November 7th, 2011
04:00 PM ET
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Even the most adventurous eaters often give their inner food warrior the day off on Thanksgiving – nothing but the same turkey, stuffing (or dressing!), cranberries, green bean casserole and pumpkin pie they've been eating since childhood. If one of those dishes goes missing, the whole meal just doesn't feel right.

Other families stray away from the standards (some friends of ours have to have collard greens, whiskey sours and banana pudding for the day to feel right, while another family dives into duck) and develop their own must-indulge traditions.

Share your own "It's not Thanksgiving without..." story in the comments below and catch up on past installments from Philippe Cousteau, LZ Granderson and Wolf Blitzer

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soundoff (113 Responses)
  1. Thea

    I'm Thankful Jeann won't be at our Thanksgiving table where his/her delicate sensibilities would doubtless be offended.

    And I plan on eating delicious potluck dinner with people I love (who sometimes irritate me) watching football, taking a long walk, and watching the Euro slowly circle the drain until it slips away, taking it's fake pictures of non-existent monuments and hopes and dreams with it.

    November 21, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
  2. Stacy

    It's not Thanksgiving without......a Wick's Sugar Cream Pie! my absolute hands-down favorite desert!, although once I read the calorie content I did decide that it's a one-time-a year treat. Those pies are ridiculous according to the label, but, one time a year, it is my splurge.

    MMMMM, cant hardly wait!

    November 9, 2011 at 11:36 am |
  3. Meowser

    It's not Thanksgiving without:

    1. Family
    2. Smelling roasting turkey as I walk into my mother's house
    3. Mashed potatoes + stuffing + gravy (and candied yams)
    4. Football
    5. Attempting to get the dishes done in less time than it took to cook the meal
    6. Leftovers!

    I love Thanksgiving.

    November 9, 2011 at 9:45 am |
  4. patb

    My husband and I were transplants to the West Coast. All our family was in the Midwest and we were flying home at Christmas, so we didn't at Thanksgiving. We invited a few friends over to the condo that we were trying to sell. I started cooking and drinking wine at about 10 a.m. By 11 p.m. we were too tired to clean up the turkey carcass, dishes and the dozen or so empty wine bottles. Never, in our wildest dreams would we have thought that somebody would come see our condo the day after (we hadn't had a showing in weeks) Thanksgiving. We came home from work to find several different real estate agents' cards on the counter, tucked in between the aftermath of a great feast! We did not sell the condo that weekend!

    November 9, 2011 at 8:43 am |
    • patb

      So... It isn't Thanksgiving without great friends, food, wine and chaos!

      November 9, 2011 at 8:44 am |
    • AleeD

      Did you have some kind of open-door arrangement with your realtors about showings? Otherwise they should have called before showing your house.

      November 9, 2011 at 9:12 am |
      • patb

        That was back in the days when cell phones were not common. I think my husband had some message left on his work voicemail and he listened to it after the fact. Other than that ~ big surprise to us. We laugh about it 20 years later!

        November 9, 2011 at 9:23 am |
  5. The Coffee Woman

    It's not Thanksgiving without unexpected guests, music, and butter.

    November 9, 2011 at 7:12 am |
  6. Penny

    I haven't had a decent Thanksgiving since about 6 years ago when I moved from Florida where my family is to the Bible Belt where my husbands family lives. My husband's family are not good cooks and don't care anything about Thanksgiving dishes. My Mother-in-law usually makes an bad meal consisting of tough grilled steak or a pot roast and other tasteless sides. Her only concern is that everyone gets together at HER house and plays cards with her. The food that we eat is of absolutely no consequence to her. If she could get away with it she'd serve us a bowl of canned soup on Thanksgiving. My family is the complete opposite. We love to cook and eat all of the traditional Thanksgiving dishes. My particular favorite is my Mother's old fashioned candied yams. She uses real yams, brown sugar, lots of butter and dark Caro syrup. I have tried to make them just like hers without any success. And since she's in Florida I don't get to eat them anymore. They are amazing and nothing like the candied yams you get in restaurants or in the can for that matter. This year I've put my foot down and I'm having Thanksgiving at my house where I will attempt to make all of my favorites including my Mom's dark and delicious old fashioned candied yams. They are the best.

    November 9, 2011 at 12:53 am |
  7. rebecca

    In high school I was in marching band, and our alumni homecoming was the Thanksgiving game, so we put on a show with all the band alums who'd come back for the game, had a great time telling stories in the stands...then I went home with my cold parents and brother and the house smelled like turkey and it was fantastic and we were all starving for having been outside in the cold for hours.

