First I need to clarify that the mother I’m referring to throughout this article is my mother who raised me – and who now resides in a place I hope to get to someday. My birth mother is a good cook too and I mean no disrespect to her; but for this piece I am remembering (and sharing with you) my mom’s Thanksgiving Dinner.
My mother was an excellent cook – and a fabulous baker too. Mom could make anything and make it taste good. But the one meal I loved more than any other was mom’s Thanksgiving Dinner. Back then the world wasn’t so concerned with fats, calories and carbs, etc. In our house comfort food was a staple; and because most everything was made from scratch, the food mom made wasn’t unhealthy, either.
Every year for Thanksgiving my mom would prepare the tastiest feast imaginable. I want to share that fabulous meal with you. Although this isn’t a recipe article per se; I will try to include many of the ingredients and how-to as we go.
Mom’s Thanksgiving Dinner:
Turkey – Making the most perfect turkey may not always happen for one reason or another. But mom’s turkey was always perfect in every way. Maybe it was her rising at 6am Thanksgiving day to begin the slow cook; or how often she basted the bird. Whatever her secret, the turkey was always a juicy, tasty treat – even the year she was rushed to the emergency room (acute asthma) right after dinner and I ended up doing dishes with my Grandma, by hand, with a perfectly good dishwasher sitting empty across the room.
Mashed potatoes – Mom’s homemade mashed potatoes were always a hit whenever she made them; and Thanksgiving was no different. As I got older I would help in the preparation of them (peeling, cutting the whole potatoes into pieces for boiling). Boil the potato pieces, whip them with the hand mixer, all the while adding butter, milk, salt and pepper to taste and ta da – the best mashed potatoes ever. When I prepare them (on rare occasions) I do my best to honor mom’s mashed potato memory and most of the time I do alright.
Yams – Some years (weather permitting) my Grandparents would join us for Thanksgiving dinner and mom’s mom would bring the yams. If not, then mom would make them and they were always yummy. I have to admit that she did use canned yams on occasion but what she added to them (brown sugar, butter, marshmallows, etc.) made them the best yams on the planet.
Squash – This was another dish that Grandma H. usually brought and when she did, the squash (like a very thick soup) was deliciously, freshly, made from scratch. There were those times when mom or Grandma – due to time constraints or travel issues – used frozen squash but again, the additions to the recipe were what made it so good.
Green Bean Casserole – This recipe is (was) simple but so good. And you can get it anywhere. The recipe my mom used for her green bean casserole was exactly what you find on the can of Campbell’s mushroom soup (just one of the yummy ingredients). For the exact recipe you may go here. Just one thing though, no deviations from the directions on this one; and don’t forget the French’s® French Fried Onions either.
Stuffing – Stove Top. It may seem as though I’m moving away from the homemade and into convenience; and for these next few “dishes” I am. Stove Top was my dad’s and (is) my favorite and because my mom didn’t care much for stuffing the turkey, it all worked out. To this day I can make this entire Thanksgiving dinner (or enjoy it elsewhere) but I have to have Stove Top Stuffing. I’ve been known to bring my box(es) with me when invited out to Thanksgiving dinner.
Cranberry Sauce – Mom (and Grandma) made the best homemade cranberry sauce around. Don’t ask me how because I cannot tell you. No matter if the fancy cranberry concoction was on our Thanksgiving table, there was also the “good stuff”. And who doesn’t love the thwump of the sauce coming out of the can? Slice it up, chill for an hour and it’s ready and good. However, I don’t recommend a bite of cranberry sauce and then a drink of milk – just not a palatable combination.
Rolls – Mom could make fabulous homemade rolls. But most years she didn’t. She would buy ready made rolls (that can be found in any grocery as the holidays near) of a certain brand, brown them and serve them up with every other goody on our table. A pat of butter was a must too.
Gravy – Oh wow, mom’s homemade gravy. I never did get the exact recipe for it; however, she was a true cook and a lot of that information was situated in her brain for safe keeping. I did watch her for many years, though; so allow me to try and share it here.
Once the turkey is done, remove it from the pan, drain excess (tidbits-pieces of meat etc.) and place pan on stove burner with low heat. Begin stirring and adding: flour and milk. Simmer, stir and add until desired consistency and taste. Poor into gravy boat and serve.
There may have been other things added (e.g., salt and pepper, other spices, etc.) but this is what I remember of mom’s homemade gravy; so tasty.
Marshmallow Fruit Salad – I cannot give you the ingredients for this. Some years it was pineapple, nuts, marshmallows, and something added to make it whipped (a green salad). Some years it was different fruits (mandarin oranges, pears, peaches, pineapples) with marshmallows. No matter the fruit, the salad was always so good.
Pumpkin Pie – I cannot tell you this recipe either. My mom and Grandma made homemade pumpkin pie from scratch and it was good. Though my mom would sometimes use a ready-made pie crust instead of making her own – the taste was in the filling for sure.
Apple Pie – Grammie’s homemade apple pie. To this day Grandma’s apple pie is the only one I will eat. Which means that I haven’t had a piece of apple pie in many years. Grandma made her apple pie completely from scratch and her crust was simply fabulous. Rest in peace, Grammie; I miss you and your apple pie (among other things).
Whipped Cream – Cool Whip. Tasty, convenient, and so good as a topping for lots of things; including mom’s homemade pumpkin pie.
Please Note: This Thanksgiving Dinner became a walk down memory lane as I wrote it. Maybe I’ve awakened your own Thanksgiving memories and/or included some new tips to make your feast just that much more delectable.
Also please note: I am not much of a cook. Its not that I can’t cook. I simply choose not to a lot of the time. Mom didn’t pass many of her cooking skills down to me – think: personalities clashing in the (her) kitchen. But I can do Mom’s Thanksgiving Dinner and it is just one way I honor my mother.
Grandma (Thank you for passing your culinary skills on to mom)
My Mom (Thank you for Thanksgiving on my Birthday(s) too, mom!)
And remember, holiday traditions are what you make of them. Whether it’s a big family get-together or an intimate dinner for two at Thanksgiving; just enjoy the fellowship and the food; and be thankful for your many blessings.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!