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What's Up Magazine

What’s Up? Staff Thanksgiving Favorites

Nov 16, 2012 05:47PM ● By Anonymous

My mother, who lives outside of Phoenix, Arizona, has Thanksgiving dinner down to a science. Even though she has an extensive prep lists in the back of her cookbook – no doubt handy the years in the late 1990s that we hosted more than 20 people – I don’t think she really needs to use them anymore.

The meal is always the same – tradition – although I heard that last year, when I was over here in Maryland cooking my first Thanksgiving, that she added a butternut squash soup course. Every year, we have a turkey, naturally, and she swears by Butterball. When I called last year to get turkey tips, given it was my first time tackling the bird, she told me not to bother with any other brand, even if it meant saving money. Then we have stuffing, cooked both in and out of the turkey, a bowl of green peas and pearl onions, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, biscuits (carbs don’t exist on Thanksgiving, obviously), cranberry and at least one other dish that I just can’t remember right now.

But my favorite, as strange as this sounds, is the Jell-O.

No, I haven’t fast-forwarded to dessert. When working on Chef’s Secrets, a feature in the November issue, a chef was telling me about some crazy dish that he and his family always make. I countered with my family’s tradition of lime Jell-O on the Thanksgiving table (it was weirder than his dish, trust me).

See, my parents hail from the suburbs of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and one thing I’ve discovered over the years while learning about regional cuisines. Like other regions, the Midwest has certain food traditions. This means that foods that were commonplace to me as a child, such as hot dish – what other people might call Goulash – and some Scandinavian foods, are actually Minnesota staples. Same goes for the Jell-O salad. Our Thanksgiving Jell-O salad is made of green Jell-O and contains apples, walnuts, and celery, and although I didn’t make it last year when I cooked Thanksgiving myself – I’m surprisingly inept at making Jell-O – I’m really looking forward to it next week when I go home to Arizona for the holiday.

To see if anyone in the What’s Up? Office had a stranger Thanksgiving tradition than me, I asked around what everyone’s favorite part of the meal is. It turns out, my family wins in weirdness, but that’s OK. I’ll take my Jell-O salad any day.

The Question: What is your favorite Thanksgiving dish, and why?

I am a traditionalist; please don’t get fancy on Thanksgiving. I want a meal exactly like my mother used to make: slightly dry turkey, fantastic gravy and mashed potatoes, candied sweet potatoes, fresh asparagus, jellied cranberry sauce, warm rolls (an instance of my father) and a pie assortment for dessert that must contain pumpkin.  There was one thing that my family always did that has become very old-fashioned, but we still do it—a relish tray. My uncle Bobby was always in charge and he’d use a beautiful cut glass serving dish with four large compartments. In those would be pickles, an olive assortment, celery, scallions and decoratively carved radishes, all resting on ice cubes.  Very 1950s upscale restaurant, but it added a sparkly touch and some palate cleansers. Of course, the best thing about Thanksgiving dinner is lunch the next day!
—Sarah Hagerty, special projects editor

Baked pineapple. Because I have a major sweet tooth, but since we eat it with our meal instead of as a dessert, I don't feel as guilty about eating it. 
—Arden Haley, web content specialist

I’ve never been a big Thanksgiving food fan but after having Thanksgiving last year at my house and buying a deep fryer for the turkey, I think I’m going to have to go with deep-fried turkey. We brined it for a couple days, coated it with a dry rub and injected it. It was delicious and of course hilarious watching the guys try to figure out putting the turkey in the fryer and not burn the house down. Also, oyster stuffing is always a must at our Thanksgiving table.
—Tiffany Schall, accounting clerk

I live for the mashed potatoes. If they’re the sweet potato variety, that’s even better. I never bother to mash potatoes myself, so it’s a true treat when I have seconds and thirds one day a year!
—Alexandra Bertrand, executive assistant

Green Bean Casserole is my ultimate favorite thing at Thanksgiving. My mom was always responsible for making it when we would go to my grandma’s house for our big family thanksgiving dinner. I can remember as a kid that it always made our house smell so delicious. At the time I didn’t like green beans but my mom would yell at me for eating the onions out of the can. Now as an adult, green beans are one of my favorite foods, and in our house, we don’t need to wait for the holidays for me to make this dish. But it is just my ultimate Thanksgiving memory that brings me back to my childhood!
—Stefanie Arnold, production assistant

My favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner is hanging out in the kitchen while the turkey is being carved and getting first dibs on the crispy, seasoned skin. May not be good for you, but I love it!
—Eileen Nonemaker, director of advertising sales

Corn Pudding, because my mom would make it every year. When my mom passed away, I was upset that I had no idea how to make it. While digging around her house this past year, I found a recipe book…and the only handwritten recipe was for Corn Pudding. It was totally meant to be for me to find that recipe book that day. I can’t wait to make it for our family Thanksgiving this year.
—Ashley Raymond, operations publisher