As all of us on the Economic Development Team get ready for Thanksgiving, talk about the dishes we’re planning to make has reminded us of the diversity of our department and how well we really work together as a team. It’s interesting how food from our past and present can help define our holiday, as well as the family and friends we share it with. We’ve enjoyed learning about each other’s culinary traditions and hope readers will get a glimpse of what makes us who we are. And, maybe you’ll think about the traditions that make your holiday special.
I don’t know where my mother got her recipe for stuffing, but it was what we had every year when I was growing up. It was a delicious, spicy, sweet, crunchy concoction with walnuts, celery, pimentos, paprika, and pineapple. It was so good, just writing about it makes my mouth water. I never knew that other families ate stuffing without pineapple; I assumed this was standard. I was an adult before I understood that our traditional Thanksgiving stuffing was anything but.
I miss it, but in the interest of harmony I’ve accepted other kinds of stuffing. These days, I must have my homemade cranberry sauce. It’s so easy and so good, I can’t believe anyone eats anything else. It’s just cranberries, fresh orange juice, maple syrup — not too much, I like mine a little tart — and fresh grated ginger, which I get locally. I always make a big batch and post a picture on Facebook, with the comment that all the other dishes are just a vehicle for the cranberry sauce.
I make a cornucopia every year out of bread that serves as the table centerpiece. We fill it with fruit, nuts, and berries, and people nibble on it throughout the day. As a little boy, I recall my grandmother baking the cornucopia. It was a joy to watch her as she prepared our family table.
Growing up as a kid, a macaroni and cheese dish was always on the table, especially during the holidays. Throughout the years, I have watched how my parents, aunts and uncles prepared their macaroni and cheese dishes, and I came up with my own special secret recipe. I had 14 uncles, 13 aunts, and over 60 cousins to enjoy the holidays with. Our gatherings were always electrifying and the competition for delicious food dishes was fun. Today, my macaroni and cheese is the hot topic of discussion. I’m looking forward to seeing and/or speaking with my phenomenal family this holiday season.
Sugar cream pie was my grandma’s specialty, and we always had it along with pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving in rural Indiana. The ingredients are, as the name suggests, sugar, cream, and a stick of butter, baked in a pie shell and sprinkled with nutmeg. Unofficially the Hoosier state pie, they say Amish and Shaker communities brought it with them in the early 1800s. When I make it for Thanksgiving, I cut the amount of butter in half and use a Pillsbury pie crust, but I always think of my grandma and the family gatherings that were so special.
For Thanksgiving, my family enjoys gathering around the table over a traditional Cameroonian menu which includes roasted fish, fried plantains, suya (West African shish kebab made of beef and turkey), egusi pudding with bobolo (fermented ground cassava wrapped in plantain leaves), ndole (stewed groundnuts with bitter leaves -includes beef and shrimp), and lastly, French apple tart.
My family enjoys having stuffed ham at the Thanksgiving table. It has been a tradition in our family for as long as I can remember. This delicious Southern Maryland treat brings the taste of home to the table each year. Our Thanksgiving is always a memorable day by the making of sweet potato pies (made from locally grown ingredients, of course) as well as the pecan tarts my kids devour in minutes. The smell of these things cooking in the kitchen is what makes Thanksgiving a wonderful holiday for our family.
Although we don’t have any longstanding traditions for Thanksgiving, we do visit the farmers market and local stands for inspiration. Local sweet potatoes typically get made into casserole. Although it is not traditional for the holiday, collard greens are easy to prepare and something we can source locally. We were fortunate that sweet corn lasted pretty long this season, so any sweet corn we froze can make its way into corn pudding. Because we make multiple stops on Thanksgiving Day and eat a fair share of turkey, we have purchased a local beef roast to slow cook this year.
Whatever is on your Thanksgiving table, we hope it's surrounded by family and friends. Happy Thanksgiving, Charles County!