Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving in the Fifties--Mother's Way

We basically had the same thing every year. Here's Mother's menu:

The biggest turkey she could afford: She used every tiny smidgen of that turkey before the week was out--maybe longer. To roast, she removed the packet of giblets from the inside the turkey. (If you don't know what giblets are, don't ask.) She rubbed the entire turkey--inside and out--with oil and began the slow-roasting-basting process that took a long time--a few hours.
Stuffing, which we called "dressing." Using coarsely ground cornmeal, she made cornbread and cooked it in a cast iron skillet. That was the best cornbread in the world. It was dense with a crusty bottom. When cool, she crumbled it into a big metal mixing bowl. She added broth from the turkey, chopped onion and celery, chopped hard-boiled eggs, raw eggs, sage and all that good stuff, and stirred. It was sort of soupy but baked in a big oblong pan--lots of delicious dressing!
Cranberry sauce. She bought packages of raw cranberries, washed them, added sugar, and cooked until they popped, let them simmer until the juice turned syrupy, then cooled. The mixture jelled, and oh, how wonderful that was.

Giblet gravy. I told you not to ask, but it's the heart, liver, and gizzard. She chopped it all up, added milk and butter, salt and pepper, and cooked until it was a little thick. This was the one thing I did not eat. I tried to scoop just the gravy part, leaving those little chopped bits of...stuff..in the bowl. Daddy, though, absolutely loved it.

Sweet potatoes. She bought raw sweet potatoes, peeled them and cut in 1/2 inch thick rounds, placed them in a 9 x 13 baking dish with the bottom covered in melted butter, and sprinkled brown sugar and pecans over them. Baked slowly until they almost candied. Sooooo good.

Mashed potatoes. Why did we need these? I don't know, but she made wonderful mashed potatoes--no lumps. Remember how butter makes everything taste extra good? Well, she used loads of butter.

Brown gravy. This came from the "leavings" in the bottom of the turkey pan, and it made wonderful, thick, rich brown gravy. My favorite.

Green Beans. These were canned by her own hands, just plain old boiled green beans. Why did they taste so good?
Five Cup Fruit Salad. The salad became the standard in the 50s at every holiday table. One cup each of: Mandarin oranges, pineapple tidbits, miniature marshmallows, sour cream, and coconut. Yummm.

Homemade whole what rolls. She made the rolls dark, heavy, rich, crunchy on the outside, soft and sweet on the inside. Loved those.
Pecan Pie. There is no better dessert than pecan pie. I will make one tomorrow, but mine is a little different from Mother's. Although hers was fantastic, I still like mine better. I like whipped cream on top, but Mother served it plain.

Pumpkin Pie. Here's where Mother and I differed also. Her pumpkin pie was made with condensed milk, pumpkin, and eggs. Mine--made with pumpkin, sweetened condensed milk, eggs, and a cup of hot water. Hers was dark and thin, but very good in its own way. Mine is thicker, somewhat fluffier, and lighter in color. But I could never duplicate her homemade crust. I finally resorted to Pillsbury Refrigerated Pie Crusts. Trust me, they are good.
Whatever you have for Thanksgiving dinner, just remember how blessed we are. It's very simple.

Love and Blessings to All- Celia


  1. Ooh, Celia, you make my mouth water. Those sweet potatoes look and sound divine! Well, actually everything does. Your mother was obviously a great cook. You are blessed to have such wonderful memories. Now go make some new ones! Hugs, Lyn

  2. Oh good gravey!!! That all sounds SOOOO good. Happy Thanks Giving.

  3. That sounds absolutely amazing! I'm looking forward to hosting Christmas eve, hopefully with a similar spread. :)

  4. Sounds like an amazing meal. Enjoy ever morsel.

  5. Hi Celia, your TG menu sounds traditionally southern. Our cornbread differs just a bit from yours. We don't use any cooked eggs in it (they are in our giblet gravy) and we use biscuits or regular bread along with the cornbread. Still, it is called cornbread. Still stuffed from a meal of all this today! Happy Thanksgiving to all.

  6. ooops, I am speaking of cornbread DRESSING here. I'm still in a stupor from all these cards, I think.

  7. Remember, Lyn--this is what my mother cooked--not me. I think I would make a big mess trying to do all this! Happy Thanksgiving!

  8. Anna--Haha! I love "good" gravy--not all are equal.Have a wonderful weekend.

  9. Patty--The amount of good we all eat on Thanksgiving could feed two countries--ah, well, enjoy our blessings, for they are a gift.
    Thank you!

  10. Susan-I'm plannng my own meal--a little different from Mother's back in the 50s.
    Have a wonderful weekend!

  11. LINDA--of course, it's traditionally Southern. I do not cook like this at all anymore. The last time I did was when the kids were in 7th and 9th grades. We were alone--didn't travel anywhere that year--and we began playing games. At lunch, we were still in our pjs, lolling on the floor in front of the fireplace, playing a mean game of Trivial Pursuit. It was then I remembered I had a frozen turkey in the freezer, and had not cooked one thing. No one cared--they said, let's have nachos and coke. I had made pies, so we munched on such till bedtime. I think I cooked the turkey a week later.
    That's when the kids and Jim said they didn't care at all for Thanksgiving fare. Fine by me--I don'tlike to cook it either!
    Yes, I knew you meant "cornbread dressing." It does seem like Mother added some sliced bread to the mixture.
    Right now--all I have cooked is a pecan pie and Jim has asked twice if we could have some now. No. It's only 3:30.
    Have a wonderful weekend!

  12. Here in Pennsylvania Dutch country stuffing/dressing became filling--which it surely does. My Dad loved duck and we always had to have that along with the turkey.
    And I'm with your Dad--if you haven't had giblet gravy you haven't had gravy.

  13. Thank you, John. And see. your post did come through. You are a special person, too.

  14. Happy Thanksgiving Celia. My DIL cooked all that stuff today: mashed potato, sweet potato, brussel sprouts. My son baked an uncredible turkey, Lovebird, he called it, and a delicious stuffing of rice,cranberries, carrots, celery,.... For dessert, creme brule, that one of their friends brought and burnt in front of us. Lovely dinner.

  15. Mona--it does sounds lovely, very sophisticated. I'd love to have that recipe for the rice stuffing. That would be good anytime. I'm so glad you're back home, safe and sound.

  16. I hope you had a happy Thanksgiving!

  17. Celia,
    Thanks so much for sharing your menu. Growing up as a girl, my menu was similiar. Never did care for the giblets. This year I prepped the bird for brining and I hunted high and low but couldn't find the giblet package. Thank goodness my husband found it when he put it in the roasting bag.

    My favorite side has to be mashed pototoes. :)
    My favorite pie is blueberry. Haven't had pecan in ages, but I like it.


  18. Steph--I haven't eaten blueberry pie in ages--can't even remember the last time. But right now, it sounds very good.
    I'm glad you and your sweet family had a nice Thanksgiving. Just to pause, cook, hang out a little is important to the overloaded, very busy family. Blessings.