    These days my husband and I split Thanksgiving – one year with his family, one year with mine. This year it's his family, so it'll be my parents in law, my husband and me, his sister and her husband and our two nephews, and there will be a giant turkey and tons of food and it won't be *quite* right because it's not my mom's stuffing or her mashed potatoes, but it'll be good and there will be tons of leftovers, which, let's face it, are the important part of Thanksgiving.

    November 9, 2011 at 12:48 am |
  8. iloveturkey

    my favorite thanksgiving was when my younger brother was still in college but couldn't come home for the holiday. my parents went to visit him. we always say what we are thankful for during dinner and he HATES this! he thought since I wouldn't be there he wouldn't have to come up with something to say. WRONG!! saying what I am thankful for is important to me – I start thinking about it a few days prior. so I wrote mine in an envelope, gave it to mom who gave it to him during dinner. I don't think I've been forgiven yet and that was almost 20yrs ago!!

    November 8, 2011 at 10:33 pm |
    • ding a ling

      that's jacked up

      November 9, 2011 at 7:25 am |
  9. Leslie

    ok, story about the kid's table. While visiting my brother in Texas, I invited his friends to dinner, one friend has a daughter, she brought her friend. Dining table could only seat four, (me, my brother, two male friends), so I said were gonna have to have a" kid's" table. So, the two girls sat and ate dinner at a nice but make shift table. The girls started talking about how long ago it was that they sat at a kid's table every Thanksgiving...then .they started telling the funniest stories, one story after another. Drunken relatives, witnessing handy-panky, then talking about Thanksgivings, relatives, food, pies, TV shows, movies, card games,..."Dad, do you remember when....". When dinner was over the kid's tables stories kept going on and on.
    This was in August, The girls are 37 and 38, respectively. They both said that they felt like they were 7 and 8 at the "kid's table". Said it was a great dinner!
    I am 70, my brother is in his 60's, "girl's father is in mid-50's.
    Can YOU remember sitting at the Kid's table? TeeHee.

    November 8, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
    • Phoebesmom

      Haha, those of us in the "middle" (the parents/ children of the older set) have created a kids table and let the grandparents have special time with the little ones. The grandparents love telling the stories we have all heard over and over to the fresh little faces and the kids love eating with the fancy dishes. The parents (us middle age people) listen, giggle, drink wine and get a chance to catch up. I have always loved the kids table (new and old) it is one of the best parts of the meal!

      November 8, 2011 at 7:45 pm |
    • T-day in Florida

      Growing up, everyone sat at the same table and everyone was involved with T-day from grocery shopping to clean-up. We were all together and that's all that mattered.

      After starting her own family, my big sister had the kids sit at their own table, separate from the adults. Throughout dinner, the kids were miserable. They kept whining and getting up from their table for every little thing. My baby sister and I saw very clearly that the kids wanted to be with the grown-ups. Big sister didn't want to hear it. So the next T-day, baby sis and I sat with the kids at "their table." We had a ball that year! The following year, some of the kids sat at the adults table and other adults sat at what used to be the kids' table.

      Today T-day has evolved into a dinner, served buffet style and is held in the garage with banquet tables where everyone can sit with whomever they want. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

      November 9, 2011 at 7:37 am |
  10. Phoebesmom

    Glad everyone has such fond memories. It wouldn't be Thanksgiving without the memories of when everyone at the table (sometimes 30 of us , sometimes 4) all hold hands and take turns telling the others what we are grateful for. Throughout the years we have been thankful for the ability to beat cancer, the coming of children and grandchildren, the fact that someone has come home after many years, the fact she finally divorced him and when people have gotten engaged.The best was when everyone was sobbing after a particularily hard yeararound the sharing table and my brother was about 5 at the time and said, "I am thankful for my family...and my GI Joe!" Be thankful everyone, peace and enjoyment of life will come your way.

    November 8, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
    • Fiona

      Many years ago I was at my in-laws' home for Thanksgiving. They are a strange family, unschooled in the art of conversation. They sit, they eat, and that's it. As we sat there looking at the food, I suggested that we all mention something we were thankful for. I got stares from all and a very ugly smirk from my evil sister-in-law. I never went there for another holiday. My family, dysfunctional and deeply troubled as it was, told stories, laughed and enjoyed themselves at table.

      November 8, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
  11. Fiona

    It's not Thanksgiving without...resentment. Or is that just my family?

