No guests, no turkey this year for Thanksgiving — I think!

For the first time in almost 18 years of marriage, we will not have any extended family or friends with us for Thanksgiving.  We have always either gone to relatives’ houses or hosted the holiday. And either way there were traditional family dishes that we would make or be served.

When we lived up north and went to Michael’s aunt’s and uncle’s house for Thanksgiving, they made their stuffing with sausage and chestnuts. (I had never had it that way.) They also served butternut squash. We always had sweet potato soufflé growing up. All the aunts would contribute their specialities to the meal. They would leave the food outside because it was freezing so they didn’t have to overcrowd the refrigerator. I thought that was so crazy!

If we were hosting and Michael’s dad and stepmom were coming, we would have pasta and gravy with the meal or before the meal. Also Michael’s stepmother would bring the northern-style stuffing because his dad doesn’t like my southern style cornbread stuffing.

If we were with my parents, then we had to make my grandmother’s sweet potato soufflé and my great-grandmothers green beans. If my sister-in-law were there then we would have her sweet potatoes, which had a pecan, brown sugar crust on the top, and her chocolate éclairs for desert.

But this year we will be all alone. No guests to serve. No family to cater to. Just us.

I thought it would take all the pressure off and I could just make the meal however I wanted. But now there are some many options, I’m feeling a lot of pressure.

A few weeks ago I had declared that I wasn’t going to make a turkey this year. They’re such large birds, and you only make them once a year so they never turn out right. They’re overcooked and a lot of stress.

Think about it: There are no radio hotlines for Christmas meals because people make things that they like and that they know how to make!!! Why do people try once a year to make this disproportionate bird where there’s no way the dark meat and white meat can be done at the same time?!

I told the kids I wasn’t going to make turkey and Walsh was up in arms. I said, “Why do you care if we just have a chicken instead?” (I know I can make a juicy chicken!)

And he said, “We need to honor Benjamin Franklin by having a turkey.”

This was not the answer I had expected. I said, “Why?”

He said, “Because Ben Franklin said it should be our national bird.”

Ugg. So what do I do with that? (Maybe a small turkey that I can treat like a chicken?)

I have another wrench in my holiday meal planning – my Weight Watchers diet. I am just shy of 10 pounds down after five weeks so I don’t want to blow things. On the other hand, maybe all that progress means I can eat some pumpkin pie!

So I am off to decide my menu – Do I stick with the traditional favorites or go with something really wacky? Do I try to keep it diet friendly or blow it out for one day? (I am tempted to try a brined turkey from Trader’s Joes because we’ve often had multiple relatives with salt restrictions in the past, but not this year.)

Do you always serve the same traditional family recipes? Do you try new things each year? Do you always have the same guests and same routine? What would you do if you didn’t have any restrictions at all and could choose anything to serve? What do you think about no turkey for Thanksgiving?

52 comments Add your comment

[...] little resemblance to real food and are filled with additives. No matter what you choose to …No guests, no turkey this year for Thanksgiving — I think!Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog)all 81 news [...]

[...] little resemblance to real food and are filled with additives. No matter what you choose to …No guests, no turkey this year for Thanksgiving — I think!Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog)all 87 news [...]

grits1am

November 21st, 2011
5:03 am

try a turkey breast and cook it in a bag. they are great for a smaller group and are very juicy.

Techmom

November 21st, 2011
6:43 am

Why not do a small turkey (8-10 lbs) or do a ham, standing rib roast, etc? We’ve had non-turkey Thanksgivings. Also let the kids each choose a side dish that they get to help make (then if Walsh wants a traditional meal he gets to choose something traditional). Since you have no one else’s schedule to stick to and no entertaining to do, you have all day to let the kids help (maybe one at a time in the kitchen).

shaggy

November 21st, 2011
7:23 am

There are two surefire ways to succulent bird:

1) Low & Slow smoke, with our preferred wood being apple, although some like white oak or hickory. The centerpiece this year, will be a dueling wild turkeys…yes two of them. The wild bird tastes nothing like butterball…MUCH better. However, some not so smart “people” (people quoted just for iRun) don’t like the smoky taste with either wild or farmed fowl. Personally, I think these people should be caned and force fed fruit cake, until they pass out. Wild bird makes THE BEST leftover sandwiches ever. If you don’t believe me, go out and hunt your own…I am not sharing.

