I engaged in some power-whining a couple months ago about not wanting to travel too much over the holidays and how I was hoping we’d keep things more low key this year because as lovely as it was visiting JB’s brother’s fiancee’s parents (got that?) last time, their house is spotless and features lots of pointy marble things and their dinner spread is like something crafted by set designers for a keepsake Gourmet magazine (RIP) layout. Between constantly scanning to be certain that one of my feral children isn’t pulling a collection of Waterford crystal onto their heads and having a hand at the ready to clap over the other one’s mouth in case he decides to loudly describe a food item that took seventeen consecutive hours to prepare as “yucky”—while, by the way, being personally poured into something that requires Spanx—well, just thinking about it makes me want to crawl into a closet and suck on dog hair.

So anyway, we’re having Thanksgiving at our house this year. This all seemed like a very good idea until this morning when it sort of hit me all at once that I have to produce an actual non-microwaved meal this week, at which point I launched into the exact same process I experience every time I host a holiday:

1. PANIC! Consider faking own death.

2. Pore over 257319 recipe websites, considering which seventy-step dish I should try for the very first time this year. Should I buy a chef’s torch? Make croissants from scratch? I should at least replace all our dishes and get some raw silk table linens and sterling silver napkin rings and maybe plan on at least seven courses, not including the amuse-bouche and palate cleansing sorbet and—

3. Fuck it, man. These people are getting Stove Top and paper plates. I hate everyone and everything. Cram it up your pilgrim-hole, Thanksgiving.


5. Panic! Consider faking own death.

I am now in step 6, where I’ve figured out what I’m going to serve and I’ve created the monstrous shopping list and I think I have it under control, except I just found out JB’s parents are arriving tomorrow and all I can say is I hope they don’t mind pizza between now and Thursday because seriously. See also: step 1, step 5.

We’ll stick to the basics—turkey, potatoes, stuffing—for the meal but I think I’ll sneak one weird thing in there that probably no one will like except me. This is a recipe from my Aunt Eileen, and I have very fond memories of it.

Aunt Eileen’s Jello Salad

2 cups hot water
2/3 cups cinnamon candies
1 large lemon Jello
1.5 cups applesauce
8oz cream cheese
1/2 c. chopped nuts
1/2 c. chopped celery
1/2 c. mayonnaise

Pour hot water over candies until melted. Add jello and stir in applesauce. Pour 1/2 of mixture into bowl or mold. Chill until set. Blend cream cheese and nuts and celery and mayo. Spread over set mixture. Pour on remaining mix. Chill.

Oooh, it’s just all spicy and creamy and cool and it’s a pretty red color and looks particularly nice in a glass dish and I’m telling you, you should try it. Even if it is weird, which fine, it sort of is.

What are you doing for Thanksgiving, if you’re celebrating? Do you have any oddball family favorite recipes that are part of your holiday meal?


95 Responses to “Thankswhinging”

  1. sheilah on November 24th, 2009 10:37 am

    I don’t think we have anything really weird except for my husband’s family’s creamed corn crap and that ghastly green bean casserole (why oh why do people love that so????).

    One interesting thing this year though…my husband redeemed our free turkey gift certificate last week (grocery store-speak for thanks for dumping all your money at our store to get a ten dollar turkey, sucker) and instead of a turkey he got a turkey BREAST (must have been mesmerized by the word ‘breast’). No biggie for me, I like the white meat and it will cook faster but hubby is the one who will lose his beloved drumsticks. Next time he will look at what he is buying maybe? No, probably not…

  2. Courtney W. on November 24th, 2009 10:54 am

    I’m hosting again this year, my family and the in-laws…hoping everyone is on good behavior. Oh well, can’t be any worse than the time we hosted when our daughter was a week old, I was a victim of identify theft two days earlier and our plumbing backed up flooding the whole back of the house causing everyone to leave before dessert.

    Our funky family recipe is carrots and rutabugas in equal amounts boiled then mashed with gobs of butter. Like mashed potatoes but bright orange and kinda bitter. I don’t eat it, I just serve it.

  3. Mrs. D on November 24th, 2009 10:56 am

    I just wrote about a weird red jell-o salad that MY family makes every year! But yours sounds better.

    Also – panic is definitely my default setting for Thanksgiving. Or, let’s face it, entertaining in general.