    November 8, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
    • Sarah Michele

      ... or in my family table, guilt.

      November 9, 2011 at 6:47 am |
  12. TheTrainor

    It wouldn't be T-day without my in-laws showing up 1-2 hours late

    November 8, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
    • Fiona

      In my family, that would be my sister and her Very Important Husband the Doctor. They breeze in late, always with a story, so the whole shebang revolves around them

      November 8, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
  13. Aubrie

    Thanksgiving isn't "traditional" unless there are children at the table putting black pitted olives on their fingertips, a corn pudding with bacon on top, stuffing with mushrooms, rutabagas cooked southern style, buttermilk pie, raspberry bars, the "real" kind of cranberry sauce that slides out of the can, music blaring, a flurry of activity, playing cards around the kitchen table and a turkey sandwich before bedtime. Don't forget the lettuce!!!

    November 8, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
  14. SusanBM

    The best and worst Thanksgiving? Best – with all my family, cousins, in-laws and the bunch getting together for music, games, laughter, and just lots of love – many years of happinesss. The worst – alone in California (just my husband and I) so we went to the airport and watched the planes take off and land. True story. But the worst turned into a blessing. Now we look at friends and neighbors who, like us, have no family nearby and we have welcomed them into our Thanksgiving family. It's worked for all of us and has become a wonderful way to enjoy the holiday when family are far away.

    November 8, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
  15. CLM2

    I get up super early and drive an hour to my grandma's house, where I spend the next 4 hours raking leaves (and hauling them). Then quick shower, drain the turkey, carve the turkey and make gravy. Now the whole family arrives, with all the women clucking in the kitchen. I am a girl but gee-wiz the females in my family hit high decibels where it eventually sounds like a chicken coup. Goodtimes!!

    November 8, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
  16. Nashvilledeb

    Wouldn't be Thanksgiving without watching Planes, Trains & Automobiles with Steve Martin and John Candy the night before TG, then the morning of, watching Macy's TG Day Parade in PJ's while drinking a big mug of hot coffee.

    November 8, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
  17. Too darn many of us

    It is not Thanksgiving until I wind up drinking too much to assuage the hollowness that is my life. Until I spend the day alone, regretting those relationships that I've managed to drive away. Until I look with envy at happy families, until I look longingly at couples in love. Until I thoroughly wish away my existence and regret the day of my birth. Until I realize that alone I came into this world, and alone I will leave it. Until I flirt rapaciously with the sting of death.

    November 8, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • Ann McFarland

      OK – stop the pity party – get in your car Thanksgiving and come to our house for Thanksgiving lunch – stay, take a nap, work jigsaw puzzles, watch football, have wine, have a beer and make some friends! We will welcome you!

      November 8, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
    • Sherry D

      And if you can't make it to Ann's – you're more than welcome to come hang out with us! Let that pity party go!

      November 8, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
    • Redsoxmom2

      You are more than welcome at our home too! The more the merrier!

      November 8, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • Fiona

      Might someone be pulling our legs with at post? I suspect so.

      November 8, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
  18. J

    I was a military brat and one Thanksgiving, when we were stationed in Japan, my mother invited her japanese co-worker and her two children (the dad had to work), to our home to enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Mom was a great cook and she set the table with her best china and had a lovely centerpiece. Even though the children didn't speak english, we had a lovely dinner and the son stated that the turkey was "the biggest chicken he had ever seen!".

    November 8, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
  19. JBJingles™

    When my kids were small, it wasn't Thanksgiving unless we all put our hair in a poneytail right on top of our head, the "turkey do", and then give the bird it's last flight around the house before getting dressed and in the oven. Great memories...

    November 8, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
    • Fiona

      Best post of the lot. Your kid must have nice memories of that.

      November 8, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
    • Phillip

      Wow, what a guffaw I just let out! I can just see the neighbors watching the Turkey's Last Flight – adults rolling their eyes, kids jealous of the silly fun. Good for you for making, and keeping!, traditions.

      November 9, 2011 at 2:01 am |
    • canuckview

      So, you're saying that after you gave the turkey a final flight you got dressed and then went in the oven?
      What did you wear ? And just how big was that oven? Man, you Americans have the coolest Thanksgiving traditions...
      :-)
      What a delightful set of responses, I loved reading them all–okay, maybe not the dysfunctional ones, those are downright sad–here's wishing everyone a great 24th. My spouse and I will celebrate "encore Thanksgiving" the same day, why should you have all the fun? ;-)

      November 9, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
  20. LaLa

    The bajilliion relatives that arrive with truckloads of food & loud opinions. Uncle Jimmy smelling of Irish Whiskey & breaking out into Danny Boy while Dad countered w/beer & Italian drinking songs. Dozens of cousins. Pecan pie & my aunt's 7-layer dessert. My siblings. Board games & football games. The day starting with the Macy's Parade & winding down with The Sound of Music. Taking photos of Uncle David sleeping on the couch. Playing "Flies & Grounders" out in the yard, or horseshoes, or capture the flag ...

