When we put a call out for Milk Street Radio listeners to submit memories from Thanksgiving, we weren’t just impressed by the enthusiasm we received. We were also impressed with how real our listeners got. From a newly married couple’s first fight to the tale of the unlucky pumpkin pie, these listeners have endured it all. Read their memories and maybe you’ll feel a little better about any pitfalls you may face this year or in years to come.
Every Thanksgiving, we would spend with my dad’s elderly uncle in Massachusetts. Given his advanced age, my mom would do all of the holiday preparations in advance, then would pack me and my two brothers, my dad, our luggage and the entire Thanksgiving feast into the station wagon, and off we’d go. It was quite an accomplishment.
This particular year was a little bit more frenzied than most, so my mom was hurriedly whipping up her special pumpkin pie recipe. She made it in the blender, but when she forgot about the plastic spatula that she used to scrape the sides, it got blended in, too. With no time to spare, she tried straining out the plastic bits with a strainer and cheesecloth, but nothing worked. We eventually gave up and resolved to buy a pumpkin pie for our Thanksgiving before we left.
We crammed into the backseat with the fixings, foodstuffs and the pies packed around us. Just as we were warming up the car to take off, my brother put his foot right down the middle of the pumpkin pie. There was no saving it, and so the show had to go on.
We stopped for dinner half way there at the Howard Johnson's in White River Junction. When we walked in, lo and behold, in their glass counter display was a beautiful whole pumpkin pie. We scooped it up, thanked the Thanksgiving gods for smiling upon us, and put it in a much safer spot in the car. We made it to our great uncle's and laid out a beautiful meal. As we prepared to take out the desserts, we opened the box for the pumpkin pie and found an entire piece missing from it. Apparently Howard Johnson's had served a portion of our pie before they packed it up for us. We all had a good laugh recognizing that we weren't going to win in the pumpkin pie department that year, and we thanked the Thanksgiving gods for their sense of humor.
My wedding took place in October, so within a few weeks, my husband and I were thinking about our first Thanksgiving as a married couple. The subject of cranberry sauce came up, and I boasted about my mom's wonderful homemade version that I always make. He informed me that he only likes canned cranberry sauce—the jellied kind. I can't stand that stuff, so, needless to say, we had quite a heated debate about it. Our first fight as a married couple was over, of all things, cranberry sauce. Appropriate for a couple of foodies, I guess.
About 15 years ago, when I had just started dating my now wife, I was invited to her family’s Thanksgiving dinner. I thought to be magnanimous that I would make the turkey. I was pretty excited because I had a new rotisserie attachment for my grill. The turkey turned out amazing and everybody loved it. We discovered about halfway through the meal, however, that there was an entire backup turkey that had been made by my now mother-in-law in the secret downstairs kitchen! Turns out it was dry and rubbery though, so nobody ate it. So all in all, it worked out just fine.
One year my oven stopped working, so I took all my baking dishes to various neighbors with instructions and picked them up a few hours later in time for dinner. It truly takes a village.
When I hosted my first Thanksgiving party for my new in-laws, I decided I had to make the largest turkey I could find, which was about 25 pounds, without realizing how long it takes to defrost turkey. I tried to microwave it in the morning, but it didn't fit on a plate, so I just stuffed it in the microwave. Minutes later, turkey juices came pouring out of the microwave and onto the stove. I tried to put it in the oven with a paper bag, a trick I had learned from my mother, but it caught on fire. I was frazzled by the end of this ordeal, but the turkey turned out delicious.
These excerpts have been edited for clarity.
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