    You will get through it and it WILL be fun!

  4. Christy on November 24th, 2009 11:00 am

    May I suggest QFC prepared/ready to heat and serve Thanksgiving dinner? I think you can order turkey, sides, everything!

  5. Gleemonex on November 24th, 2009 11:00 am

    Hosting … myself, the hubs, our 2-year-old girl, and maybe our friend the Dude (as in Lebowski). 18-lb turkey (ohhhhhhh the leftovers!!!), cream gravy made from the juices, a big ol’ gank of mashed potatoes (you best not ask how much butter & salt & cream are in with them Yukons, hon), my late grandmother’s stuffing (I was the only grandchild she taught to make it — suck it, cousin Layne!), rolls, a couple of vegetables that might as well be made of plastic for all anyone intends to eat them, and a half-dozen bottles of excellent white wine. Of course the day will begin with a cheese plate, a dozen or so deviled eggs (another secret grandmother recipe — suck it, cousin Monty!), and probably some bloodies. Somebody’ll bring pie, right? Surely.

    Now, as for weird shit that passes as food, and is oddly crazily tasty: at xmas, we will be having my in-laws’ concoction, known as “goo-de-goo” (I’ve never seen it written — that’s my approximation). It involves a grated block of Spam, a grated hard-boiled egg, a grated sour dill pickle, and mayonnaise. It is mixed together and served on Ritz crackers. It looks like something a cat horked up, and it is DELICIOUS.

  6. Kristin on November 24th, 2009 11:25 am

    Dear Jennifer –

    I do a sweet potato casserole that is NOT mashed sweet potatoes, is actually fairly easy, and delicious – especially if you actually make it ahead of time!

    I take sweet potatoes & peel them, then cut into thick slices – also peel & slice granny smith apples…..start layering – a layer of sweet potatoes, a layer of apples – sprinkle with chopped pecans & some brown sugar (not much is needed) and cinnamon, dot with butter – then repeat…..you can make as many layers (in whatever size pan) as you think you need!

    cover with foil & bake until potatoes & apples are tender…..I usually take a knife & score the whole thing up, to mix it a little more, without actually mashing…..

    Its quite good, and no mush & no marshmallows….and like I said, *I* think its actually better reheated the 2nd day!!

  7. victoria on November 24th, 2009 11:34 am

    Wow, the Jello-cinnamon-cream cheese dish seems very haute cuisine. Are you sure you didn’t steal if from Gourmet magazine? (Last Tgiving, I made six different cookies from Gourmet magazine, each more leboarate than the last, which required hundreds of dollars of ingredients, trips to gourmet stores for pastry bags and various tips, food coloring for different-colored frsotings, dough that had to be chilled then rolloed out and cut, and the big hit was this cheapo, ten minute cookie recipe: mix small can pumpkin + 1 box spice cake mix + 1 bag chocolate chips; bake at 325 for 18 minutes. Done. Nobody ate the expensive Gourmet mag cookies that I spent weeks on.)

  8. Angela on November 24th, 2009 12:10 pm

    Thanksgiving at my aunt’s house is not complete without chicken and noodles (alongside the turkey, of course) and a green jello salad made with cool whip and nuts that is refered to as “Pistachio shit.” One year I asked her what the real name of the salad was, and she said “That is the name: Pistachio shit.” So that’s what we call it!

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  9. Nancy on November 24th, 2009 12:11 pm

    Fay: I’m a midwestern daughter of a southern dad, so some holidays were spent below the Mason-Dixon line. My aunt’s favorite thing to make us was tomato aspic….she was going to make southerners out of those damned yankee kids if it killed her! Bless our hearts. And we do celebrate EVERY holiday with banana pudding :)

  10. babelbabe on November 24th, 2009 12:43 pm

    my mother made some sort of weird side dish/dessert with fresh cranberries, pineapple tidbits, whipped cream, and mini marshmallows. it may or may not have had coconut in it. i love it, however weird and i am the only one who eats it.