Deep Fry that sucker. Inject it with your favorite flavourings and burn down the garage, house, wife’s car, etc…, because you have no idea how to actually deep fry a turkey. However, you will have succulent blown up turkey pieces that you can salvage for the fire department or they can double as wound dressing for 3rd degree burns.
If you are successful, which is unlikely, because no one has actually pulled it off…they just lie about how good it is, you will have gallons of used peanut oil that can be used for……….nothing at all, and will be stored until it emits a peculiar odor that the dogs are mysteriously drawn to.

mom2alex&max

November 21st, 2011
8:03 am

Three years ago, we decided to go to Orlando during the Thanksgiving break and visit Universal Studios and Sea World. We rented a little condo so we had a kitchen.

In a cooler, I brought one of those turkey breasts, prepared stuffing and the makings for pumpkin pie and mashed potatoes. The four of us had a LOVELY Thanksgiving dinner with very little effort!

Me

November 21st, 2011
8:13 am

Cook what you want, period. If turkey is desired by a family member, no matter the reason, and you wish to accomodate, then just do the breast as mentioned above.We’ve had numerous holidays where we didn’t travel or didn’t play host so we have deviated considerably. The standing rib roast is an awesome alternative to the “traditional” feast. We even did a “low country boil” one year just because we all enjoy it so much. When the holiday isn’t being spent with extended family or whatever then just being with your immediate family should take priority over what is served. My two cents, anyway.

Me

November 21st, 2011
8:16 am

@mom2alex&max — We also spent one Thanksgiving at Disney and ate a very non-traditional meal at the Contemporary — This was another “just us” Thanksgiving and we spent it as a family and the dishes served mattered not.

Uh, Thanksgiving without...

November 21st, 2011
8:21 am

…turkey is like Christmas without, well, Santa Claus – it is not about the food, per se, it is about tradition. And, while the original pilgrims probably did not have turkey the turkey became the symbol of Thanksgiving, right or wrong.

I know it is difficult being away from family and “old” friends for the first time, yet this is one of those times you need to put “you” on the back burner and continue, or start, a family tradition with YOUR kids. Try putting the family FIRST…

And, turkey is NOT just for Thanksgiving Day – as others have mentioned, try a crock pot to cook a turkey breast – we do that 8-10 times a year, and it is always perfect with no fuss and basically no muss….

mom2alex&max

November 21st, 2011
8:28 am

Thanksgiving is about counting your blessings, not just eating. What you eat is not as important as the food being prepared with love and being with the people that matter the most to you.

motherjanegoose

November 21st, 2011
8:44 am

We have had our own little Thanksgiving for years. As I have mentioned before, no one appears to know how to get to our house except my sister who lives in metro Atlanta. Everyone else is at least 8 hours away from Atlanta. So, it is often the five of us. They all say we can visit them. We used to travel when the kids were small but once they got jobs it was not easy to do as many HS and college jobs require working on Black Friday. My son has offered to work on Thanksgiving before but he says he is not working this year and my daughter has to go back to work on Saturday.

We do fix a typical spread and then everyone can take something home to their own apartment. I have been fixing a turkey for years and do not find it that hard at all. Sometimes I use a bag and sometimes not. My daughter is in charge of the menu, as she loves to cook. She is home from college now and we will go shopping together. My sister brings appetizers and at least one side.

I find it fascinating what traditional foods people eat. Growing up, my Mom always poured everyone a small glass of tomato juice. I have NO idea where that came from and we do not do it here. She also served a bowl of applesauce…something I I ever do.

When we went to Plymouth, this past summer, I learned some things about what happened with the Pilgrims and Native Americans. My daughter and I toured the area and it was quite interesting. I am thankful that I have had the chance to share some historical vacations with my two. Daughter told me that while she was taking American History at college, she actually knew what some of the places and events were. We had visited those places ourselves. I did not have this growing up even though my husband and I are not history buffs…we enjoy touring historical areas with our kids.

