Seven Thanksgiving Reminders

In honor of the Food Writer’s Super Bowl being only three days away, I wanted to weigh in with a few nuggets of advice on how to make it feel like you’ve done the holiday right. This is heavier on strategy and big-picture stuff than recipes (last week’s Round-up has lots of suggestions if that’s what you’re in the market for) but I wanted to be sure you had everything you needed to reap the sentimental dividends of Thanksgiving if you know what I mean. Also, reminder for book owners: our entire Thanksgiving menu, start-to-finish, begins on page 42. Happy Holidays everyone!

Embrace the Ironic Dish at Your Table. Until about a decade ago, one of the signature dishes at our Thanksgiving (and Christmas and any major holiday) table was a molded orange Jell-O number similar to the one you are looking at above.  We called it Glark, and even though it was a fixture of my 80s childhood, for reasons I probably do not have to articulate, the poor thing became the source of much laughter and ridicule and eventually disappeared from our table. Which is too bad because it’s as much a part of our Thanksgiving story as my mom’s chocolate pudding pies. I wrote all about our beloved Glark Real Simple this month, but the more people I tell about it the more I realize that every table has its own Glark and I really want to hear about them. Please feel free to share below, we promise we won’t laugh.  (PS: I also wrote a downloadable “What I’m Thankful For” Mad Lib for Real Simple, so check that out, too.)


Start a Whipped Cream Throw-Down.
Do you guys know that Lisa Leake, the woman behind the wildly popular 100 Days of Real Food empire, has a new book out called Fast & Fabulous? There are some super simple family recipes in there — all real-food approved, bien sur — but I think my favorite recipe was one for whipped cream. Recipe might be overstating it. It’s more like a ritual, where she just has her guests shake cream in jars until it’s whipped. In her words: ”Let me rock your world with this super fun method for making whipped cream — I don’t even get my mixer out to make it anymore. If you’re entertaining, it’s a fabulous way to put your guests to work, especially the little ones. I’ve even been known to put together two whipped cream jars and have two teams to see who can whip their cream the fastest.” Love that idea, Lisa! Congrats on the book! (And don’t judge me for my Glark.)

Make Special Thanksgiving Tableware This is probably not very fair of me to spring on you three days before the big day, but if you can swing by a toy store, try to pick up a bunch of those old-school Make-a-Plate Kits for your kids. When my daughters were three and four, we brought them to my sister’s house and sat with the girls and their cousins and had a grand old time coloring hand-traced turkeys. Actually that’s kind of a lie. Like most arts and crafts, it was not as fun as it promised to be, but the difference with this project was that it yielded an object with massive sentimental pay-off. (And yes, that’s Andy’s make-a-plate, circa 1979.)


Keep a Record. My mom calls this the Post-Mortem. The day after Thanksgiving, she sits down and takes notes on the whole affair. What went right? What went wrong? Who was in attendance? What was the temperature outside? No detail too small to escape the Thanksgiving Secretary. (You can read more about her system here.)

Keep a Word Doc. Before I wrote a cookbook (which contains all the information I need for my own Thanksgiving) I used to cut and paste the recipes I was using into a word doc called “Thanksgiving Master Plan,” and then type in my shopping list based on those recipes. The document grew and grew and it was a good way of not having to re-invent the wheel every year. (I dread writing shopping lists so much, do you?) Like my mom, I’d take notes as I cooked, then after the holiday, I’d doctor up the file before saving the plan for next year. Reminder: Whenever possible, organize your shopping list by aisle.


Whatever You Can Do in Advance, Do in Advance.
That means setting the table, making your homemade stock, cranberry sauce, pie crusts and pies. But it also means potato casseroles that you can make from start to finish the day before so all you have to do is heat it up in the oven once the turkey is roasted and resting. This will save you from the anxiety of carrying and straining a large pot of potatoes in boiling hot water across the kitchen, around the toddlers, right at T-30 minutes crunch time. The potato gratin dish in my book (page 56) is good for this, as is this mashed potato casserole from the New York Times. Lastly: If you have already bought your turkey and it is frozen, take it out of the freezer now to begin its thawing process. You do not have a lot of good options if you forget this. Unless Moo Shu Pork is your idea of a great Thanksgiving.

Photo credits Plated Thanksgiving dinner, Thanksgiving plates, My Mom’s notes, Gratin: Chelsea Cavanaugh; Whipped Cream: Lindsey Johnson; Glark: Russel Smith.

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26 Comments

Meghan

I just read your piece in Real Simple about Glark and Western Pennsylvania and had to chime in! My grandmother also made a similar dish with jello (although ours was red) and various chopped up fruits, and I hadn’t thought about it in years. She lived in Western PA too (Hermitage/Sharon), so I wonder if it was a regional thing?

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Nancy

There is a family recipe for something called seafoam salad using lime jello that used to grace my grandmother’s holiday table

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Amy

We call ours Green Jello (I’m guessing one of us called it that as a little kid and it stuck) and it is lime jello with crushed pineapple and sour cream, made in a Tupperware mold. Every year when preparing our menu we contemplate if we should skip it, but every year it still makes its appearance!

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Lizzie

Such excellent reminders- thanks Jenny! My family’s Glark is Indian Corn, based on a dish my Dad’s pioneer ancestors allegedly made to survive the lean Utah winters. Basically dried corn, half-and-half, and an alarming amount of salt, it’s the most divisive dish at the table: most people politely dry-heave and pass it on, while some of us scoop it onto our plates with glee. I admit, I’m one of the latter, and probably have the arteries to show for it. But Thanksgiving wouldn’t be the same without it.

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EmKal

Our family’s was pineapple fluff — canned pineapple mixed with Cool-Whip. Served for dessert along with the Baker’s Square pies.