  11. Laura on November 24th, 2009 12:43 pm

    My MIL makes this dish called Veg-All casserole. It seriously looks like the grossest thing on the planet but it is AMAZING. The first big meal I had at their house when I was dating the Hubs featured this casserole and I pretty much had to taste it so I wouldn’t seem rude. It was so good and really easy to make. You take a can of Veg-All, 1/3 cup of mayo, 1/2 cup of cheese, 1/4 cup of onions (less if you don’t like them) and salt and pepper to taste. Mix all ingredients together and pour into a greased baking dish. You can mix crushed Ritz and melted butter together as a topping (I leave that off when I make it becaus I don’t usually have the crackers on hand) and then you bake it for 25-20 minutes or until hot.

    Looks like puke, tastes like heaven.

  12. Nell on November 24th, 2009 12:59 pm

    Great post and awesome comments! The jello dish (well a slight variation on the recipe you posted) continues to be a staple at our holiday gatherings – of course, we’re midwestern so it isn’t a gather at all if jello isn’t somehow involve (yuk)- hope all goes well for you!

  13. Colleen on November 24th, 2009 1:01 pm

    No weird dishes here, but I am careening toward step 5. Working full-time and doing even a simplified Thanksgiving meal is super-stressful. My house is a disaster area – thank God our only guest is my niece on college break! We went out last year – it was great! No dishes, no piles of leftovers to fatten my thighs and our then 2.5 year old was so well-behaved we got compliments from other diners. No, he wasn’t asleep!

    One of my favorite dishes is a Bon Appetit recipe from about 10 years ago – cranberry sauce made with dried tart cherries, cranberries, frozen sweet cherries, dry marsala, a little fresh rosemary and some brown sugar. Fabulous, and just about the only cranberry sauce I’ll eat.

  14. Kristin on November 24th, 2009 1:23 pm

    I’m pretty sure I’ve been eating too much cottage cheese and protein mix because, dude, that concoction sounds delicious.

    I don’t have any weird holiday recipes but I have to say that Canadians all think you guys are wingnuts for loving all over the bean casseroles so much. That’s definitely an American thing…green beans and mushroom soup mix, wha??

  15. Alley on November 24th, 2009 1:56 pm

    I have never had one of these Jell-O “salads” that seem so popular–they’re not really part of the meal in this part of the country. That one’s going on my list of Weird Stuff to Try, though. I mean, red hots AND mayonnaise? MAN.

    We’re going to my husband’s parents’ house for Thanksgiving, where the new tradition is having a beer tasting in the afternoon. We’re bringing some of the beer and had a blast picking out weird bottles at the liquor store.

    I don’t think we have anything weird, exactly, in either of our families’ holiday meals. Both of our moms make a pineapple stuffing that I guess could be considered weird (?). People sometimes think my mom’s cranberry sauce sounds weird (cranberries cooked according to the back of the package with sugar to make a traditional cranberry sauce, then add a drained can of mandarin oranges, some toasted walnuts, some raisins, and a chopped apple, and chill), but it’s AWESOME.

  16. Val on November 24th, 2009 1:57 pm

    Our weird recipe isn’t really weird. It’s Cranberry Relish. My oldest brother loves it so I now make it (Mom and Dad flew the coup to TX) and I leave the leftovers with my brother. It’s too darn tart for me. No canned cranberry jello for us.

    Unfortunately, my 3 brothers don’t feel it’s necessary to bother to get together – something about deer hunting is more important – so I’m still unsure what I wil be doing. Maybe just go to a movie and skip turkey.

  17. Tony on November 24th, 2009 2:09 pm

    Nothing says Thanksgiving like mayo covered jello mold.

    Isn’t this the recipe that the Griswold’s Aunt Bethany uses?

  18. Jen O. on November 24th, 2009 2:13 pm

    Oh, God! Jesus! That sounds disgusting (no offence). Jesus.

    We don’t really do “Jello Salad” in Canada (at least in any Canadian house I’ve been in), so who am I to judge. Maybe it’s good.

  19. Maria on November 24th, 2009 2:15 pm

    While that kinda sounds to me like a Friends Trifle gone bad, I’m seriously considering making that Jello Salad!

    @Nancy- I’m a New England girl, and I was served Tomato Aspic when visiting a friend’s aunt in Florida. I still havne’t gotten over it.

  20. Jen O. on November 24th, 2009 2:15 pm

    I meant “offense” and also “Maybe it’s good?” Totally changes the comment. But not the sentiment.

