Focus on food, family traditions on Thanksgiving


PITTSFIELD -- Thanksgiving is often associated with family and football, but it's the food that brings most people together.

While the menu may differ from table to table, everyone seems to have that one recipe that just has to be served every fourth Thursday in November.

Whether it's how their grandmothers smoked a turkey that was both moist and crispy, an uncle's technique to making the perfect adult pumpkin pie by adding just a little bit of alcohol, or someone's great-aunt who always managed to make mashed potatoes "so light and fluffy it was like eating a cloud," technique plays a huge buttered "roll" in how people prepare their traditional feasts.

Joanne Willard, of Berlin, N.Y., said no Thanksgiving meal is complete without her curried mushroom pumpkin soup, topped with spiced pumpkin seeds.

It takes several hours to get the flavor just right, but the extra effort is worth it, Willard said.

As soon as the dish is set on the table, it's practically devoured, she said.

Carole Murko, creator of "Heirloom Meals," a culinary television show dedicated to preserving ancestry through recipes, recently interviewed several people about their favorite traditional dishes that will be broadcast on PBS on Thanksgiving.

One of her guests, Loring Barnes, is a direct descendant from Gov. William Bradford, who planned one of the more famous Thanksgiving feasts in 1621 after making the trek to the United States on the Mayflower.

Barnes said her Thanksgivings often resembled Norman Rockwell's depiction of turkey day with several large tables surrounded by her numerous extended family.

Her aunt's recipe for cranberry filled acorn squash makes "a wonderful way to add some fabulous punch and color. If you're looking at a buffet, your eye is immediately drawn to these acorn squash."

The episode is set to air Thursday on PBS.

Alex McNulty, of Pittsfield, meanwhile is "keeping it simple," with his daughter returning from college and will be "serving a lot of canned items, just like we always have."

While many Berkshire residents spend the fourth Thursday in November doing just that, the day of thanks is experienced many different ways.

Kevin Jordan, of Pittsfield, and several of his family members will be volunteering at The Christian Center for their annual free Thanksgiving lunch.

Afterward, Jordan said he's making sure to get some of his wife's famous twice-cooked mashed potatoes.

To reach Josh Stilts:,
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On Twitter: @JoshStilts


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