Miss Priss!

November 21st, 2011
8:50 am

Who says you have to do anything during a holiday period? Honestly, some of this business is faddish and competitive and unneeded.

catlady

November 21st, 2011
8:56 am

You could get a “take out” turkey and then each person add what is special to them. One of my kids would surely make “green stuff” (a cottage cheese/jello/nuts dish), one would make sweet potato caserole, one would insist on marshmallow salad. I would want dressing and gravy(which I am terrible at making).

My younger daughter has gotten into making some fancy desert each year. This year it is cheesecake with carmel pecan topping and bourbon balls. We always have pimento cheese stuffed celery from my former husband’s family. We may also (from their family) make Appalachian “fruit cake” (a 10 layer stack cake with apple butter in between) but that is an all day project.

This year we will eat lots of bread with the applebutter and jelly I recently made–yum~!

Last year the kids and their families and I gathered at a cabin on Lake Hiawassee. Tha was great. This year it is in Clayton. I am excited about that. Just getting the three of them together with their spouses and kids is heaven for me!

The Reverend Baby Doctor Bedpan

November 21st, 2011
9:14 am

I find it repugnant that we celebrate this holiday every year, considering 1) Our ancestors gave thanks to the native Americans, only to spend the next several hundred years slaughtering them and 2) the large number of people on this planet that don’t get enough to eat.

It’s no wonder the rest of the world hates America.

Instead of feasting this year, give back. Feed those who need it. I bet if America would take the money spent on weapons and bombs and fed the world instead, we would not have any enemies.

Figment

November 21st, 2011
9:27 am

Turkey is not that hard to cook correctly. Try a smaller bird if you’re having trouble cooking a larger one.

JJ

November 21st, 2011
9:30 am

There’s a sourpuss in every blog topic. This “Reverend” person who keeps popping up, apparently has a very sad life. Everything posted is negative…..

Do you have ANYTHING to be thankful for? Is there ANY happiness in your life?

Obviously, the good Reverend Baby Doc...

November 21st, 2011
9:30 am

…got up on the wrong side of the bed – have a good week, doc…

The Reverend Baby Doctor Bedpan

November 21st, 2011
9:33 am

So you all relish in the knowledge of this nation’s criminal past, present and future?

Just what is wrong with suggesting this nation feed the poor?

I’m thankful for a lot. What I am not thankful for is this selfish, inconsiderate demeanor many of you have here.

motherjanegoose

November 21st, 2011
9:36 am

Can we not enjoy Thanksgiving and also give back? To me, this is kind of like saying how can you live in a nice house while some have no house? I make food donations all year long both with checks to charities that are designated for food and also with actual bags of food I take to the
co-ops. I do not have to eat a sandwich to be able to share.

I may be pretty stupid but I am unclear how providing food for those around the world would eliminate strife/enemies. There are those who sit together at the same Thanksgiving table with you, who have plenty to eat, and there is still strife. They are related to each other and remain enemies. This has been discussed on the blog here before.

The Reverend Baby Doctor Bedpan

November 21st, 2011
9:41 am

Not surprised that some…..Most of you won’t understand.

Get back in your SUV, dash off to the mall on Friday and look like the fools we really are.

homeschooler

November 21st, 2011
9:48 am

@ Reverend. Geez..it must be hard to be you. I bet you typed your comment from your iPad while you are occupying Wall Street. Personally I will feast in celebration of all that I am thankful for. My family, my job and the fact that I live in a free country that is like no other. I will pay way too much money for unbelievable amounts of food at the Dillard House and I will enjoy every minute of it.
I give to others throughout the year. I give time, money, clothes, food. I will NOT feel guilty for having all the things that I work hard for. And I don’t even have much. I am thankful for and very proud of what I have.
So what do you celebrate?

