An Old Western Thanksgiving

by Pollyanna-loving blogger Ruth Logan Herne

We’ve all got our own traditions for Thanksgiving, don’t we?

Being in Western New York, our traditions are very New England… the turkey and stuffing and gravy and mashed potatoes and maybe corn… rolls and butter. Cranberry sauce!

Oh, it’s a delightful way of putting on the dog and thanking God that one day a year…. (I’m of a mind we should be doing that on a more daily basis, but this is a Thanksgiving post, not a lecture. 🙂

Down south I have friends who can’t have Thanksgiving without barbecue…. and I mean real “cue” with brisket and cornbread or corn pudding (SO DELICIOUS!!!) and shrimp-and-grits and coke.

Notice the lower case, because all soft drinks are cokes. 🙂

And if you wander to Tex-Mex country, you might find traditional turkey in some places, but you might find a vast buffet of Hispanic foods, too….

And in an Italian house, what’s Thanksgiving without lasagna?


In the old west, in the early railroad days or pre-railroad days, you cooked what you had. What you grew. What you shot or trapped or bagged.

So Thanksgiving might be fresh fish or salt cod.

It might be chicken and dumplings if you were lucky enough to have started a flock of chickens and could spare one.

It might be smoked venison if you bagged a deer or an elk.

Or it could be birds… Not turkeys. Smaller birds. Game birds.

Or if you had the know-how to grow a pig over the summer, then butchering time might give you a fresh ham or a smoked ham… or bacon… or chops. Smoking and salting cured meat so that it would last longer.

We’re talking about lack of ice in an upcoming post and that was a big concern in parts of the west. you could cut block ice in the north, but that wasn’t happening in the lower states… not with a huge degree of keeping things cold because their winter is much shorter.

But when it comes right down to it, does it matter what we eat?


Or what day we celebrate giving thanks to God for all of our blessings?


When family is together, we choose that day. With a big family you can’t be governed by a calendar… so we choose to be governed by love. 🙂

How about you? Do you have a traditional-style Thanksgiving?

Or are you a little more regionally acclimated?

Let me know below!

And I have a copy of my upcoming Love Inspired book “A Hopeful Harvest” in the prize closet for one lucky person!

Next week is my mailing week…. and I’d love to pick your name!

Nationwide Release Mid-December!
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47 thoughts on “An Old Western Thanksgiving”

  1. here in Indiana we put our homemade egg noodles on top of the mashed potatoes and NO gravy is needed!! Many think this is carb overload but it is how we all grew up – as a child I also added my corn to the mix!

  2. We always drive about four hours up to my sister-in-law & nieces house and stay for three days. Thanksgiving usually has us going to our favorite buffet place (no mess, no fuss, no clean-up), but earlier this year they bought a house so we’ll get to cook the traditional Turkey dinner with all the fixins’. Then for dessert later, I bring up my famous homemade pumpkin pie made from sugar pie pumpkins I bought from the farmers market to enjoy along with toasting sparkling apple cider while watching whatever football game happens to be on.

    Simple family traditions are pure joy! Of course as we eat dinner, we go around the table and say what we are most thankful for this year.

    Ruthy, like you said, it doesn’t matter the food or how you celebrate…it’s all about the love!

    • We definitely go by family and not by calendar date for holidays. We would rather be all together!! We try to always have turkey of some sort, but then the additions are endless and whatever we feel like that year. We all love our comfort food, so there is usually cheesy potatoes, homemade buns, casseroles, tons of desserts and snacks.

    • Well for the second time in a week it seems my comment ends up on another person’s! HOW?! I have never had that happen before this week. I’m thinking my computer it out to get me into trouble. I’m so sorry, Trixi!

    • Trixi, I’ve never eaten out for Thanksgiving or any holiday, but I bet it was fun. I would miss the leftovers…. they’re even better than fancy.

      And I love homemade pumpkin pie. I’m partial to Long Island Cheese, Jarrahdale and Tandies… I love that pumpkin/butternut cross that all three have. Marvelous pumpkin!

  3. Very traditional here. We are scattered around the country more so fewer people at the table but the standard, traditional food we had when I was a child. I’ve learned that when I think I need to shake it up and experiment I feel bad about missing the old food and then we end up with both. So now I keep more experimenting to Christmas! Happy Thanksgiving.