    Good times, good times...

    However, these days I'm 2000 miles from what's left of that Thanksgiving. My MIL thinks it's impressive to host 12 for dinner and will not serve food anyone else brings. Add the militant-atheist (don't care that she's atheist, just give it a rest already) SIL, the health-conscious food (fat-free ? on Thanksgiving ??) and the complete lack of games of any kind ... sigh ... it's just not the same.

    November 8, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
  21. dnfromge

    Miss the large family Thanksgivings – it seems everyone has passed-on or grown up, had their own families and does their own thing now. For my little family (hubby + two kids and alternating years my mom and her other half), it's not Thanksgiving without my stuffing made with entirely homemade turkey stock and my roasted garlic and white cheddar mashed potatoes.

    November 8, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
    • JBJingles™@dnfromge

      *drooooool*, roasted garlic and white cheddar mashed potatoes!! I must try this.

      November 8, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
      • dnfromge

        @ JBJ – roast a whole head of garlic, mash and add to taste. I like the sharpness of white cheddar and it doesn't change the creamy color of the potatoes. I also use half and half or cream as my liquid (depends on how "bad" I'm feeling) which I never do the rest of the year. I put the potatoes back in the oven once mashed to get a slightly golden tinge on top. The kids would kill me if I didn't make the stuffing and potatoes.

        November 8, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
      • JBJingles™@dnfromge

        Thank you! I will give these try but won't wait until Thanksgiving... I think they would go well under braised short ribs.

        November 8, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • SusanBM

      Invite people in your neighborhood. You'd be amazed at how many people are alone on Thanksgiving. We've done it for several years and it makes all the difference – for all of us.

      November 8, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
      • dnfromge

        I used to do that often back when I worked for an international hotel company where many folks were from other countries and had no plans or family araound for the long weekend. I have one friend who still comes every third Thanksgiving or so, the rest have moved on to other places. I should try that again – thanks for the reminder! :-)

        November 8, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
      • Fiona

        My husband and I used to invite all the "alones" we knew for holiday meals. I got burned out on this when a "friend" told me he'd let me know the answer to my invitation when he saw what other invitations he got. Add to that the "friend" from another country who regaled us on the inedibility of the traditional American holiday meal. Face it...some people are alone on the holidays because they aren't pleasant to be around. These days, at my home we have a smallish meal in the early evening after a long hike in the forest. Very pleasant.

        November 8, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
  22. ckav

    Thanksgiving isn't the same now that my Aunt Lee doesn't host us all anymore. We go to my sister-in-laws house, and there's plenty of people and food, but nobody plays games after dinner, and the house is pretty well emptied out by 5:30. I miss turkey sandwiches at 8:00, playing Trivial Pursuit around the big table with all my aunts, uncles, cousins, sisters, brothers and my parents. Always too much food, and sometimes too much drink as well. Good times.

    November 8, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
    • Coach

      I agree on the games and sandwich. My grandad took it one step further with everyone doing the chicken dance around the house. Man I miss the late night Turkey sandwich with a little mustard and pepper. And on a good night a side of sweet potato casserole that was left over.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
      • Jerv@Coach

        Just googled the chicken dance. The best!

        November 8, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
  23. Lifelong Vegetarian

    Deviled eggs made with Miracle Whip and sweet pickle relish. Black olives on the cru d'ete plate. Worthington vege-turkey with stuffing.

    November 8, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
  24. CK

    It is never Thanksgiving without first getting up and watching the Macy's Day parade. Then head over to my parents house where when you walk in the door the house smells of turkey which my mom got up at dawn to stuff and cook then slow cooked all day. She makes the world's best gravy as well. She always puts the rolls in and doesn't time them, but they usually seem to come out unscathed. Times with family, they can be great or terrible, but wouldn't trade them!

