For most people tradition dictates what they are doing for Thanksgiving Dinner and celebrations. If you are a diehard traditionalist you probably already know what you are cooking, or where you will be eating. You may be such a traditionalist that you make the same Trisha Yearwood CrockPot Mac and Cheese every year. But this might be the year to shake things up a bit and try something new.
I like to change things up a bit. Every year I try to come up with something a little different for my side dish. I have made sweet potato souffle, roasted garlic and rosemary potatoes, crock pot mac and cheese, some kind of salad, slaw, mashed potatoes, and probably a few side dishes that I either can’t or shouldn’t remember. I have used cookbooks, recipes, made things up, and even watched videos for inspiration.
This year, feeling a little stuck about what to prepare, I asked some friends what they make or do as part of their Thanksgiving traditions. Their replies did give a few new ideas. I have one friend, Cindy Morris, who goes to Jekyll Island every year for the whole week in her camper with her husband and dog. For Thanksgiving dinner they visit St. Simons Island where they eat at Barbara Jeans, and she always orders the She Crab Soup. What could be better than a week at the beach and She Crab Soup for Thanksgiving? I can imagine that the early settlers feasted on crab as well as Turkey, so why not have She Crab Soup for Thanksgiving! A quick google search and I found that you can order Barba Jean’s She Crab Soup online and they ship it to you fresh! Or, you can make your own with one of the many recipes for She Crab that can be googled up. https://barbarajeans.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/BarbaraJeans_SheCrabSoup_Handling_Instructions.pdf.
A Lowcountry Twist to the Dressing
A different friend said she and her husband always cook everything outside for Thanksgiving. Susan Bridges Smith writes, “For many years (beach house Folly or Mountain cabin Saluda, NC ) Ken’s “Pilgrim “ Thanksgiving everything is cooked on a giant grill…turkey, tenderloin, traditional dressing, oyster dressing, sweet potatoes, green beans. Family brings some sides but the kitchen oven is never turned on. Meals are always served outside under the trees.”
I love this idea! That means no messy kitchen and easy clean up when it is done. I have never had Oyster Dressing, but I have heard of it. She even shared her recipe which I may try this year. I love everything that goes in it, so I know it will be delicious! His recipe is very basic and easy, but some Oyster Dressing Recipes call for bacon, or sage.
Kens Oyster Dressing
4 sleeves of saltines crushed
4 pints of oysters drained
4 eggs with milk
1 cup Chopped celery
1 cup Chopped Onion
Chicken broth to bind it all together
Butter on top
Bake in the oven on 350 until firm. Usually about an hour.
A third friend Anita spends her day with family, and together they give back to their community. Anita said, “We help with the “Feed the 5000” at Our Daily Bread in Seneca, SC. We’re one of the delivery teams for the meals. We all pitch in with a dish or two afterwards and have a family meal then decorate my daughters yard with inflatables and lights for Christmas. It’s an all day family event.” Wow! This is a wonderful lesson for the children in the family. After all, that is what Thanksgiving is all about, being thankful. Children will learn to be thankful by helping those who might have less. I love this idea too!
My dear friend and fellow writer Angela Mason Low said, “As the elders of the family passed on, the torch was given to those that remained. Slowly the circle around the table became smaller. The emphasis of coming together to share a Thanksgiving meal happened randomly. The same recipes of Turkey, dressing, gravy, cranberry sauce, and Grandmother’s Russian salad are served when we do. I realize grandparents held this family together. Now it is my responsibility.” Thank you for reminding us that it is important to pitch in and come together for everyone. As we lose our older generation, it is important to keep close connections, and Thanksgiving is an opportunity to do just that. Angela shared her grandmother’s recipe for me to share.
Mix 2 packages of lime jello and 11/2 cups of water
*Heat over low heat till jello dissolves
*Add 8 oz. of cream cheese and stir until blended
*Remove from heat and add 10 oz. of mini marshmallows stirring until melted.
*Stir in 1/2 cup of carnation milk
*1/3 cup of Duke’s mayonnaise
*8 oz of crushed pineapple undrained
*Stir in up to a cup of chopped pecans
Pour into a glass dish and cover with saran wrap.
Refrigerate for 8 hours. Slice in squares and serve.
Shortcuts and Online Help
With the fast pace of the world today, some may struggle to pull a meal together. It is common to order meals from Ingles, Publix or some restaurants ahead of time. This can be a true time saver. Also, visiting your favorite bakery for cakes and pies can take the stress out as well. One of my favorite bakeries is Strossners in Greenville https://strossners.com/. or The Sweetery in Anderson, https://thesweetery.com/. I would recommend calling ahead to order cakes and pies, because they will be busy that week. Everything from Pumpkin Pound Cake to Pecan Pie can be found at the Strossners and The Sweetery has delicious Strawberry Cake and Chocolate Layer Cakes! If you have time, and don’t mind spending the extra money, there is a site where you can order gourmet food and bakery items. It is called Goldbelly. Check out the website here https://www.goldbelly.com/. Also, I don’t know about you, but if I am cooking these days, I am also googling up ideas when planning. Sometimes I watch videos of cooks and chefs alike to get inspired. One of my favorites is https://www.facebook.com/WyseGuide. I loved his applesauce cake a few years ago, but check out his videos that will inspire you to try something new! Kaleb is also an expert in the garden! His videos are professionally done and fast paced for busy people. Kaleb is from farm country and knows his way around the kitchen. He relies on old family recipes, but does things in a modern way.
There are times however when it isn’t possible to have the usual meal. One of those times for me was the year my father became very ill and was in the hospital on Thanksgiving Day. Our family has always had a big dinner at his farm. He would roast the Turkey and sometimes a Ham. As he got older, I would help with carving the meat. Then all the children, grandchildren and great grandchildren would pile in with the side dishes. Our Thanksgivings were always big, loud and fun. Then on that last Thanksgiving, I found myself, with just him and mom in the hospital, hoping for dinner from the cafetera. There was no service for visitors in the cafeteria that day. I will never forget trying to find a place I could run out and get the three of us Turkey and Dressing. Thankfully, Stax Omega was open and serving a Thanksgiving menu. I made it back to the hospital with our three plates of turkey, dressing, potatoes and cranberry sauce. This brightened what would have been a depressing Thanksgiving. Having that meal together is a favorite memory. It did seem to lift his spirits too.
There are lots of ways to approach Thanksgiving. Whether you stay home and fix everything from scratch and sleep it off in the afternoon watching football, or you decide to take a trip and eat She Crab Soup, Thanksgiving is a time of reflection and gratitude, so make the most of it and enjoy. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!