    • A traditional Turkey dinner with mashed potatoes and gravy and of course homemade rolls. The day never matters as long as family is here.

    • Hahahaha! Sally, I hear you because we’re always afraid of ruining someone’s holiday. We’re such goofs!

      We’re traditional, too, and probably always will be unless someone takes me out to supper.

      I could get non-traditional real quick if someone else is cooking!

  4. We have our traditional Thanksgiving. My family lives close by so no long travels for anyone. It is a day filled with thankfulness, food and fun. Happy Thanksgiving!

  5. We have a traditional Thanksgiving for the most part. Sometimes it’s just my husband and I, and other times we are gathered with family. It just depends on the year. We live away from most of our extended family. This year though, our youngest daughter is flying in from Texas to join us and we are thrilled! The rest of the kids have other plans. BUT, we are all going to Texas for Christmas and we are so excited! We have never had anything other than turkey and “normal menu” items for our Thanksgiving table though, no matter where we have lived!

  6. Since our family is small now, for the past few years we have been going to the Thanksgiving Buffet at a local Club. It’s always very nice, and I’m again looking forward to this year’s menu. It has everything I grew up on — with the exception of succotash! I don’t think that’s very popular anymore, but I love it. My grandmother on my mother’s side of the family made it from scratch — no frozen or canned — and it was creamed. Yum.

    When both of my grandmothers and mother were still alive and cooking these big meals, our Thanksgiving meal was turkey, sage dressing, gravy, mashed potatoes, sauerkraut, succotash, candied yams, cranberry sauce, biscuits, and pumpkin pie. And turkey sandwiches the next day!

    Happy Thanksgiving to all!

    • Sharon, I’m so glad you mentioned succotash… I’ve heard other folks say that they had that, too…

      Now my mother always made creamed onions.

      I do not know why.

      I never saw one person eat one of those creamed onions. Maybe my father did, he didn’t sit down to eat with us, so maybe he ate creamed onions.

      I can’t even imagine wanting to eat a creamed onion.

      But I bet your succotash was good!

  7. We have a traditional Thanksgiving dinner-turkey, dressing, potatoes and gravy and lots of vegetable dishes. Oh and pumpkin pie.
    We live in the West, so we always include tamales at our dinner.

  8. It’s definitely a traditional thanksgiving for us. All the foods we grew up in , turkey, sausage stuffing, mashed potatoes & turnips whipped, gravy, yams, vegetables, cranberry sauce & either lasagna or baked zita. We’re a big family and 90% of the time we all get together at whoever has the bigger house. Wishing everyone a blessed Thanksgiving.

    • Yep. Italian. And Lasagna or ziti/zita.

      I love that! Like Joye’s tamales above, it’s so fun to mix and match the meals of the region with tradition.

      I have never fried a turkey myself… a friend did, and it was wonderful, but I think I like roasted bird better.

      Turnips, eh?

      I will avoid those although I love fried parsnips.

      But not turnips.

      Aren’t we a funny bunch?

  9. We always have a pretty traditional Thanksgiving meal, with as many of the family there as possible. If all of my sisters and their families come, there are 36. We’ll have less than that this year, as everyone won’t be there!

  10. We have the traditional turkey and dressing that has to be made with Bell’s poultry seasoning which I used to have my sister send to me from the Northeast because it wasn’t available here in the Northwest. Mashed potatoes,squash,homemade rolls, cranberry salad or relish and we do have green bean casserole. We top it off with a “pie fest”. Every family brings a pie and sometimes more than one. It’s usually an hour or two after dinner when we sample pies and each person places a clean toothpick in their favorite. Some years the winner has received a small holiday themed kitchen gadget or towel, other years just a certificate our grandson makes. The pies are often ones we’ve wanted to try from a magazine but there is almost always one or two with pumpkin or Apple in it.

  11. Turkey, stuffing, baked corn (corn pudding), green beans, cranberry sauce (the gelled one from the can, because tradition, and the lucky person gets the slice with the rings from the end–though I do know how to make a traditional style with whole berries, apples, and walnuts), mashed potatoes, gravy, homemade yeast rolls, and a flourless chocolate cake with ganache. That’s right, we’re not pumpkin pie people.

