My Family Recipe

22 Treasured Family Recipes That Bring Us Together

Celebrating legacy and tradition with good food.

November 26, 2019
Photo by Bobbi Lin

Good food is worth a thousand words—sometimes more. In My Family Recipe, writers share the stories of dishes that are meaningful to them and their loved ones.


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 bread crumbs 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 life anew after great loss.

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Top Comment:
“Our treasured Thanksgiving recipe is a simple one: my mom's mashed potatoes. She doesn't over-mash so hers are a little thicker. Also, her secret ingredient: mayonnaise. I'm not a big mayo person, but in those mashed potatoes it adds such a creaminess and slight tang that I just love.”
— Dana E.
Comment

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're sharing some of the special dishes gracing our Thanksgiving tables this year, plus 8 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.


Thanksgiving Treasures

"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

"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

"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

"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

"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


Family Recipes All Year Long

Your Everything Guide to Thanksgiving
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Your Everything Guide to Thanksgiving

Top-notch recipes, expert tips, and more—it's all right this way.

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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    Eloise Williams
Katie is a food writer and editor who loves cheesy puns and cheesy cheese.

5 Comments

Dana E. December 6, 2019
Great stories and recipes - thank you for sharing! Our treasured Thanksgiving recipe is a simple one: my mom's mashed potatoes. She doesn't over-mash so hers are a little thicker. Also, her secret ingredient: mayonnaise. I'm not a big mayo person, but in those mashed potatoes it adds such a creaminess and slight tang that I just love.
 
Eric K. November 25, 2018
Katie, thanks for collecting these family recipes, and for this pretty piece. As you know, they're always some of the most rewarding to read, write, and edit. :)
 
Sheree F. November 23, 2018
Great instruction. Enjoyed the video
 
Don P. November 22, 2018
Had a wonderful Thanksgiving day with my wife. We spent most of the day cooking old family recipes handed down.
Just thankful for the opportunity we had together.
 
Eloise W. November 22, 2018
That’s special and very sweet!