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Annual Traveling Thanksgiving Reunion #36

Most of you read my Thanksgiving Post from last year when I talked about shoveling chocolate Babka down my gullet, giving potato latkes a makeover, and how the collision of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving gave rise to a new mascot called a Menurkey.  If not, head on over there and take a gander.  I’ll wait…

Thanksgiving Reunion #35 Post

This is Thanksgiving reunion number #36!  I know you figured that out since right above these words it says #35, but I had to say it because still can’t believe that my family has been doing this culinary circus for that long.

Thanksgiving Traveling Photo

(this is us, minus a few that couldn’t make it this year)

After the post last year, I got quite a few questions about how to feed that many people and to elaborate on what all of us ate over the weekend.  It’s tough feeding a hungry 30+ crowd for a few days.  Not only do we go through quite a few plastic forks and knives and a few gallons of spirits, but we have a plethora of food that magically appears on tables all throughout the weekend (no to mention goody bags with food in the hotels.)  No vessel left empty!

Let me make a correction…

The food does not magically appear, but it is a group effort in which everyone has a specific role to play.  As a host, this requires planning, organization, and if you don’t want to go crazy, delegation.  Appropriately placed cocktails (usually placed directly into my hand) help ease the trauma of hosting.

Every year we have a different venue.  No, we haven’t had this food fest at 36 different locations, but each leg of the family take turns hosting.

Here is an updated list of locations where this soiree has occurred:

Jacksonville (15), Atlanta (6), Miami (6), Orlando (4), Nashville (1), Boca Raton (1),  Waycross (1), Nassau Cruise (1), Jupiter (1)


Flashback from 1990 in Atlanta!

We have our favorites mostly because they are central for all the travelers, but we do have the occasional brave soul who takes turn being in charge.

This year we had a rookie host!

After all the invitations are sent, the hotel rooms blocked off, and activities planned/booked, it is time to get down to being thankful for all the food we are going to inhale.  Classics that have been around for years and new treats we find and want to share.  Here is a rundown of our menus.  Keep in mind that they may not seem like traditional Thanksgiving foods, but they are OUR traditions.  Not having them on our folding tables would mean it’s not Thanksgiving!

thanksgiving tables

Fried Turkey- My husband brought us this gem and it was a slow transition from the baked, but now that’s the only way we cook it.

Mashed potatoes- this is a given…

Dressing- nothing off the wall, but another staple that must be included for those who doesn’t want to kill any potatoes.

Green Bean Casserole-another oldie/goody, but a necessity.  Made by two different people depending on who comes.

Sweet Potato Casserole- Our host this year makes this treat, and she never makes enough of it.  We are literally fighting over the last little bit in the pan.  Someone actually ran their finger in the dish to get the last of it. Not telling on who it was but they are shown in the group picture above.

Rolls, pies, coffee, etc…

Desserts are usually brought by the travelers because pumpkin and pecan pies travel well in the car.  Also hard to sneak a bite without leaving evidence.  After dinner, we gather for a sing-a-long to burn some calories.

Friday night is our family specialties night! Or as we call it “International Night.”

Spaghetti and Meatballs- given that we had Italian restaurant owners in the family, they are a must have!

Brisket- A Jewish family recipe handed down!

Stuffed cabbage- another family dish that has been around for years.  The original owner of this recipe doesn’t get to come very often so other family members fill in!

Cuban black beans and rice, because what party would complete without them!

We also throw any leftovers from Thursday night on the table if they didn’t get eaten throughout the afternoon grazing period.


Host’s choice!  This year was a Rodeo BBQ!  Complete with red boots and “Wanted” posters.

Wanted Poster!

These also doubled as our invitations.  This is me and the hubs.  His nickname is Boom Boom, for reasons I can’t talk about here, and I make everyone chocolate chip cookies (recipe on the blog) to take home when they leave, hence the name.

We even watched old movies on an outdoor screen while sitting atop hay bales kept warm with plaid blankets.  Awesome!!!  We have also had a low country boil, seafood night, and tacos!


Since we have been doing this for so long, those who bring their dishes already know how much to cook for the group.  We know each other and who eats more of one thing and less of another.  For instance, hubby Brooks is still going strong with Paleo, so no casseroles for him.  This means more for everyone else!  When you are feeding this many people it requires some math and some capital too.  The capital comes in the form of an ante that all families pay to offset the cost of such an endeavor.  You need a second mortgage for the paper products alone!  Plus everyone pitches in with their foodstuffs and travel expenses.

Next year is our turn again (yeah!) and here is how I break down the amount of food to get.

Meat- 4ounces per person is the usual serving size.  This is 4 people per pound of meat.  Turkeys have bones and dark meat that not everyone eats, so I plan for 2-3 people per pound.  We fried two 12 pound turkeys for 42 people and had just enough.  I use this principal for the brisket and meatballs (2 per person) and any other meats on Saturday.

Vegetables- the same ratio but I usually get 5 people per pound since everyone takes a little less of each one because there are so many to choose from.  I used 10 pounds of potatoes for 42 people and it came out just right.  I also ruined my husband’s new turkey fryer while making them!  We almost didn’t get to fry the turkeys thanks to me.  It was his idea to cook all the potatoes at one time in the fryer pot, but my mistake in the execution.  Here is the evidence:

making mashed potatoes

What started out as a great plan ended in a near turkey disaster.  Little did I know that I was melting the thermometer cord that plugged into the gas regulator while cooking stove top.  We found out when we came Thursday to start frying the turkeys and a melted thermometer meant no gas regulation.  This meant NO HEAT!.  Crisis mode started right away.  Two trips to the store, heating the oil on the stove in the broken fryer, and a new fryer altogether, and we had turkeys on time!


(we are shooting tequila because I broke the turkey fryer, hubs at the store for the second time so we are giving him moral support, in the kitchen, out of yelling distance)

Back to the food…

Desserts:  We usually just start out with about 8-10 types and they last all weekend.

Another food obstacle to overcome is appetizers.  The family breaks into teams throughout the day to tackle shopping and other various activities leaving the host some breathing room.  We only gather for dinner each night around 6 pm, but since we are big football watchers, quite a few of us gather at the host’s home around 4 to hang out.  It is essential to make appetizers.  For these, I would plan 2-3 pieces, per person, per hour.  That is the standard caterer’s amount but think of your family.  We are big chip and dip people and those chip bags are full of air so make sure and get enough if that is all you are serving.  I like to mix things up a bit with hot and cold foods.  I made pizza muffins and wings when I hosted in 2011.  Last year I made bacon wrapped matzoh balls recipe courtesy of Ilan Hall from Top Chef.  Those were a hoot since half the family is Jewish.  I have already started thinking about what to make for next year!  Got a great new recipe for radish dip which might have to make an appearance on this very blog soon.

One more essential thing is a well-stocked bar!  We have tequila shooters and bourbon drinkers in our family so we always have plenty of these on hand.  Mixers are also a must!  You can never have enough sodas and juices.  Splurge and get the cans so you can store them for later use.  If you are having a themed dinner, try a signature cocktail!

Having a large crowd for Christmas?  This post might help you figure out how much food you need, or you can just laugh at my family’s hi-jinks and our crazy reunions!  We know deep down that you are just jealous that you don’t have Thanksgiving sing-a-longs like us.  You don’t have to be a hater, email me and I’ll send you a copy of the song sheets and the background music!