There’s a certain comfort in the repetitiveness of my family’s Thanksgiving menu. My dad always smokes the turkey, my aunt always brings two gigantic Doberge cakes, and my mom always makes Spinach Madeline.
As a kid, Spinach Madeline was the combination of two things I despised: spinach and spicy things. But my mom and her army of conspirators (my aunts and uncles) insisted it be on our Thanksgiving table. They had been eating it for decades—my mom remembers sprinkling breadcrumbs over creamy green-filled trays as a little girl, graduating to preparing the entire dish solo by the time she was in middle school. Over years and years of tiny bites, I learned to accept my mom’s favorite holiday dish. And, now that I’m older, I appreciate how she stuck to tradition.
Like my family's Spinach Madeline, there are some recipes close to our hearts, ones passed down for generations and shared among loved ones, that we return to regardless of how they taste. They're the dishes that commemorate life experiences or family members who have passed. They're the dishes that take on new meaning—of a dad's love, a friend's heartbreak, starting a new life.
We're thankful for all these recipes (yes, even the Spinach Madeline) and wanted to celebrate them and the special places they have in our hearts. Below we share some of the special dishes gracing our Thanksgiving tables, plus eight other stories of heartfelt family recipes that have moved us over the past year. Be sure to check them out, and if you have a recipe that's been passed down in your family, or one you want your future generations to make, let us know in the comments below.
"My Grandmother's cornbread stuffing (which I will never call dressing even though people tell me that's more correct, since it's not "stuffed" in the bird) will always be my favorite thing on the table. No recipe, because Grandmother didn't use them, but I described how to make it here.” —Kristen Miglore, Creative Director, Genius
"My family often does a Tourtière for Thanksgiving. It is a French Canadian meat pie. A few years ago I picked one up from M. Wells in Queens and CARRIED IT ON THE PLANE. It flagged the TSA agents' attention, but after further inspection they let me bring the frozen pie to Chicago.” —Victoria Maynard, Director of Finance
"Growing up, my grandma (Mema) would make Chocolate Turkey Cake. It's basically an icebox cake made with real chocolate cake instead of chocolate wafers. It's then covered in whipped cream and we surrounded with turkey-shaped chocolates. My cousins still make it every year.” —Kate Lane Shaw, Director of Customer Care
"The best dish at our Thanksgiving every year is, improbably, something called Carrot Ring. It's a sweet-savory, bundt-shaped cake-like thing studded with tons of carrot, and it tastes like a brown sugar-butter quick bread. We serve it with the savory foods, and it always disappears first. (Sometimes I abscond with a hidden slice and break it out the next day to toast for breakfast.)" —Ella Quittner, Food Writer & Recipe Developer
"The one dish I NEED at every Thanksgiving is my grandmother's angel corn (which some readers informed me is also called scalloped corn after I wrote about it earlier this year): Corn drowned in cream and butter, mixed with crunched up Ritz crackers, seasoned with black pepper, chives, and a little brown sugar, topped with more crunched up crackers, baked until bubbling and golden brown. Guaranteed to please everyone at the table!" —Cory Baldwin, Director of Partner Content