  12. We have a traditional Thanksgiving, Turkey for sure, dressing, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes with homemade gravy, yam casserole, roles, salad , and pumpkin and pecan pie. Thanks for the chance. Wishing you and your family a Very Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving Day!

    • Abigail, that’s wonderful… always with family. I’m sitting near a gal who hasn’t had family around for holidays for four years. 🙁 She’s missing her son.

      He’s in the service.

      Family is precious.

  13. We are from the NE corner of New York originally, even though my husband’s dad was in the Air Force. He grew up in several places but landed in our corner of NY for most of his school years. His dad was a New Englander and his mom from Georgia. We have always celebrated with the full turkey dinner.
    He is a 24 year veteran of the Air Force. We learned a long time ago, no matter what we are celebrating, the specific day is not important. We are celebrating a holiday, a birthday, an anniversary, that is what is important. With him being gone so often, we learned to celebrate when we can. It doesn’t lessen the importance or the meaning of the celebration.
    I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

    • Patricia, were you up near Peesleeville? Lake Champlain area? I drove a horse trailer behind a pick-up truck up there to pick up my miniature donkeys. Patricia, it was an ADVENTURE! Adirondack roads are bendy/twisty/curvy!

      • Actually that is home territory. I grew up in Plattsburgh and Peru. Just about all those roads that cut through the Adirondacks are interesting to drive. It is pretty country. I miss the lakes and rivers. We have discovered that the country roads here in NE Tennessee where we now live are more narrow, curvy, and have no shoulders. We got married at Mother Cabrini’s Shrine which is on the east side of Peaseleville, an area called the Patten, with a beautiful view of the lake and the mountains in Vermont and New Hampshire.

      • I’ve been all over those curvy, bendy roads in TN with no shoulders… it amazed me. The postal deliveries are from the middle of the road. And the road lanes are narrower, too… I think the influx of people into TN has made these more problematic than they used to be. So many people moving to Tennessee! It’s amazing. It’s a pretty state. I love the rolling mountains, the Blue Ridge, I found Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg to be fascinating, and the whole area filled with nice, nice people. Never a bad thing to say!

  14. We have turkey, dressing, giblet gravy, turkey gravy, (gravy is not needed for the dressing but we have it for the turkey) ham and if there is going to be a big crowd my dad will smoke a pork butt too, along with all sides. Sides vary year to year. Some you might find are green bean casserole, asparagus casserole, broccoli rice casserole, sweet potatoes, (always), mashed potatoes, rolls, broccoli salad, fruit salad, a jello-based salad, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, apple pie… oh the list of possibilities goes on and on. We’re huge foodies so we have enough to feed an army or two everytime we gather.

    • I love the differentiation of all the sides, Stephanie. It sounds wonderful. I love food, too. And do you guys all bring sides? So that part is like pot luck? Because I’m a big fan of that now, too!

  15. Happy Thanksgiving! We usually have a traditional Thanksgiving but someone always brings a unique side dish or dessert just to change things up a little. But I agree with you, it does not matter what we have to eat, being with family and friends and enjoying the grace of our Savior Jesus Christ and our father our Dear Lord is what it’s all about.

  16. We go traditional – turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, cauliflower and for dessert pumpkin pie and more.

    • I love great desserts. I’m making cream puffs this year, for Thanksgiving and our annual family Christmas party because we have a crew that loves them… and I will eat too many and I will never be a skinny person!

      Debra, enjoy!

  17. We’ve usually all celebrated Thanksgiving at my mom’s house in the Buffalo, NY area but this year we’re changing it up and everyone is coming to our house for Thanksgiving: Country Edition ?! People are coming from Buffalo to our farmhouse in the Finger Lakes for a stay. And our son and his family will be here from South Carolina! Everyone is bringing something, some things are traditional and some things will be new! Looking forward to hosting a crowd of 25-30 this year!

    • Oh, Barb, won’t that be fun? I can’t wait to hear more about it! The Finger Lakes is so beautiful, and between the vineyards and forests and lakeshores and small towns— Oh, gosh, it’s lovely!

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