November, there are three (yes, three - both of our families are here in town) meals. At my mom's, it's a pretty laid back affair of about 8 people, and there is roasted turkey breast, that green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, and cornbread stuffing. Pretty standard. My grandmother hosts an all-day potluck open-house style thing, so god knows what the food will be there... we usually stop there last and just have some munchies and beer. Either the weekend before or after, my husband's extended family hosts thanksgiving. They go all out with wine and trying new recipes to "rework" the traditional stuff.

                                              In February, we host "Friend Thanksgiving" at our house and having about 20 people. It started out being before actual Thanksgiving, but it kept getting moved back because of various people's family plans. So eventually we just said "screw it" and had it in February, because everyone hates February. This is our day to experiment with new twists on the traditional recipes, and there is always a ton of wine and booze. Last year there was Guinness ice cream for the caramel apple pie my friend made. Afterwards, a big slumber party, so no one drives when they are in an improper state. And so we can have breakfast together in the morning!

                                              1. PDeveaux Nov 4, 2007 10:52 AM

                                                Our is traditional southern with turkey, dressing baked in a pan on the side as opposed to stuffed in the turkey, pole beans cooked with pork fat, pretzel salad and one of several different broccoli or squash casseroles with lots of canned soup, sour cream, bread crumbs, etc. We must have sweet potato souffle and at least 2 kinds of pie - one of which must be lemon meringue for Daddy and either peanut butter pie, sweet potato pie or pumpkin. This requires huge tubs of Cool Whip.
                                                We never eat dessert immediately after the meal. We always clear off the food and talk for awhile before serving the coffee and pies.
                                                Then everybody watches football, takes a walk or a nap until it's time to make turkey sandwiches and warm up all the leftovers. Best turkey sandwich is on good, sturdy white bread, real mayonnaise and the breast meat. We'll ususally have iced tea or water with the meal and some of us will have a glass of wine.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: PDeveaux
                                                  e
                                                  Elizzie Nov 4, 2007 03:42 PM

                                                  what is pretzel salad? sounds delicious!

                                                  1. re: Elizzie
                                                    PDeveaux Jan 5, 2008 08:42 PM

                                                    Sorry it took me so long to get back here. Pretzel salad is a layered dish that starts with crushed pretzels and butter as the bottom crust. Then strawberries are put on top of that and then cream cheese and sugar. You just keep layering ending with the strawberries on top. My brother-in-law doesn't think it's Thanksgiving unless we have that.

                                                2. e
                                                  Elizzie Nov 4, 2007 03:51 PM

                                                  After a few too many unpleasant holiday meals with my husband's family, I've reclaimed Thanksgiving (which is my favorite holiday of all!). We have a table that easily seats 12 and for holidays will allow 16 to "cozy up to the table." I love a beautiful table, so I pull out all the silver (I have two grandmothers' worth), the crystal, the linens and the china. Yet it's not formal -- the friends who come have called it "casual elegance."
                                                  Proseco before, during and after plus other wine that one friend always brings (he doesn't cook) with some spiced nuts and dried/fresh fruit.
                                                  Roasted turkey
                                                  Mrs. O's famous (and always welcome) brocolli casserole (classic 50s style)
                                                  My mom's stuffing recipe
                                                  Mashed potatoes
                                                  Sweet potatoes
                                                  Green beans sauteed with garlic
                                                  Sweet pea gratin
                                                  Homemade cranberry chutney (plus the jellied and whole berry kind)
                                                  Gravy gravy gravy (I also make turkey stock in advance)
                                                  Dessert is always pie --- last year I made 8, because we always have people stop by for dessert:
                                                  Apple (two crust and crumb)
                                                  Pecan
                                                  Pumpkin
                                                  Sweet potato
                                                  Mince meat tarts (because I have a couple of people who think Thanksgiving isn't Thanksgiving without mincemeat)
                                                  Plus some chocolate covered mints
                                                  Uber traditional...

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: Elizzie
                                                    JayVaBeach Nov 15, 2007 11:08 AM

                                                    What is "classic 50's style" Broccoli Casserole?
                                                    I've been invited to a retro dinner party right after Thanksgiving weekend & thought that Mrs. O's method might do...

                                                  2. amethiste Nov 4, 2007 04:27 PM

                                                    Thanksgiving is usually a big, informal affair. Usually, there are too many people to use the real china so we use paper plates. Dinner is served buffet style and we sit wherever there is room. Everyone makes something to contribute so that no one is stuck with the whole shebang. The host usually does the turkey. Our menu is traditional if you are African American and/or from the South:

                                                    Turkey - roasted or fried. We did Turducken one year
                                                    Ham
                                                    stuffing (or not)
                                                    macaroni & cheese (Aunt Dean's recipe)
                                                    potato salad
                                                    candied yams (or candysweets or sweet potatoes...)
                                                    collard greens

                                                    on occasion we've added:
                                                    fried fish
                                                    butternut squash casserole
                                                    shrimp fried rice (Dad's family does this)
                                                    chopped pork barbecue

                                                    Desserts vary but they include sweet potato pie always. My aunt makes a great rum cake. We like sweets so there are always several desserts.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: amethiste
                                                      OysterHo Nov 5, 2007 05:25 AM

                                                      "Thanksgiving is usually a big, informal affair. Usually, there are too many people to use the real china so we use paper plates. Dinner is served buffet style and we sit wherever there is room."

