Some Easy Thanksgiving Treats, and More


Susan Kelly



As we approach this year’s Gorge-a-Thon, I thought I’d share with you some recipes for foods that everyone seems to like, as well as a bit of seasonal trivia.




Smoked Tuna Pate

One can solid white tuna

One 8-oz. brick of cream cheese, softened

Liquid Smoke (You can find this in the condiment aisle of any grocery)

Dried onion flakes (optional)

Dried dill (optional)

Drain and thoroughly flake the tuna in a mixing bowl. Add softened cream cheese and mix well with a fork. Add one tablespoon of Liquid Smoke. Add one tablespoon of dried onion flakes. Add one teaspoon of dried dill. Again, mix very well. Dump the whole mixture into a pretty 12- or 16-oz. serving dish; a nice soup bowl will do well. Pat it down nicely. Cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight. Serve with crackers or small squares/triangles of pumpernickel or rye bread. Excellent with pre-dinner drinks. (Note: Do NOT try to make this in the blender or food processor, or you’ll end up with slop.)

Turkey Stuffing (Side dish)

One 6-oz. box of turkey stuffing mix

4-5 small breakfast chicken or turkey sausages, cooked and sliced into coins

2 oz. chopped pecans

½ cup dried cranberries

Prepare the stuffing mix according to package directions, adding the dried cranberries to the mix when you add the liquid. When the stuffing has been prepared, mix in the sausage coins and pecans. Pack the whole mess into a greased 8 by 8 baking dish. Let it cool and then schmear the top with butter or margarine. (This is not a lo-cal comestible.) Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate over night. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until the top has browned nicely. Let it rest for a for a few minutes before serving. This recipe doubles or triples quite easily, though obviously you’ll need a bigger baking pan and a longer cooking time.

One of the nice things about Thanksgiving is the many food variations different ethnicities add to the traditional basic meal of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, and cranberry sauce. In graduate school I had an Italian-American friend whose mother made a huge lasagna as the first course. In many African-American homes, macaroni and cheese is a standard side dish. Puerto Rican-style turkey entails immersing the bird (cut into parts) in a curry, garlic, and chile marinade and then grilling the parts. Two Jewish dishes, butternut squash kugel (or cranberry-apple kugel) and sweet potato and carrot tsimmes, seem created for the occasion. A Mexican-inspired stuffing for the turkey involves cornbread and chorizo.

A Bit of Trivia

The Wampanoags and the Plymouth colonists probably ate ducks, geese, and venison for dinner in 1621. It would take another 50 years for someone to figure out how to make cranberry sauce. They also didn’t know from white potatoes. Onions, carrots, parsnips, spinach, collards, cabbages, and turnips were known by the collective name of “herbs,” lumped in with parsley, sage, thyme, and marjoram.

Acorn squash were once known as “vine apples” and pumpkins were “pompions.” I love the word “pompion.” I’m not crazy about pumpkin pie—I prefer apple, cherry, squash, or pecan—but I would relish a pompion pie, just for the sake of the name.

Something I wasn’t aware of until recently was that we owe the existence of tv dinners to…Thanksgiving. In 1953, the Swanson food company found itself with an enormous number of frozen turkeys unsold just before and after The Big Day. A Swanson salesman named Gerry Thomas conceived the idea of defrosting and roasting the birds and putting the sliced cooked meat into compartmentalized foil trays along with potatoes, gravy, and a vegetable; freezing the tray and its contents; packaging it in tantalizing fashion; and marketing it as a complete meal that only required reheating. Thomas was, apparently, inspired by the containers of the meals served on airplanes.

You probably know that Ben Franklin wanted the turkey to be our national bird. He considered the eagle to be a creature of “bad moral character.” I am not clear as to the criteria he used to arrive at this conclusion.

According to some southern writers, notably Florence King, Thanksgiving was considered a “Yankee holiday” below the Mason-Dixon Line, and thus not celebrated with a great deal of enthusiasm there until well into the twentieth century.

