When Milk Street Radio listeners called in with their favorite Thanksgiving stories this year, we found that while they share a love for the holiday’s food, they also like to have a good laugh at the mishaps and surprises that have colored celebrations of years past. From hungry dogs prowling around the pantry to power outages that move meal prep outside, these stories prove that Thanksgivings that don’t go as planned are often the most special.

Tim from Boston, Massachusetts

In the ‘60s, we lived in an old Victorian house with a big closet off the kitchen that was so cold that it doubled as a walk in refrigerator. On Thanksgiving morning, my mother went in there to get the turkey and she let out a shriek. Our dog, Gigi, had gotten there first. Mom was in a bit of a panic when her best friend called. When told of our predicament, an invitation to join her family for dinner was quickly extended. We brought enough additional trimmings to help make the expanded party of four adults and 10 children a rousing success. This story has provided years of good laughs for us and our hosts. We still joke about that day, as fresh in our memories as it was when it happened more than 50 years ago.

Elsa from Sharon, Vermont

One of my distinct Thanksgiving memories from last year was when I made a maple sweet potato casserole with the meringue on top. It was so pretty, but when my aunt reheated it, the meringue flattened. Either way, it was delicious and I do plan on making it again.

Jean from Maine

The Thanksgiving of 2014 was a total shipwreck. We were hit with an early blizzard on Wednesday night. We wake up on Thanksgiving morning to a sparkling winter wonderland and no power. My family who knows I will always accept a culinary challenge and convinced me to prepare a traditional Thanksgiving dinner anyway. I butterflied the turkey, wrapped it in foil and cooked it on our gas grill. I made stock for the gravy by simmering the neck for hours on our wood stove. I’d made the dressing, mashed potatoes and vegetables Wednesday afternoon, so I warmed them up on the wood stove. We sat down to dinner with a greater appreciation for the meal.

Karen from Connecticut

One of my fondest memories of Thanksgiving was when my kids were young. Everybody in the family hated turkey. So my kids and I would pick a theme every year and make a huge festive meal around the theme. My favorite was the year we chose garlic as the theme. Fortunately, we didn't have a lot of company because everybody had garlic breath, but it was wonderful.

Sharon from Elko, Nevada
A number of years ago, my second cousin joined our family for Thanksgiving dinner. When we sat down at the table, he was so happy to see the orange cranberry relish that his mom makes. He commented that since our moms are first cousins, both must use the same family recipe. Well, we all had a big laugh when we showed him the recipe on the back of the cranberry bag.

Tim from San Rafael, California
We had always gone to my wife's family for Thanksgiving, but after hearing that my family back east was going to forego Thanksgiving because of some potential conflicts, I sprung into action, armed with my latest Bon Appetit. I quickly learned, however, that only my mother can make the turkey. Only my dad can make his sausage stuffing. Only cousin Tom can make his twice baked potatoes and yams. Well, I made nothing as soon as I realized you don't mess with people's Thanksgiving traditions.

These excerpts have been edited for clarity

For more Thanksgiving stories, read about special moments and memorable fails from some of our favorite chefs and food writers.

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