JJ

November 21st, 2011
9:52 am

AMEN HOMESCHOOLER!!!!!!

abc

November 21st, 2011
9:53 am

If you haven’t bought a turkey yet, better hurry — last minute turkey buyers will only find the largest birds are left. If you need to know how to properly cook one, google it — it isn’t hard, it just takes awhile.

I’d say that if it’s just your own little family, then attention and care is more important than if it’s a large gathering. Have meat and 3, pretty simple really. If someone wants traditional whatever, have it there for them. It really isn’t that hard.

Diet-wise, just chill on portions and avoid the sugar. Instead of sweet potato souffle, try preparing them just as you would idaho mashed potatoes — no sugar, don’t go nuts on the salt and butter.

gpkbsin

November 21st, 2011
9:57 am

We are vegetarians and so there is never turkey. Family lives far away and we never get together. But, we usually have one or two families that are friends. This year, we are going to have nobody over. Seems really fun. We usually make 4-5 trays of vegetarian lasagna of different kinds. This year, we’ll just make one.. mexican lasagna. Looking forward to being done with cooking early in the afternoon and then just watch football games. Oh and going to try to make eggless pumpkin pie day before thanksgiving and let it settle for a day.

motherjanegoose

November 21st, 2011
9:58 am

NO SUV here and no mall shopping either. I also avoid Black Friday like the plague and I live 3 miles from MOG. Yippee…guess I am not in the fool category :).

@homeschooler….love the Dillard House. It had been years since I had been there and I took my sister up this summer. We ate a 2:00 lunch at the Dillard House and then went to see THE HELP at the Ruby Cinema in Franklin, NC. What fun! We put our left overs in the hotel fridge, as we were spending the night. We had enough left over for dinner after the movie. It was my sister’s first visit and she could not believe all the food they brought out. Lots of good old fashioned dishes. I leave a really good tip, if I eat out on a holiday, as I know those folks are giving up their time too.

Many of them will need the extra money to help with the holidays themselves and that is why they are working. Choices we all make. I am away from home lots of days each year to work my job too! A choice I make.

The Reverend Baby Doctor Bedpan

November 21st, 2011
10:16 am

You don’t know me, so don’t categorize my life.

The Reverend Baby Doctor Bedpan

November 21st, 2011
10:17 am

Also, we are taking away from the subject matter of this blog.

JATL

November 21st, 2011
10:21 am

Many of us actually prepare and eat turkey year ’round. It’s quite healthy! I’m with Walsh on this one -although my dad also smokes a ham that is to die for. You can cook a turkey breast in the crock pot with water and Lawry’s season salt. That one is literally a no-brainer! It’s also fairly easy to follow the directions and cook a turkey in a bag (one of those Reynold’s turkey bags) or fry one outside after injecting. All you have to do is follow the directions!

As far as WW -if you want to keep weight off, you have to learn how to deal with special occasions. I think life is worth living and food is worth eating on holidays, so I eat on the day. I don’t eat all of that stuff for 4 days afterward though. You’ll probably also find after eating much healthier for awhile that you can’t take greasy, fatty and heavy foods like you once did. I can only eat small portions of that type of stuff -if at all, and your overall portion size will most likely be much smaller than it used to be.

oneofeach4me

November 21st, 2011
10:47 am

This will be the first year in the past 10 that I don’t have to cook a big meal and I am looking forward to it. Both my sisters have boyfriends and so they are going over to that side of the family to eat in the early evening. So…. we will head 65 miles south to the hubby’s family and eat an early feast with them. Then, in the evening we have invited everyone over to do Coffee, Cake, and Kahlua at my house. Us adults will sip our coffee and Kahlua and have desert while the kids drink their hot cocoa and watch Polar Express. Then, me, my hubby, my sisters and their boyfriends are going to go to Black Friday if for no other reason than to people watch ;-)

As to your issue, make a small bird or do the small turkey breast. Or, you can do like I have the past couple of years and just buy an already cooked bird from Publix; the smoked ones are SO good (I am sure no where near as good as Shaggy’s though). Make 4 small sides and one or two deserts. What I always tell the kids is if there is something they like to eat that we don’t make at Thanksgiving, we can just add it to the menu for Christmas! Enjoy your time together without all the fuss and hustle.