    November 8, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
  25. Truth(TM)

    For me, it is not Thanksgiving without a hunting trip in the morning. Can't beat bird hunting in Colorado in November.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
  26. joylynn

    Thank you all for the laughs. I find a little bit of my family in all of your comments. Have a THANKFUL holiday......I will.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
  27. Gayke

    Great to read these stories. Trust me, as someone else said above, you will miss the relatives who pass on when they are gone. It is the simple things we seem to recall. I wish I had a video or recording of my mom at the piano with my Dad after dinner and my uncle all singing "old" songs. There was always too much food, but it was good. I remember my sisters laughing when I made a stuffing sandwich the day after (I love stuffing). And I recall my mom calling me a "party pooper" for getting tired and going to bed at 10:30 PM (They liked to have me sing with them). I have that piano now in my family room, but no mom, dad or uncle to make me laugh the same way I did as a child and a teenager. Like many of you. I miss it.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
    • CNNJunkie

      Beautifully stated.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
    • CLM2

      Something you wish you knew when you were younger. Never take them for granted, because those annoyances now are the best (and saddest) stories later.

      November 8, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
    • Sherry D

      Reading all of this has me excited about Thanksgiving again. My grandmother is no longer with us and I've hosted the dinner on and off. This year family will be at my home again in Georgia and I must say the numbers are dwindling...I won't take my family for granted...thanks for getting me excited instead of heavy with the burden of hosting.

      November 8, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
    • Vbogee

      My husband's family never want to stick around. As soon as we're done they rush out. Completely different than my relatives, even the ones that lived nearby wouldn't leave until 2 or 3 in the morning. Maybe it's because we all live so close together they don't feel the need to hang around.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:54 pm |
  28. Jrod

    Thanksgiving isn't the same without the Dallas Cowboys! Tailgating/Thanksgiving dinner in the parking lot (the whole spread) with family and friends, then watching the boys play in the stadium. Win or lose, its a great day!

    November 8, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
    • Jrod

      And then hitting up a reliative's house afterward for their leftovers and dessert :)

      November 8, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
  29. Celia

    It's not Thanksgiving until I get my overnight package of leftover turkey and gravy and whatever else my mother can manage to squeeze in. I moved to the other coast and we spend a week at my parents for Christmas, so my husband's family obligates us to spend Thanksgiving with them, which they *insist* on hosting. Instead of a gathering of 20-30 friends and family members feasting on turkey and ham and all the fixin's, it's the 8 of us eating meatloaf and couscous and making excuses to leave faster. Anybody who hosts Thanksgiving and makes anything other than turkey commits blasphemy, and that's all I have to say about that!

    November 8, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
    • Peanut M&M

      Yeah, that's just not right. It seems like most people are Thanksgiving purists.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
  30. Gratuitous Suckup

    For me, it is never really Thanksgiving until I see Kat on television discussing "spatchcocking"..

    November 8, 2011 at 11:57 am |
  31. Ann

    Thanksgiving is really small now – everyone's gone or living too far away. Just me, husband, sister, and maybe a friend joining us this year. It's okay – it's still good.

    But it's really not Thanksgiving without remembering the huge gatherings we used to have when I was a kid. The dining room table with all the extra leaves in it, the spare table set up at the end of that to fit more people, even though it extended out into the foyer, and the crowd of kids at the "kids' table" in the kitchen. All the aunts, uncles, cousins, and nephews. It was great.

    And, of course, seeing Grandma and Grandpa walking up to the front door with the hugest turkey they could find. Grandma made the turkey and stuffing, and we made all the rest. Mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, asparagus, cranberry relish, and pies. Lots of pies! Apple, cranberry chiffon, chocolate cream, banana cream, and at least two pumpkins – one with whipped cream, one without. YUM.

    Everybody got along, too. Yeah, really!

    November 8, 2011 at 11:47 am |
    • Jerv

      Thank you for your post. I had almost forgotten about the "kids' table".

      November 8, 2011 at 11:52 am |
    • neutron

      I agree wholeheartedly! We travel 2.5 hours to my sister-in-laws every Thanksgiving. My daughters are in college and there would be a rebellion if we did not go. The family gathers there and the age ranges from a 1 year old to 80 years old. It is usually about 30 people. The turkey is cooked there but the side dishes and desserts are brought by everyone else. There are multiple tables because the house is too small. The kids table now includes "kids" in their 20"s. For the amount of side dishes, a single plate is not large enough so it is always a challenge as to what to taste. The desserts are also too many to sample (these become part of the take home care package). My mother-in-law makes small 2 bite mince meat pies with her secret home made mince meat filling. These are coveted by everyone and could be used as currency in our family. My youngest daughter is learning how to make them this year. The noise level in the house is just below a that of a jet engine. The TV is always on but because of laughter, ribbing and conversation, no one can hear it. Fortunately, you discover that football really does not need announcers. There is always some form of card game that occurs around dessert time. The game is extremely spirited and is secondary to the comments during the game. There has not been an argument in over 30+ years. When the evening ends, the sudden silence is amazing. At that point you know it has been another great Thanksgiving.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
  32. JD

    Awww. To actually have a Thanksgiving with family again would be perfect. Even the crazy one's I read in the prior posts sound more fun then nothing. Hope every one has a wonderful day, I truly mean that.

