Our family tradition of hosting Thanksgiving started out of necessity.Hubby worked at Dun & Bradstreet International in New York City and the fiscal year ended November 30th. We could not leave town and therefore we could not travel to have Thanksgiving with our families. We decided that the best thing to do was invite our families to come to us. Everyone. On both sides. To our shock and delight, many of them accepted, and a tradition began. Thanksgiving is at our house, wherever our house is, no invitation needed.
Most years, at least the ones when we resided in the United States, we have had in excess of 20 seated at our table. When we lived in faraway places like Mexico City and Melbourne we sometimes had lots of family at the table, but we always had friends. We include friends no matter where we live. We think it is good to include what we jokingly refer to as “buffers”-- people outside of the family that join us and stimulate new conversation. It keeps things interesting and gives family members a reason to behave :)
The first Family Thanksgiving in 1986 was memorable to me because of Hubby’s Grandpa Bill and the stuffing, or “dressing” as some like to call it. I will never forget Grandpa Bill sitting at our makeshift table, covered with the lace tablecloth that had been given to me by Grandma Flora (of Flora's Potato Chip Cookies) and set with my barely used wedding china and silver. Grandpa Bill said it was the best dressing he had every tasted. He went on and on, saying he had never had dressing that wasn’t made with sausage or cornbread and he was surprised how good it was. He had seconds and thirds. He asked what was in it because it was hard to tell exactly what was it was, but he thought it was delicious.
Many years prior, a group of college friends and I had celebrated Thanksgiving at our apartment the weekend before we all left to go visit our respective families. My roommate Suzanne (from Zucchini Pasta for Suzanne and Sheryl) had seen a recipe in the Los Angeles Times for stuffing so we decided to try it out. It was cheap and vegetarian and everyone loved it. I cut the recipe out of the paper and put it in my recipe box. When it came time for my first family thanksgiving, a version of that stuffing was what I made.
We only had a handful more Thanksgiving meals with Grandpa Bill as he unfortunately couldn’t make the trip to where we lived many of those years and he passed away in February 1996, just after we moved from Australia back to the States. But every year that he joined us Grandpa Bill would ask me, “Are you going to make that wonderful dressing for the turkey?” And although I varied it a bit each year, it was still the same great recipe and Grandpa Bill always loved it. Nearly three decades has gone by since that first time I hosted Thanksgiving and it is still the only stuffing I have ever made. I make it every Thanksgiving and I will make it this week for our group of 27 guests. Each time I make it, I remember fondly the first time I made it for Grandpa Bill and it makes me smile.
"There are few things I want more in this lifetime, than to create unforgettable, meaningful moments and memories with my family." -Sheree Adams
Thanksgiving Stuffing for Grandpa Bill
8 cups various types of bread, some whole grain, pulled into small pieces 2 cups chopped celery 1 1/2 cups grated carrots 1/2 cup chopped italian parsley 1 cup chopped onion 1/2 pound mushrooms, chopped 3/4 cup butter 1 1/2 tsp salt 1/2 tsp pepper 1/2 tsp nutmeg 1 tsp savory 1/2 tsp sage 2 eggs, well beaten with 1/4 cup water 1/2 cup dried cranberries or golden raisins or chopped dried apricots 1/2 cup chopped pecans 1 T orange zest 1/2 cup drippings from turkey, or substitute 3 T olive oil mixed with with very strong chicken broth (or vegetable stock) to make 1/2 cup.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine bread, celery, carrot and parsley in a large bowl. Saute onion and mushrooms in butter and add salt, pepper, nutmeg, savory and sage. Stir and pour over bread. Add eggs and water and toss together. Toss in dried fruit, pecans and orange zest. Bake in covered casserole dish for about 1 hour or until bubbling hot. Before serving, drizzle 1/2 cup of turkey drippings (or substitutions) over the top and mix together.
Note: This was originally always baked inside the turkey. In recent years, I started baking it separate and adding the turkey drippings.