HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Thanksgiving 19...75? May have been the most revealing ever. Backstory: Every year that I could remember, we had two turkeys, and my mother made two kinds of stuffing. One turkey had the good kind, plain, from Pepperidge Farm, with the addition of sauteed celery and onions, which of course is the perfect stuffing. More on that in a minute.
In the other turkey was the gross yucky stuffing. It was Pepperidge Farm-based—butMom, for some reason us kids could never comprehend, added oysters. (Not in the shells, of course. But the photo without them was disgusting.)
We DIED, even thinking about it. As a ten year old, when my sister Nina was seven and Nancy was five, we would watch Mom put the oysters in the dressing and then hold our tummies in pretend agony. HOW, we wailed, could anyone eat that stuff? We were so grateful that there was the whole other turkey that had delicious plain stuffing.
So fast forward until 1975, when I was a nicely grown up twenty- something. I was back home in Indiana, in the kitchen, smelling all the Thanksgiving smells as Mom made the traditional two turkeys. She made up the big bowl of stuffing, it smelled fabulous, and then proceeded to dump the can of oysters into the big ceramic bowl.
MOM! I yelped. You put oysters in the whole thing!
Mom looked at me, like, dumb kid. “Honey,” she finally said. “You think I really made two different stuffings every year? I never did. You kids have been happily eating oyster dressing since day one.”
Well, I was shocked. Parental deceit, and at holiday time, too! But—we happily ate it again. And the oyster stuffing story is one of our holiday traditions.
Liz loved the cranberry sauce from a can, you know, the kind where you could see the ridges? Yuck, but chacun a son gout.
And we also always had black cherry Jello with black cherries in it. Weird, dark dark red jello, made in a bundt cake mold, with marble-sized black cherries floating in it. "Black cherry" is a kind of weird flavor not found in nature (I guess Bing cherries are the closest) but if my mother tried to serve Thanksgiving dinner without Black Cherry Jello mold, my little brother Chip (now a handsome and dashing attorney--age 55--in Colorado) would have a fit. We ALWAYS had Jello.
So what about you, Reds? And Thanksgiving must-haves, deceptions, or family necessities?
DEBORAH CROMBIE: This is Texas, so cornbread dressing is a MUST. With lots of sage, celery, and onion. I love my cranberry relish recipe, although I suspect that no one else likes it as much as me... My daughter and I LOVE fresh Brussels sprouts, sauteed with bacon, but we are in the minority. My aunt still does Thanksgiving dinner, and there is no weird jello, thank goodness!
HANK: Hey, talk to Chip! And Brussels sprouts are now a definite necessity, I’m with you.
RHYS BOWEN: The one thing I can NOT have is sweet potato casserole with marshmallows on it. I ate my first one when I was pregnant, felt violently ill and can never face one since. I adore good stuffing with lots of herbs. John likes sausage meat stuffing. Clare makes the best mashed potatoes and everyone insists on the family recipe apple crumble.
HALLIE EPHRON: Gourmet family that we are, we require Pepperidge Farm herbed stuffing in our turkey. No oysters or cornbread stuffing for us. It’s got to be from the bag, using the recipe ON the bag and following their suggestion to add onions and celery.
HANK: Exactly! Exactly! Hallie, weshould have come to YOUR house.
JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Now see, I make stuffing from scratch, following the recipe my mother used and her mother used. It's so economical, I suspect it was a Depression-era-or-earlier thing.
I take an entire loaf of white bread - cheapo white no-fiber bread we all ate back in 1964. Leave it out two days til it gets nice and stale. Saute onions and celery in butter while boiling the celery leaves, onion ends and carrot trimmings with the turkey neck for a quick stock. Tear the stale bread in pieces, toss with the onion-celery mix, sage, and dampen it well with the stock. You must have enough to stuff the bird and make a separate casserole dish, because everybody knows some people like stuffing wet and some like it dry.
Oh, and the must-have from Ross's side of the family? Birds Eye green beans and spaetzle. Not hand-snapped fresh green beans, God forbid, but veggies and sauce frozen in a microwaveable dish. Oh well, at least it frees up one of the burners for my latest attempt at a fancy cranberry sauce that someone might actually eat.
HANK: So how about you, Reds? What’s your Thanksgiving must-have? What’s your vote on mashed potatoes? Lumpy or smooth? And sweet potatoes with marshmallows? Yea or nay?
And coming up this week: tomorrow, Gravy! Wednesday, cooking secrets for emergencies! And then, surprises.
(And Breaking news: TRUTH BE TOLD is an RT BookReviews nominee for best suspense thriller of 2014!)