    November 8, 2011 at 11:22 am |
  33. sl

    Watching March of the Wooden Soldiers and/or the original King Kong on tv.
    Haven't seen it the last few years. Have missed it terribly.

    November 8, 2011 at 11:12 am |
    • Ann

      March of the wooden soldiers! I loved that movie!

      November 8, 2011 at 11:39 am |
  34. T

    It wouldn't be Thanksgiving without watching the parades on tv with my sister, whether we are in the same living room or just on the phone as we watch in different states. Even when we can't be together in person, I'm thankful for those moments with my sister.

    November 8, 2011 at 11:04 am |
  35. les

    turkey, dressing, gravy, cranberries, broccoli and pumpkin pie. ...oh, and mimosas. there – perfect Thanksgiving menu. and I am truly thankful for all this.

    November 8, 2011 at 10:57 am |
  36. Tiger Lily

    Hey, Jill - Gelatin, as in Jello, Royal and other gelatin desserts, are NOT VEGETARIAN. If you do not eat beef, do not eat those.

    You can use Carageenen (Irish moss) or Agar-agar to create jellied desserts that ARE vegetarian, or substitute for Royal, Jello, etc., in any recipe. (If you are serving Tofurky, I'm guessing you ARE vegetarian.)

    I like to stuff a pumpkin (usually classic bread or cornbread dressing with veg. sausage in it) and serve that as a centerpiece and carved dish. Sweet potatoes. Green beans almandine. Onions Mornay (cheese sauce.) Succotash. Tofu pumpkin pie is BETTER than the custard version, and so I make that (everyone likes it - they never know how healthy it is). Love mock mince pie (real mince is minceMEAT and is a spicy-sweet meat mixture invented to preserve meat and fruits; think Pemmican.) I make gravy with a roux, red wine, kitchen bouquet, and veg stock. Yummy.

    November 8, 2011 at 10:51 am |
  37. Kelly

    After hosting for minimum of 12 people for the last 15 years, I feel I am an expert and have earned the right to say it's not Thanksgiving without....
    Stressing out the same "attention-challenged" sibling to bring ice. Never fails, and we never have ice.
    My two sons taking turns holding on to a tipsy relative to get her down our cement front porch, so she won't fall and then sue us when she sobers up.
    Foot in mouth relative, comes in a can, just pop him open and enjoy the show. Asked a relative a few years back (at the dinner table) how long it had been since her husband "croaked".
    The "drink/cigarette counter". Makes everyone else feel like the worst lowlife in the world by commenting "another one?" when observing someone refilling their glass or heading out for a quick smoke.
    Assorted dogs who "get lonely" brought along, breathing steamy air on your knees under the table.
    I'm sure I'll think of more.

    November 8, 2011 at 10:47 am |
    • diddly do dy do

      sounds like a blast at your place!

      November 8, 2011 at 10:58 am |
    • Kelly

      By the way, I'm not the other Kelly, I loved my Mom and miss her every day. And its more fun at my house than it sounds, lots of Pinot Grigio helps! I always tell my kids, go ahead, sue me...I'm not doing my job right if I'm not giving you any ammo for your therapist someday.

      November 8, 2011 at 10:59 am |
    • The Coffee Woman

      I weep for you. Not because I feel bad you have such a HORRIBLE, CRUEL life, but because I have a feeling that even in the best of times, you will find SOMETHING to whine about. If you feel the need to whine about every little inconvenience, do it constructively and put your complaints in a funny, clever book, or movie, or song, etc. Only then will you be making a change for the better.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
      • MBob

        I find it amusing that you are writing a whiny post complaining about how the other poster always finds something to complain about. Isn't that exactly what you are doing?

        November 8, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
      • Fiona

        Oh, please.