                                                      This is how it's going to be at our house this year. More people rsvp'd than I expected. We'll probably end up with 20 and we only have room for 6 at our dining room table LOL. So it's the sofas, the patio, the desk chairs, the piano bench, etc...Should be interesting!

                                                    2. d
                                                      Daloris1 Nov 19, 2007 02:57 PM

                                                      Formal meals suit certain families. If you have small children and have only plans to spend the holiday without any other guest, formal meals are a great idea! But if you plan to host a decent size event(15-20 ppl) at your home, then a more informal approach is a much better idea and makes for a much better time!!!

                                                      1. s
                                                        Sherri Nov 20, 2007 12:17 PM

                                                        Your question has brought a flood of memories of Thanksgivings past .......

                                                        The short answer would have to be "All of the Above". We have gone from the very formal meal with family linens, crystal and silver through the informal with pottery plates and Picardie bistro glasses to a combination of both styles, which is where we are today. Attire accompanies the tablesetting, although the men have vetoed ties recently.

                                                        Many years ago, as a new bride with no idea about turkey timing, I put the bird in the oven the night before. My husband and I awoke to mouth-watering smells and ate our falling-off-the-bone feast, in bathrobes, before 7 AM. Another year, with my husband's parents visiting, I completely boned the turkey (to avert one of those "who is going to carve?" power struggles) and sewed six legs onto the bird for all those who wanted drumsticks. That was one strange-looking turkey.

                                                        Sometimes Thanksgiving has been family only while other years we've had our "Waifs and Strays" join us. One memorable year, when my late husband was at the US Naval Test Pilot School, we had the German student seated across from the Israeli with a mix of other nationalities scattered down our table. After a cool beginning, the two began trading stories about their parents' recollections of WWII. By dessert, we were all in tears and they were friends. I didn't even mind that they sealed their newfound camraderie by throwing the Waterford wineglasses at the fireplace. We've fed starving college students, small lonesome shopkeepers, our yardman and family (from another country without this celebration), people who are alone for whatever reason, friends and far-flung family.

                                                        When my eldest son was in High School studying German, we had a small family-only meal featuring duck and sauerkraut as part of an extra-credit project. This was not a "Do Again". Of course I have tried to vary the menu over the years and have failed miserably at every turn. It is a family of reactionaries that I've reared! Cranberry-orange relish must appear in memory of one grandfather, plain peas for another, there would be a riot without mashed potatoes and God-forbid I shouldn't serve turkey! The year of the ham is best forgotten and we cannot bear to discuss the roast beef. Turkey sandwiches in a park were OK because the menu was familiar. I could serve boar carpaccio & squid linguini for Christmas and no one would mind a bit but I've learned not to mess with T-Day.

                                                        P.S. another tradition that I keep is the Soup Supper on Wednesday night. This is quite an informal Kitchen Meal that we all love.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: Sherri
                                                          JayVaBeach Nov 20, 2007 03:53 PM

                                                          Sherri - what a nice story & I too share one of your favorite "3's" - having been reared on the Chespeake Bay (Baylake Pines in Virginia Beach), I too am particularly fond of C-Bay Oysters. I can't wait for Christmas - we do a traditional Virginian Oyster stuffing.

                                                          1. re: JayVaBeach
                                                            s
                                                            Sherri Nov 20, 2007 04:50 PM

                                                            Ten years living at mid-Chesepeake Bay (St. Marys County in So MD) and a year in your pretty VA Beach has turned this California girl into a solid East Coast oyster lover!

                                                            Thanks for your post. I've had a lovely trip remembering Thanksgivings Past and whetted my appetite for all future celebrations. Vive La Veuve! She always joins us as well.