Stacey

November 21st, 2011
11:00 am

@Shaggy…Are you willing to share your “recipe” for smoked turkey. I’m thinking of doing it this year for the first time (store bought, not wild). I’ve been told low and slow over indirect heat but that’s about all I know. Hubby’s uncle advised that a 15-20 lb bird done right should take about 5 hours.

motherjanegoose

November 21st, 2011
11:07 am

@ one…the fuss and hustle makes me crazy. I am not about trying to one up everyone with the place settings, the decorations and the food. There are some woman who are and good for them. Not me! Let’s just cook, set the table, eat and play games or watch a movie. I have my T day decorations out already and they will be fine! I did get new turkey napkins…for fun!

My dear sister is loading her car to travel to her son’s apartment and cook the dinner there. ( the other one comes here) her kids live 10 or so hours away. She is putting everything she may need in the car, as her sons most likely would not have it. I tip my hat to her, as I would NOT be doing this.
We would be going out to eat! She even made the pie crusts to take with her. My other sister told me that this is because I am a career woman and relish my time off. She also mentioned that Costco’s has mashed potatoes in a tray…heat and serve. We laughed, as that is perhaps one of the easiest things IMHO to make but some woman ( who work 40 plus hours per week) do not want to cook on their day off. My husband makes ours, this is a sacred tradition that you do not break around here…haha!

I am currently cleaning out the fridge and pantry to make room for anything else we may need. I hate doing it. It is a twice a year major clean and purge, now and in the summer. I have found things in there that I do not recognize, as I have been on the road many weeks this fall. I would rather work all day today, than be home doing this. I would also rather eat Tday dinner out that get everything ready, shop, cook and clean up. I am in the minority on that one, as everyone else wants the leftovers. Thankfully, my daughter has really stepped up to the literal plate.

JJ

November 21st, 2011
11:14 am

I may go Black Friday shopping, if for no other reason, than to spend some time with my daughter. She LOVES to go out at 3:00 a.m. What the heck, I have 4 days off work and have plenty of time to sleep….

shaggy

November 21st, 2011
11:19 am

Stacey,
Low & Slow Smoke is a great way to go. It will put hair on your chest ;0)
Hubby’s uncle is about right on time, but invest in a meat thermometer. If it is done early, you are OK. Late just doesn’t work for obvious reasons.

Actually, the Brinkman Smoker, with a drip pan that you can stoke with something like…you guessed it, beer, works as good as anything. The pan keeps the heat indirect, as it sits above the coals bubbling all of the juicy goodness up with the smoke. It keeps the bird moist, while allowing the fat to drip. I generally start smoking the night before…get some buddies over, have way too many beers-maybe a shot or two, right about pass out time, put the birds on and …….pass out for a while. Wake up and frantically check the bird, which has miraculously cooked to perfection, without intervention.

The rub us a personal thing. I won’t go into how to rub my bird here.

shaggy

November 21st, 2011
11:21 am

Theresa,

I did reply to Stacey’s recipe question…kind of. It evaporated, and you know that I won’t retype it. Go fish it if you want.

Techmom

November 21st, 2011
11:22 am

@Shaggy my husband is going to smoke our bird on the Big Green Egg- first time. Looking forward to it!

shaggy

November 21st, 2011
11:31 am

Techmom,

Big Green Egg is an awesome smoker…one of the best for fowl of all kinds. Hard to mess up with one of those.

Penguinmom

November 21st, 2011
12:30 pm

To get a nice juicy turkey, brine it first. The Food Network website has excellent directions on how to do this. My husband has done this for the past several years and the turkey is the best I’ve ever had. Juicy and perfectly cooked. Also, use the internal temperature to determine done-ness instead of going by time or by the little pop-up thing. And don’t forget to allow for the bird to continue cooking after you take it out of the oven. So, totally done in the oven means overcooked when you get it to the table.