  21. Amy on November 24th, 2009 2:34 pm

    My mom makes a pink jello salad that is similar and I actually pouted last year (yes I really was 41 years old) because she didn’t make it. She’s learned her lesson I hope. My portugese husband’s family has this odd t-day tradition started by his grandmother. They have a breakfast with all of the relatives from his mom’s side of the family. That’s 5 kids worth of family (50-60 people) who gather together and have pork and grease (pork marinated in wine and garlic w/ the drippings), inyums (taro root) and portogee sweet bread. It’s loud and crazy and I equally love and hate it. We have to be there at 9am so I miss the parade (more pouting) but it is nice to be able to see all of the extended family. We now have 4 generations in attendance. After that it’s off to my family (mom and brother) for a nice quiet traditional turkey feast. Talk about both ends of the spectrum. By Friday I may be in a corner sucking my thumb!

  22. KF on November 24th, 2009 2:45 pm

    Thanksgiving makes my head hurt this year. We’re bringing 2 home made pies to the family event (Punkin’ and apple-cranberry). It’ll be me and mah huzbind, my brother and his wife and their twin girls, and my brother’s mother in law all at my parents’ place. Madness I tell you! Madness!

  23. KF on November 24th, 2009 3:22 pm

    OH! And the family recipe:
    Triscuit topped by square of sharpest cheddar cheese available and one small wedge of artichoke heart. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt if not already oily and salty enough. Appetizer to gorge yourself on. Guarantee’d.

  24. gillian on November 24th, 2009 3:53 pm

    “looks like puke, tastes like heaven” is fantastic. thank you for the laugh!!

    my mother in law does the ‘pink stuff’ too. thought it was a wierd missouri thing. glad i’m not alone.

  25. Eileen on November 24th, 2009 5:35 pm

    well, now, now, I am Eileen and I am the jello-salad queen and I think I will just try your recipe this year, afterall, it is sort of named after me. hope they don’t hang me out to dry for changing the “normal” one I make………..teehee. Enjoy all!

  26. Cassie on November 24th, 2009 5:54 pm

    We typically have 60+ people at our home for Thanksgiving. We make the turkeys, stuffing, and mashed potatoes and everyone brings a dish or two, or three. We have the usual pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce, and green bean casserole but we also have wing dip, better than sex cake, baked beans, and whatever else everyone likes. And maybe this year some Jello Salad? Maybe?

  27. sooboo on November 24th, 2009 5:57 pm

    Usually I am in charge of cooking every year. This year we are going to my MIL’s and all I have to bring is some non-alcoholic drinks. You think I’d be happy, but actually I’m going to miss my homeade cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. I’ve gotten quite good at a traditional Thanksgiving spread. I guess there’s no pleasing some people.

  28. veralynn on November 24th, 2009 8:59 pm

    I’m jealous of the interesting potato recipes folks are making. In my family, we are NOT allowed to fuck around with the mashed potatoes. There will be no flavorings or anything beyond “naked potatoes.” My contribution this year is corn pudding. Love the stuff.

  29. Alyson on November 24th, 2009 10:04 pm

    I always do this weird jello salad……

    Orange jello with crushed pineapple and mandarin oranges, when the jellow is almost set, top with a layer of mini marshmallows. Then allow to fully set. Then mix a dressing of half mayo and half sour cream, spread over the marshmallows, then top the whole damn thing with shredded cheddar cheese (preferably Tillamook).

    I know, I know, beyond weird, but it really tastes awesome!

  30. annabelle on November 25th, 2009 8:12 am

    We’re going to my inlaws for diet-Thanksgiving (turkey breast from the ham store, vegetable, stuffing, pie). I mean, it’s very hard to complain about having a delicious meal with wonderful people who insist on casual dress and will entertain my toddler for hours on end, but it’s not the usual huge spread. That said, I only have to bring potatoes. (I insisted on potatoes a few years ago… they’re Italian and don’t really do much Thanksgiving, but I’m Irish. I mean, really, at LEAST one kind of potato!) I’m looking for recipes right now.

  31. Sue on November 25th, 2009 9:05 am

    My mother makes a green-grape salad. Tske a bunch of washed green grapes and cover them in sour cream, put them in a bowl and then put packed brown sugar on the top (about a half inch). Sounds gross, tastes good.

