Not My Granny's Thanksgiving Spread


Mary Niehaus RallesThere is one in every family: the one who gets “picked” to host the big holiday meals each year. At some point in my adult life, I was picked as one of those favorite places to stop by for Thanksgiving.

Maybe it’s because I keep all the family recipes in my head. Or maybe it’s because I try to keep a few traditions going, carefully trimming the bird with a hint of nostalgia. Heck, it could just be because I make a mean turkey.


I’d love to tell you that I learned everything I know from my granny, who, just after Thanksgiving every year, would say that she was “down for a week” after the holidays. This was as close as she came to bragging, a self proclaimed indicator that she had went all out for the festive spread ... a spread that at one time fed a dozen or so grandchildren and a few stragglers every year.

But my granny, well, let’s just say she was a “play it close to the apron” kind of cook. She said that no one had bothered to teach her, and that it was better to learn on your own. So whenever she was in the kitchen, I stayed just a few steps behind, making a mental note of the ingredients (forget measurements, it was a pinch of this and a cup of that — and by a cup of that, I mean a water glass that held an undetermined amount of ounces). If I was lucky, I could watch from start to finish. More often than not, though, I was shooed away to put a rubber band around my unruly long hair. She was a stickler about that. A single hair could ruin an entire meal. Guess I couldn’t blame her. And yes, I picked up on that early and always pull back my hair before beginning any meal preparation.

Granny used to make this chocolate-peanut-butter fudge that turned out like a hard chocolate bar, dark brown like a Hershey’s, but without any uniformity at all. She’d simply break it into uneven pieces and throw it in a pile on a plate (which would later be divvied up amongst the grandkids as part of our take-home goodie bags).

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