                                                        2. g
                                                          G Mo Nov 20, 2007 01:18 PM

                                                          I am the third generation to host a Thanksgiving dinner that my Grandmother, a professional cook, started well over 50 years ago for my Mom's extended family on a farm on the Boardman River in Traverse City, Michigan. My Mom inherited the dinner after my Grandmother died, then passed the torch to me (I live in Grand Rapids, Michigan). We'll have about 30 people, all extended family. It will be fairly informal, with traditional recipes (I only have so much leeway and get a lot of points for making anything that "tastes like Gram made"). The menu: roast turkey, honey baked ham, wild mushroom stuffing, mashed potatoes (the only real "ingredient" is lumps so everyone knows the potatoes are real), gravy, cranberry cider relish, creamed spinach, roast asparagus with garlic breadcrumbs, diced brussel sprouts with bacon, grilled onions, and pecans, stewed tomatoes, creamed onions, skillet cornbread, rolls, and pumpkn bread. Others bring the dessert. Later on that evening some good friends who will spend the afternoon being told they are Godless will come over to our house for leftovers and some very, very good wine. One other tradition my wife and I started a couple years ago is to have neighbors and other friends over on Saturday night - I'll make a turkey sausage gumbo and whatever else I can figure out to make using leftovers. And beer.

                                                          Happy Thanksgiving, all.

                                                          1. Miss Needle Nov 21, 2007 08:35 AM

                                                            This year, there will be two Thanksgiving dinners -- one with my family and one with my husband's family. As my family tends to be very health-conscious, especially with my sister not eating meat and onions, garlic, ginger (Buddhist thing), it will be relatively a simple meal. I'm serving roasted brussel sprouts, quinoa pilaf with roasted butternut squash, roasted beet and goat cheese salad and lamb shanks (defatted) for the meat eaters and fruit for dessert. At my husband's family, it will be pot-luck mish-mash dinner. There will be crab and chicken prepared Chinese style, mushroom noodle casserole, spinach casserole prepared Greek style and brownies.

                                                            1. j
                                                              jujuthomas Nov 22, 2007 06:53 AM

                                                              We're fairly informal... always. But the in-laws are coming today for the first time in a long time, and I'm going to get out the good dishes and put a pretty tablecloth on. I love to set a pretty table. But I'm most always in jeans, and usually barefoot, so there you go. :)
                                                              We're having carrot soup for app, turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, rutebaga casserole, wax beans, salad and apple pie. small amounts, its just the 4 of us, and everything is low-fat/cal for our weight watchers and sugar free for FIL's diabetes. I made most of the sides, the app and the pie last night so I can relax more today - just make sure to get things in the oven to reheat on time!

                                                              Saturday is our big feast with my family - 30 or so in all - at the church next to my grandmother's... there will probably be about 8 pies. We are taking a smoked turkey shepard's pie that I think is an Emeril recipe - tweaked of course. ;-) I'll spend tomorrow cooking with my mother. I can't wait!
                                                              I hope you all have a wonderful day!

                                                              1. g
                                                                garfish Dec 30, 2007 01:39 PM

                                                                Aside from our family Thanksgiving one of my favorite holiday get-togethers is a group of about 30 of us from the Fish and Game Club. Two of the foodies from the group, a house painter and his wife have an old barn that serves as their home shop. They have it equipped with a double oven and an old Viking six-burner that they use mostly for canning in the Summer and Fall…all this salvaged from jobsites that he’s worked on over the years. There are also three wood burning stoves that keep the place toasty warm.

                                                                The girls start getting together about three months ahead of time to schedule and plan. We all have to schedule around our family Thanksgiving/Christmas festivities. They plan a core menu based on what we’ve liked the best in the past and anyone is welcomed to bring any comfort dish or two if they like.

                                                                The contrast between the rustic old barn and the way the table that the girls set up sparkles always amazes me. With our number they have to pool the silver, china and crystal but it always seems to work.

                                                                The day starts without breakfast about 9:00am. The wood burning stoves get stoked. Some help the property owner finish the annual cleaning of the barn while others put out a seafood table for us to nosh on while we work consisting of:

                                                                Oysters Two Ways: On the half-shell and Bloody Mary Oyster Shooters
                                                                Shrimp Two Ways: Cocktail and Baked stuffed w/ Cornbread Dressing and Country Ham
                                                                Clam and Corn Chowder
                                                                California Caviar in New Potatoes (this one surprised us…might be a keeper)
                                                                Various snacks for the kids

                                                                From there the Turkey and Country Ham go into the ovens. Some start prepping sides, some participate in trap and skeet shooting contests and some just show up with pot luck dishes. Our core menu this year was:

                                                                Brined and Roast Turkey with Giblet Gravy and Cranberry Sauce
                                                                Country Ham
                                                                Braised Red Cabbage with Apple and Bacon
                                                                Leeks Au Gratin
                                                                Brussels sprouts in Butter Sauce and Lemon Zest
                                                                Cheese Grits
                                                                Cornbread Dressing w/ Cracklings
                                                                Candied Yams

                                                                Praline topped Pumpkin Cheesecake
                                                                Pecan Pie
                                                                Walnut-Pecan Tart with Chocolate Sauce

                                                                From there is a bonfire, and into tents sent up earlier in the day…looking to a breakfast of leftovers and the drive back home.

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