I think a turkey breast instead of a whole turkey might be a good idea. It is smaller since you have fewer people to feed and easier to get right.

jarvis

November 21st, 2011
12:47 pm

What? No Turkey?
Why not serve Borscht, aye comrade?

JJ

November 21st, 2011
1:23 pm

My mom makes the best turkey ever!!!!

motherjanegoose

November 21st, 2011
2:05 pm

@ jarvis…I have never eaten borscht but had some clients in ND rave about it.

SORT of related, I read that Larry Munson got his radio start in ND …anyone know the name of the town? No fair looking it up…haha! I have been there and it is quite beautiful. It would not surprise me at all if they served fish there for Thanksgiving as they love to fish!

My first year in Kinder, was in South Texas. I was mentioning all the traditional dishes I thought were correct for Thanksgiving, while the students were talking about tamales and empanadas. It was a real learning experience for me…not everyone in the USA eats the same types of foods for a national holiday.

I met the author of APPLE PIE FOURTH OF JULY, when we were both speaking at the Alaska State Literacy Conference. It was a few years ago. Her name is Janet Wong and that book is quite an interesting tale about what folks eat to celebrate July 4th. Folks in NE often eat rice while we might eat mac and cheese in the south!

jbm

November 21st, 2011
2:25 pm

My son is deep frying our bird this year and I’m cooking a ham as usual. We always have both mostly because I’m not big on turkey but love a good baked ham. Other than changing out my desserts, I pretty much make the same every year.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

November 21st, 2011
2:30 pm

I will look for it now — been out all morning –

Valstake

November 21st, 2011
2:47 pm

I live alone and there is no way I’m cooking a turkey for Thanksgiving or any other holiday. I’m walking to my local bar & grill for their Thanksgiving buffet for $5.00. It’s a sort of “thank-you” to their patrons and the food is good there. Will probably come home and just spend a quiet evening; no shopping is on my agenda since I have everything I need at the moment.

Stacey

November 21st, 2011
3:21 pm

@Shaggy…Thanks for the tips. I have a meat thermometer so I will keep check on it to avoid overcooking. I will be traveling out of state so I plan to let it brine while we ride (6 hours) and while we get a few hours sleep then get up early Thursday and put it on the smoker. My sister and I plan to get up around 5:00 to get the cooking out of the way because we usually eat for the first time around noon then nibble on leftovers all day as we get hungry and
family trickle in from all over.

Cat Mom

November 21st, 2011
4:51 pm

Go with a Honeybaked Ham instead.

Yep, nothing like...

November 21st, 2011
4:59 pm

…paying $60 for a ham…

Homer 4 the holidays

November 21st, 2011
5:01 pm

Valstake
November 21st, 2011
2:47 pm

I live alone and there is no way I’m cooking a turkey for Thanksgiving or any other holiday. I’m walking to my local bar & grill for their Thanksgiving buffet for $5.00. It’s a sort of “thank-you” to their patrons and the food is good there. Will probably come home and just spend a quiet evening; no shopping is on my agenda since I have everything I need at the moment.

________________________________________________________________________________

Sounds nice. I’ll be doing the same, except for the $5 buffet…..Is that local to Atlanta? I would like to do that.

Hey, Homer...

November 21st, 2011
6:02 pm

…Valstake lives in Tampa…

djm_NC

November 21st, 2011
8:37 pm

MJG franklin is where i work! i too avoid black friday…thanking god every day i no longer work where i have to deal with it in any way what-so-ever!! my kids and i have several times made lasagna or spagetti or whatever for thanksgiving and christmas. this year we will have turkey…shared by family and friends…and in laws (and outlaws lol) this is the first year in probably 14 years that i havent had to work on thanksgiving and most of the weekend. i am SOOO excited! 4 days off with my family is going to be heaven!! also expecting my niece or my daughter to maybe have their babies that weekend. they are both due in a week! :)))

|ll|lll|llll|||ll|

November 22nd, 2011
10:49 am

We’re spending Thanksgiving the old-fashoined way. At an Indian casino. I figure we owe them for stealing their land, killing their chiefs, and raping their women.