I have no idea if this story is apocryphal—I heard it on CNN—but the Friday after Thanksgiving is the busiest day of the year for plumbers. There are a lot of toilets to be unclogged. I suspect some “gourmet” contributions brought by well-meaning guests, such as Aunt Lucinda’s (in)famous blueberry-scallion-peanut-chocolate-sardine chip dip might be disposed of discreetly via the bathroom, thus causing some congestion issues with the soil pipe.

I once made a Thanksgiving dinner in which I realized, retrospectively, that the most consistently used ingredient was booze: dry vermouth in the gravy, apple-flavored bourbon in the pureed sweet potatoes, rum in the cherry-apple pie (I used dried cherries, and reconstituted them with a bit of the rum), and, for the cheese course, a Champagne-infused cheddar along with a non-alcoholic Brie. I don’t think I did this deliberately; it just worked out that way.

I may have been inspired by my late mother, who once observed: “If you use garlic, cream, butter, and wine in a recipe, you can probably make shirt cardboard taste good.”

And on that note, let me wish you all the happiest of Thanksgivings.

5 thoughts on “Some Easy Thanksgiving Treats, and More

  1. I wrote this piece well in advance of Friday’s terrorist attack in Paris. As of this morning, we know that at least 129 people were killed, and 352 injured, 99 of those very seriously. One of the dead is a 23-year-old American student from California, Nohemi Gonzales, who was in a restaurant with friends and, according to her devastated family, thrilled to be in Paris.

    I had considered asking Zach to postpone the publication of today’s Thanksgiving piece and substitute another dealing with the attack in Paris, but then realized that I probably would not be able to come up with any coherent commentary in so short a space of time. But I felt compelled to write a coda acknowledging the attack. “Je suis Paris,” as the now-viral saying goes.

    I read this morning a news story that gave me an enormous lift: Teenagers who were wounded while attending the Bataclan concert insisted on checking out of the various hospitals that treated them so that their beds could be used by the more seriously injured.

    Vive la France.

  2. I appreciate your concern for posting the Thanksgiving blog, Susan. I hesitate to continue posting anything on FB but decided to because my heart and prayers continue to pour out for the victims anyway. After the initial horror it becomes a personal inner experience which nothing will deter from. My heart cannot stop aching for them all…

    My great grand uncle from somewhere in up-state N.Y., probably Crown Point where I grew up until I was 12, raised turkeys. Every fall, I assume, he ‘herded’ them across northern N.Y. I don’t know where or why but probably to market somewhere. And he would sleep at night under the stars while they roosted in the trees all around and about him! This is some family history that is in our genealogy. I love it, but it’s so strange sounding!

    And finally, I think the plumber thing may be about idiots, like someone here, who poured the turkey grease down the kitchen drain where it solidified within the structure of our plumbing somewhere between the kitchen and the tv room. Everything backed up then!

    Here’s a Thanksgiving side given to me by a friend which is a bit different;

    “Mama Stamberg’s Cranberry Relish”
    2 c. raw cranberries
    1 sm. onion
    1/2 c. sugar
    3/4 c. sour cream
    2 TBLS. horseradish

    grind together cranberries and onions. Add remaining ingredients and mix. Put in freezer container and freeze.
    On morning of day needed move to refrigerator to thaw. Makes 1 1/2 pints.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you….

  3. Kathleen, thanks. That’s a wonderful story about your great-grand uncle; I can visualize him now in the woods with his flock roosting above him. And the recipe sounds delish, too. If there’s any left over, I’d put that on a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread with lettuce the day after Thanksgiving.

    I was thinking that one way of showing solidarity with the French would be to incorporate something French into the Thanksgiving menu, such as a tarte tatin, a pouilly fuisse, or a fine imported Brie or Camembert if you’re doing a cheese course.

  4. I’m glad this article was posted as is. I did the same thing on my site. There will be plenty of time to comment on all events in our own times. With a lot of the crazy being said now I’m afraid a lot of people’s voices are getting lost anyway.

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