Growing up, Thanksgiving was a huge to-do. Three weeks before the actual date, my Granny would start menu planning. She’d make several runs to the store to stock up on nonperishables that she’d need. She’d have Granddaddy cleanout and restock her whole spice cabinet, reorganize furniture in her house and get the carpets cleaned, all in preparation for Turkey Day.
About a week before Thanksgiving Day, she’d start prepping the food. She’d start the actual cooking three days before everyone arrived, and when they arrived, they came in droves. Not only did my family of five show up, but my mom’s step-sister and her family, their cousins and their families, employees of the company my family ran, our friends and our friends’ kids. All told, there was no less than fifty people gathered Thanksgiving Day and often times many more.
We’d all eat an early lunch then select a handful of “lucky” adults who got to drive a mass of screaming, wiggling, sugared-up cousins to the same tree lot we’d go to every year to select a tree for Granny and Granddaddy’s house.
Always it’d be a debate on tall versus short, fat versus skinny, etc., but every year we seemed to trudge back to Granny’s with the “best” tree in the lot.
After the grown men got the tree in the stand, the younger kids were employed in the task of decorating the tree, always with my mom being the most vocal about, “There’s a bare spot over there! No, there! Okay, now there’s a spot there!”
Eventually we’d get the tree decorated to the standard of all the grown-up ladies present and it was time for round two of eating.
Even with all the mouths to feed, there was always an abundance of leftovers so each family got to take home a doggie bag (or six) to chow on the next day.
Honestly, some of my best memories are of Thanksgiving growing up. Since I moved to Oregon more than six years ago, I haven’t been able to be home for the holiday. This year we were going to try to fly out, but two little boys floating around in my gut has prevented it.
My hugely pregnant stomach also prohibits us from driving up to Portland to spend the day with Dom’s family, which is what we normally do. So, for the first time ever, I’m hosting Thanksgiving.
It seems fitting that in a year where we have so much to be thankful for, Dom and I get to host people on my favorite holiday. God willing, this will be the start of our own traditions that my kids will remember as fondly as I do the ones I had growing up.
So far there are only two things that I definitely want to incorperate in the day and those are the Thanksgiving Day parade (maybe don’t mention that one to Dom, as I haven’t told him yet and after I do I’ll need sufficient time to hide the remote) and southern dishes.
My in-laws are going to bring several dishes, but a few things I absolutely insist on having are my mom’s pecan pie, sweet tea and Granny’s cornbread dressing.
Because I think the world would stop rotating on its axis if I gave out Momma’s pie recipe, I’ll give y’all the other two. Sweet tea is pretty simple, but you’d be amazed at how many people have asked me for a recipe!
And dressing, well, it’s the South’s answer to stuffing. Traditional stuffing, like my in-laws make and a lot of people in the north and west make, is usually stuffed in the bird. It tends to be more chunky (I believe foodies call that “texture”), and it’s pretty good! But, it’s not Granny’s dressing. So, without further ado, here are the recipes:
Southern Sweet Tea
Really it’s more of a guide than a true recipe. You’ll naturally want to adjust the amount of sugar depending on your sweet tooth/ number of cavities you’re looking to acquire.
(Makes a gallon)
3 1/2 quarts water
4 1-quart tea bags
3 cups sugar
Combine all ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil. Then, reduce heat until tea is simmering and keep it at a simmer for about 30 minutes. When done, fill a 1 ½ or 2 gallon pitcher about 1/3 way with ice and pour tea over ice. Allow to cool.
Granny’s Cornbread Dressing
Like I said, this is not a “true” stuffing. When cooked, the consistency is more moist bread and it is oh, so delicious.
3 quarts of turkey broth (you can get this by either making your own from the gizzards and whatnot from the turkey you’re cooking) or you can substitute with chicken broth
8” x 11” pan of cornbread, cooked
1 can biscuits (Pillsbury, etc.), cooked
4 cups celery, diced
4 cups onion, diced
1/4 cup sage
1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
1/8 cup black pepper
Salt to taste
2 eggs, beaten
Bring broth to soft boil in a large stockpot. Add celery and onions and cook for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, crumble together breads and add the sage, poultry seasoning, salt and pepper. Once the onions and celery have cooked, allow the broth to cool completely.
Once it is cooled, pour the broth and beaten eggs over the bread mixture. Combine thoroughly. Your mixture should be runny. Pour into a deep, greased 9” x 13” pan (we always go with the disposable ones. They work and they’re super easy clean up).
Cook for 60 minutes at 350 degrees.