        November 8, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
      • Kelly

        Wow Coffee Woman! I never said I didn't enjoy every single minute of it, I do. I love my relatives dearly, just explaining my usual cast of characters – I'm sorry I didn't go on to tell you of the endless Trivial Pursuit games afterwards or just sitting around reminiscing until the wee hours of the last 50 or so years we've all been together and how I always feel I'm living the lyrics of that Carly Simon song, when she sings about staying right where she is because these ARE the good old days. I hope some of your New Year's resolutions are to get a sense of humor and stop being so judgmental.

        November 9, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
    • Fiona

      Finally someone who is honest. Good for you, Kelly. If holiday meals were all "Hallmark card" in the real world, where would all those great movies about disastrous family gatherings come from? For most of us, family equals stress, and holiday gatherings can bring out the worst in people. You put up with the nonsense because somewhere deep down you love your family, no matter what they do.

      November 8, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
  38. mplaya

    Family. Plain and simple. Before all of the Christmas BS starts – just have family and friends over and be thankful that you can all be together eating, drinking and enjoying everyone's company. No whining allowed. A good thought to keep in mind: You don't know what you've had until you've lost it. ENJOY!

    November 8, 2011 at 10:44 am |
  39. Jean Ann

    We've been lead astray from wholesome American Christian morals and family values. We should have mothers at home cooking for their families and relatives instead of buying up prepackaged dinners. So says the Lord.

    November 8, 2011 at 10:22 am |
    • diddly do dy do

      love to see you in a thong!

      November 8, 2011 at 10:59 am |
      • MBob

        Shakin' them ta tas

        November 8, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
    • Anoochi

      And on the seventh day the Lord said "eat not of the Hungry Man dinners on the day of Thanks, else ye be smote into the depths of hell fire and brimstone for all eternity!"

      November 8, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
  40. jillmarie

    Thanksgiving's not the same without stuffing and mashed potatoes. Throw in a vegetable side dish like roasted vegetables, and I'm set. I will make a Tofurkey, but I've stopped lugging it around (I go to a relative's house) so I will have a tiny slice for breakfast that day and have plenty the rest of the week. I'll usually bring a yummy dessert I've made, whether it's a crustless pumpkin pie or a jello mold (don't laugh).

    November 8, 2011 at 9:52 am |
  41. Sara Bean

    It's all about family coming together, and eating delicious food. Make it yourself and make it a tradition to pass onto your family and kids, grandkids, etc.

    November 8, 2011 at 9:47 am |
  42. Jeann

    It's never Thanksgiving without watching you Americans gorge themselves on artery-clogging food that you will become obese from. Take a lesson from Europe on how to dine with refinement and taste.

    November 8, 2011 at 9:44 am |
    • Sara

      I've always been fascinated by two things: One, the rock-hard perfection of the physiques displayed by every European; two, how Europe celebrates Thanksgiving with such grace and panache. Please tell us how you set your Thanksgiving table! Do you prefer Thanksgiving turkey, or Thanksgiving ham?

      I defer to you as you are apparently the Thanksgiving expert, European.

      November 8, 2011 at 9:58 am |
      • Kathy

        European Thanksgiving - Not watching the Euro die.

        November 8, 2011 at 11:58 am |
    • emmyk

      Clearly, Thanksgiving is not something Europeans are going to understand. I would like to raise my vat of gravy in a toast to independence from England!

      November 8, 2011 at 10:16 am |
      • MBob

        Hear Hear! I'll take my uncouth family gathering any day, you can keep your civilized Euro attitude!

        I can't wait to go to my Aunt and Uncle's house-there's usually about 30 of us, kids and dogs running around, we start with appetizers and good conversation, and of course everyone's special dishes they bring for the main event. I always bring my pumpkin spice cake and we drink bottle after bottle of wine. YUM! Im so thankful for my family.

        November 8, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
  43. Stacyy

    It's not Thanksgiving for me without turkey, stuffing or cranberry jelly (not the sauce). I don't need potatoes, don't care for green beans and I can have sweet potatoes all year 'round now-a-days. We occasionally have a Summer Thanksgiving dinner around June or July with the above items and a big tossed salad. Afterwards a simple Ice cream or a "like cheesecake" pie for dessert.