  32. kate on November 25th, 2009 9:50 am

    My oddball dessert is Trifle, it is english and actually something my family never made. I got the perfect crystal bowel for it as a wedding gift and it is so tasty I make it any holiday I can find an excuse for.

  33. haitian american family of three on November 25th, 2009 11:34 am

    The neighborhood stores have run of of turkeys!! What am I going to do? My brothers are going to freak out if I bring a tofu turkey…

  34. Simon on November 25th, 2009 12:19 pm

    We cook our turkey wrapped in bacon to keep it basting the whole time. Plus it tastes good.

    Wombat will someday go to someone else’s house for t-giving and wonder why they don’t have a bowl of bacon on the table.

    We will point at him and laugh when he tells us this.

  35. Barb on November 25th, 2009 12:29 pm

    We, too are having PEOPLE at our NEW house…the SECOND group of PEOPLE in just ONE week??!!! I must have just gotten off a runner’s high, cuz now it doesn’t seem like as much fun! Oh, well…thankful that people want to be in my company…I pray that my first attempt at turkey and dressing doesn’t kill or make anyone ill…and if they get ill it is rude to NOT go visit them in the hospital? ;)

  36. kath on November 25th, 2009 4:55 pm

    @ Fran & Nancy – I’m Canadian and we have tomato aspic at Christmas. Really only my mother (age 90) and I like it. Our father used to call it tomato aspenic and as soon as we sat at the table announce to everyone, “You don’t have to eat THAT” while pointing at the aspic. I had forgotten about putting olives and such in it. We put some chopped green onions in now. My husband calls the weird traditional recipes “church basement food” because the church basement pot lucks were where you could find them ALL!
    Happy thanksgiving!

  37. mindy on November 25th, 2009 5:00 pm

    you are such a hoot.

    happy thanksgiving

    ps. that recipe makes me shiver

  38. lisa on November 25th, 2009 11:42 pm

    Im having a really hard time envisioning what that jello salad must taste like…..I’ll take your word for it that its good. ;)

    We were feeling all sorry for ourselves that we are too far away to spend Thanksgiving with family so we came to Singapore this week instead. We have reservations at one of the hotels for ‘Thanksgiving dinner’….but we may forego that and eat something local instead.

  39. jenn on November 26th, 2009 7:30 pm

    “…crawl into a closet and suck on dog hair.” = AWESOME. And I can totally identify.

  40. Marinka on November 27th, 2009 7:40 pm

    Jello salad? From the 70s?!

  41. thejunebug on November 28th, 2009 12:34 am

    We went to Jay’s grandmother’s house, where there exists no internet, which is why I am late commenting. :) Hope your meal went fabulously!

    Our singular family oddball recipe is called “Mormon Salad”, and we call it that because… well, my family are mormons. And it’s a jello salad.

    Mix together in a large bowl: 1 container of coolwhip, 1 container cottage cheese, and 1 packet of pistachio pudding mix. Chill and serve. Ta-da!

  42. Mom101 on November 28th, 2009 9:42 pm

    We too have sort of a Gourmet kind of family and yet our single greatest tradition?

    Stovetop Stuffing.

    Seriously, that stuff rocks.

    Glad you survived Linda. It woudl suck if your very last post was a Jello salad recipe. (No offense to Aunt Eileen.)

  43. Loopyloo on November 29th, 2009 7:56 am

    I need pics of that Jello salad. Seriously. I can’t even picture what it looks like :)

    I saw/tasted my first and last aspic this summer. Sweet Jeebus it was nasty.

    My mom makes a yummy jellied salad. Prepare cherry jello and add a can of cranberry. When it’s half way set, wisk in a small container of sour cream(25o ml – canadian measurements not sure what that is in us) and let it finish setting. It sounds terrible but it’s really good with turkey or chicken. You have to use full calorie/fat ingredients or it wont set though :\

  44. amber on November 29th, 2009 4:20 pm

    Pilgrim-hole, hehe. You always make me smile. Judging by the photos, everything went well, and I’m glad. Happy Thanksgiving!

  45. Anonymous on December 2nd, 2009 8:37 am

    I had to laugh when I read the paper plates and Stove Top stuffing~ Just wanted to let you know, that’s how we roll in my house. It was great.

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