The four staples of Thanksgiving

Published 6:00 am Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving is the very best holiday of the year because it delivers not only a welcome day at home with family but is celebrated by my favorite past time – eating.

And not just eating anything, but literally eating some of the best dishes that should be enjoyed more than just once a year.

One such dish embedded in my memory forever is my grandmother Dimple Ferguson’s “Hamburger Pie.” It’s not necessarily a Thanksgiving dish. We had it for most occasions at my late grandmother’s home in Utica, but it was extra special on the holidays.

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My mother, Lana McNeece, found the original hand-written recipe several years ago prompting a few trial runs on my part. They didn’t come out anything like my grandmothers. I vividly remember her’s as one of the best things I’ve ever tasted.

Recipe books are filled with tons and tons of outstanding Thanksgiving dishes, but for my money there are four staples that must be part of every Thanksgiving feast. I present them in descending order.

4) You can’t have Thanksgiving without a great bird. My wife Lisa and I typically spend the holiday at my parents’ home in Raymond where my mom cooks up the premier Thanksgiving feast. This is one of those rare years where due to our schedule we are going to stay home this Thursday and cook for just us. Without the means or the experience of cooking a turkey myself, we opted for the next best thing – a fried turkey from Joe’s in Bruce. Curt and Joe Boy Tunnell have treated us to their fried turkeys before. I can’t wait to enjoy this year’s Thursday afternoon.

3) Sweet potato casserole is an absolute must, especially when you live in Calhoun County – home to the Sweet Potato Capital of the World. The never ending debate when it comes to this dish is the topping – pecans or marshmallows. In the spirit of the season and the absence of good compromise from our leaders today, I humbly suggest both.

2) Dressing is always the biggest challenge of any Thanksgiving meal. It can come out too dry or too runny. My wife will tell you, and I will whole-heartedly agree, my mother makes the best on the planet. Slather it with cranberry sauce and some giblet gravy and you could eat on it for days, as we typically do.

We will meticulously follow her recipe Thursday morning as we try to replicate this supremely important dish.

1) The single most important part of any Thanksgiving meal is none other than a pecan pie.

Like most everything mentioned above, the best comes from my mom. When we travel to her house for the holiday she has one pecan pie for the Thanksgiving meal and another for me to take home. I will handle this chore myself as Lisa, for some un-American reason, is not a fan unless it’s tainted with chocolate chips or some other uncalled for additives.

I’ve made my own pecan pies before, so I can pull this off, but there’s a special taste that can only come from a pie you know your mom made especially for you.

Joel McNeece is publisher of The Calhoun County Journal in Bruce. You may email him at