Where Local and Global Appetites Collide

Thanksgiving Traditions: Share Your Familys Turkey Day Style

Thanksgiving will be here before you know it and we at Circle of Food blog are wondering what family traditions have you passed down through the years and decades on this special turkey day?

Or what new Thanksgiving traditions do you plan to start?

When I was younger and my parents were still alive and well, my father would make schliskas (similar to gnocchi pasta) every year on Thanksgiving. Schliskas are an amazingly fattening and filling dish made from potatoes and flour. Schliskas are like a potato dumpling that has been boiled and then fried in chicken fat (schmaltz) with finely diced onions, celery, and bread crumbs. And then baked.

The reason that my father made them is because schliskas took all day to make and he enjoyed eating them and boasting about making them. After my mother made the entire turkey dinner, she had no energy left to make schliskas.

Thanksgiving dinner which was usually served around 3 p.m. There would be at least a dozen at the table and usually the kids had their own table. Family relatives that we only saw once a year usually appeared on this day.

Sometimes a bit of chopped liver and party rye bread made the rounds first. Then came the homemade vegetable/barley soup or chicken noodle soup. Just think this was before dishwashers (or we never had one) and practically every dish, piece of silverware, and pot and pan needed to hand washed and dried…by the women and female children.

A feast of roast turkey, homemade stuffing (no StoveTop here), cranberry sauce and jello (there was always a jello mold for most festive holidays or Sabbath dinner) with cranberries and pineapple, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, schliskas (more potatoes), peas and carrot (a token nod to vegetables).

When I think back — it was a whole lot of carbohydrates going down and my mouth waters because I don’t dare eat like that today. My mother only made an au jus gravy.

For dessert there was usually a fruit pie or two (always homemade) and lots of small pastries as my mother loved to bake and would stockpile them in the freezer and dole them out like little gems. We never had pumpkin pie because it had milk in it. I grew up in a strictly kosher home and meat and dairy did not mix in the same meal.

Later when I moved away and didn’t come home for Thanksgiving I was “adopted” into other family’s traditions. One Thanksgiving I spent with a Japanese friend from work and we had sushi as the first course. This was in the mid 70s long before sushi was a popular restaurant item.

Another time I was “adopted” by a Hispanic family and with the traditional turkey stuff, we had tortillas and rice and beans and pumpkin flan for dessert.

My friend Mary Jo said that she is having Thanksgiving with her friends and this time they are forgoing a traditional meal but instead will be eating only appetizers and dessert using Thanksgiving ingredients. Now, that’s clever! Imagine the possibilities…

One year I visited M.J. over Thanksgiving and she poached a beautiful salmon. I forgot what else was on the menu but neither of us missed the turkey.

So, what is your Thanksgiving tradition?

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