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Sherri

While never officially given a name, our “Glark” was in the Tupperware mold with the tulip shape on top. Pineapple and jello were the base but a mix of sour cream and cream cheese carefully filled the tulip. Everyone tried to get a serving of the tulip. So much so, my Mom began to put a layer of the sour cream/cream cheese mixture in between layers of the pineapple/jello mix along with the tulip-heaven! I recall finely chopped pecans for extra special occasions!

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Barbara

oh my gosh, reading this I just flashed back to a strawberry jello desert that my mother used to make with a layer of sour cream in the middle!

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Barbara

oh my gosh, reading this I just flashed back to a strawberry jello dessert that my mother used to make with a layer of sour cream in the middle!

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Amy P

Um, we still have red jello salad (with canned mandarins, canned pineapple, and celery). Every year. I visited friends in Seattle once in university and my friend’s mom asked her two Canadian guests what “makes thanksgiving” for us. I said the jello salad. She gamely made it and I think I was the only one that really ate it! If I had known no one else would eat…oops. She was a lovely lady, clearly.

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Awads

I usually get so much done in advance that I’m actually looking for something to do while the bird is roasting (which, by the way, never ever takes as much time as it’s supposed to!) The worst part, for me, is making gravy. It’s always at the exact time I’m trying to mash the potatoes (b/c mashing in advance doesn’t work for me). I’m starting to learn how to *breathe* delegate. Not easy for a kitchen control freak like myself!

Happy Thanksgiving, Jenny!

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jen

I love your organization tip. In fact, I’ll see your Word doc and raise you one spreadsheet – a spreadsheet is how I keep track of ordering bagels/egg salad/etc for our annual Hanukkah party. This will only be my second (nonconsecutive) year hosting Thanksgiving so I don’t really have things down to a science yet, but this is a great idea going forward. I have a Thanksgiving tag in my Evernote account where I keep all my potential recipes, so that’s my starting point. As for shopping, I don’t do too much of that this time of year – Fresh Direct to the rescue! Everything (including a turkey) is being delivered tomorrow morning!

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sarajane

Our “Glark” is red cabbage with caraway seeds in honor of my German grandfather, which smells like caraway-scented feet when heated up,

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Natalie T.

Oh, Glark! Our Glark is Jello. Even though 1/8 of it gets eaten because we have ten other desserts, my mother insists on making jello. This year I decided to make it, she got mad and I got distracted. Thus the mix did not end up getting mixed and it was a watery pile of yet formed gelatin. I laugh about this now. Noone noticed it was missing! Per your mother, I kept a detailed record of what everyone ate. The family thougth I was on my phone but I was taking notes! Happy Thanksgiving and thankful for your tomes of keeping traditions alive.

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Emily

@ Meghan – I grew up in Greenville and celebrated many a Thanksgiving in Hermitage and Sharon – my grandma always made a jello dish – don’t remember what fruit was in it, but I do remember the pastel-colored mini marshmallows.

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Meghan

@ Emily–every time we visited my aunt we would eat at the Italian Home, which I believe is in Greenville :-)

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Emily

@ Meghan – yep, it is. I wore my Italian Home Club apron most of Thanksgiving morning. Small world.

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Katherine

Our Glark is a jello salad my grandmother made that my sister and I still make to this day. A layer of jello with strawberries and mandarin oranges, followed by a thin layer of sour cream topped with another layer of jello with strawberries and mandarin oranges. Even my kids request it! My grandmother also made a cranberry one and the bottom layer was some mixture of marshmallows, mayo and crushed pineapple. I had a hard time eating what one after finding out about the mayo!

The prep as much ahead advice is crucial. I am failing this year since we are having our dining room and living room painted this week. I blame it on the crazy decisions one makes at 8 months pregnant!

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Allison

Love your Glark post!!!Our Thanksgiving and X-Mas Glark growing up was an ambrosia salad. Crushed pineapple, whip topping, neon cherries, marshmallows and pistachio boxed pudding. Still good but I updated it with something we coined cranberry fluff. Made with fresh minced cranberries, whip topping , marshmallows, pecans, etc. Still very retro! My kids love it and request it every year!

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Stephanie

We have a Christmas Glark: chili pie. Not as the main dish, mind you; as a side. I’m not sure when this became tradition, but I know it started with my grandfather, and now we do it every year and remember him as we wonder why. Bonus and surprising tip: a forkful of chili pie and bourbon sweet potatoes together is heaven on a fork!

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Holly

I had no idea other people besides my family did jello for Thanksgiving! Ha, how funny! Ours has evolved a bit over time, but it has always been red. When I was little it was raspberry jello with crushed cranberries, pineapple, celery, grapes, pecans, and canned mandarins. Now I make my own jello with cranberry juice and add crushed cranberries, chopped apple, walnuts, and celery. Every year I ask my brother if we should keep up this tradition or do a classy cranberry compote with orange zest or something? Every year he says jello. So, jello it is. And he’s always right.

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Sunski

I notice a lot of Jello in everyone’s Glark. My family’s Glark doesn’t have Jello, but the first year that I was married to my husband, I was asked to bring Jello to Christmas. I was VERY confused (and tempted to just bring a bowl of blue Jello). I brought my family’s Glark instead – which my grandmother called “cranberry salad,” but I less respectfully call “pink stuff.” It’s a combination of ground raw cranberries, crushed canned pineapple, mini marshmallows, whipped cream, and whole lot of sugar. No one in my husband’s family touched it (other than those of us who married into the family) – but no one missed the Jello either.

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lisa s

Hi Jenny,
Do you have any idea where the plate in the top photo (held by the woman in the blue sweater) is from? I have been looking for this type of deep plate for YEARS!
Thanks and thanks for everything you write–I’m an avid fan of yours and DALS.
Lisa

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