    November 8, 2011 at 8:58 am |
  44. Ln

    Ok everyone, enough negative stuff!!! Sure, I grew up the child of 2 dedicated alcohoilcs (the angry, fighting kind...) who thought of the holidays as an arena-sized performance opportunity, sure Aunt So & So had to be told it was on Wednesday so she'd show up only an hour late on Thursday, sure my sister would attempt to shock & awe every year coming up with some new craziness to provoke us all....
    But, I am a grown up now, have been for some time. And the family I have created with my husband & children is mercifully free of the holiday drama my family of origin deemed essential to truly celebrate.
    And so, I share the healing with my current "...it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without": our family hike in the woods along the shore, right after the turkey goes in the oven. When we return, we are refreshed, full of fresh sea air, relaxed & enjoying each other's company, hungry, & the house is redolent of turkey & all the fixings.
    We sit down to dinner & all say something we're grateful for – it is called Thanks-giving.
    It's possible to stop dreading the holidays. Make your own holiday traditions that make you look forward to them.
    Happy (no, really, I mean it!!!) Holidays everyone.

    November 7, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
    • mj

      that's so beautiful. it made me happy to read it.

      November 8, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • Fiona

      Alcoholism wrecked my family, too. I agree it's important to start your own traditions, but for those of us not blessed with children it's difficult to convince the rest of the family that you aren't sad and pitiful during the holidays. It took me twenty years –really - to finally convince my family that my small household (husband and me) constituted a Family. It's insulting when people openly pity a couple for being "alone" during Thanksgiving, just because they don't have kids.

      November 8, 2011 at 7:03 pm |
  45. Janet

    for me it's not Thanksgiving without Mince Pie – preferably from Marie Callender's, but Mrs. Smith's will do if i don't get my order in early enough to Callendar's – with warm Rum Sauce. all those apples and raisins and dried citrus and that sweet/sour bite with the taste of the warm rum sauce = yummy-yummy-happy-tummy. i could actually skip most everything else...okay maybe i'd at least have to have some dressing with gravy and some candied yams. :)

    November 7, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
    • Ln

      I'm salivating....yum

      November 7, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
    • diddly do dy do

      sounds yummy in da tummy

      November 8, 2011 at 10:56 am |
  46. Kevin O.

    I dread Thanksgiving. The media has made me terrified of ingesting a turkey. Tofurkey tastes really too salty thus I don't like it. And then of course I think of all the pilgrims who hated gays and killed the natives.

    The holiday is just one big old donkey Eeyore bummer.

    thanks for the drugs, now leave the room.

    November 7, 2011 at 7:10 pm |
    • Jon

      Boy you sure sound like a bunch of fun.

      November 7, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
    • diddly do dy do

      come over to my pad and lets get down dude!

      November 8, 2011 at 10:57 am |
  47. JoeD

    In my family its never thanksgiving without... Overtly remembering those family members who aren't with us- serving our country overseas... couldn't make it to the gathering... or, they've passed on to whatever's on the the other side.

    November 7, 2011 at 7:05 pm |
    • JoeD

      PLUS- we always tell my one sister that the meal starts 2 hours before it actually does- so she'll only be an hour late.

      November 7, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
    • Ger-merican

      JoeD – this is the best answer yet...Happy Thanksgiving...

      November 8, 2011 at 9:25 am |
  48. Umptysquat

    That's so sad Kelly.. Mine is the same way, so she doesn't get an invite anymore. Much more relaxing...

    November 7, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
    • Jerv@Umptysquat

      Hear, hear! All high maintenance drama queens are not welcome at my home anymore. The holidays are wonderful now.

      November 8, 2011 at 9:37 am |
  49. Kelly

    In my family its never thanksgiving without... A HUGE fight with my mother vs. whoever she couldnt resist insulting. Even if you dont play into her argument, she will still make snide remarks in general. My house isnt clean enough...i gained too much weight...i lost too much weight...my kids arent disciplined enough... My kids are TOO disciplined... The food isnt perfect....i didnt cook fast enough...i cooked too fast... There is no winning. Hope everyone has a happier holiday than i will LOL

    November 7, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
    • Sam Zogbee

      Hay Fatty – stop trying to ruin the holiday for the rest of us. Go tell your sob story to your therapist...and then clean up a bit, would you?

      November 7, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
      • MBob

        Hahaha, ZING!

        November 8, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • JoeD

      Wish it was better for you, Kelly... The most bizarre thing is- once your mom is gone, she'll still be remembered [probably humorously] for her totally inappropriate behavior- every Thanksgiving- for as long as people have memories of her. Does that mean- she wins ?!?!

      November 7, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
    • Jon

      Have you considered the gas pipe? That would solve your problems and we wouldn't have to read through your miserable reply and become depressed.

      November 7, 2011 at 7:31 pm |
      • AllieCat

        Who said you HAVE to read through it? You don't like it skip it.

        November 8, 2011 at 9:23 am |
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