Appalachian Food Holidays in Appalachia

What Do You Eat On Thanksgiving?

Cornbread dressing
With Thanksgiving only a few days away, many of us are thinking of the good food we’ll eat-planning menus-and scheduling what time we’ll eat with which side of the family. In other words-most of us have much to be thankful for.

Last year, I talked a little about how folks come to expect you to bring certain dishes-how we almost become famous for the dishes we make. I look forward to Uncle Charles’s peanut butter fudge the entire year-knowing I’ll be able to eat some come Christmas at the Pressleys.

My favorite foods I associate with Thanksgiving are-my own oatmeal rolls-Granny’s pumpkin pie-and The Deer Hunter’s cornbread dressing.

Curtis Mease-The Deer Hunter's Grandfather


Actually, Miss Cindy’s father-Curtis, deserves the credit for The Deer Hunter’s cornbread dressing. Curtis was a good cook and liked to make up his own recipes-he then handed them down to Miss Cindy-who in turn handed them to The Deer Hunter.

The Deer Hunter and Miss Cindy are the “till it looks right” or “till it feels right” kind of cooks. Me-I’d rather have a recipe to follow. I did my best to get the cornbread dressing recipe out of The Deer Hunter-here’s what he said:

How to make cornbread dressing


  • crumble half a cake of cornbread and 6 pieces of toast into a large bowl or pot
  • add 8 or 9 chopped boiled eggs
  • add 1 cup to 1 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • add 4 chopped stalks of celery
  • add 1 stick of melted butter
  • add salt, pepper, and sage to taste
  • add 2 to 3 tablespoons of mustard
  • add chicken stock to the dressing-as you begin to mix it with your hands
  • he usually adds almost a pint of stock-but he said add enough to where it feels right-the consistency should be a little wet so the dressing doesn’t dry out
  • pat the dressing into a pan-he uses a 13X9-and bake for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees
  • he says to not over cook the dressing-cause in reality-it’s all already cooked-you just need to warm it through and allow all the flavors to marry (he likes it better raw-so does his Aunt Wanda-and Miss Cindy)
  • you can add chopped turkey, chicken, or even oysters to the dressing if you want

Do you have cornbread dressing for Thanksgiving? Is it similar to The Deer Hunter’s? What dishes are a must for Thanksgiving at your house?




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  • Reply
    November 25, 2010 at 7:11 am

    Anastasia-yes many people eat turkey at Christmas in the states-we do : ) Actually the only times my family eats turkey during the entire year is at Christmas and Thanksgiving.
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Music, Giveaways, Mountain Folk
    All at

  • Reply
    November 25, 2010 at 12:53 am

    Oooh I wish you well at the A&C Festival. I find those types of things relaxing, a great time to sit (hardly ever do that) and talk (my favorite thing to do) and meet new people (okay, that may be my favorite thing to do).
    I guess I’m a Miss Cindy cook. Never fails, I get out a recipe, with great intention to follow it and the next thing I know, I’m changing it up, substituting this for that, increasing one thing, decreasing another, don’t even put in… pretty soon it looks and feels just right.
    Have a very happy Thanksgiving.
    Have a very Happy

  • Reply
    November 23, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    Thanksgiving isn’t celebrated in Greece and Cyprus, yet , I believe, we all have many reasons to feel thankful for. For the Greeks, stuffed turkey is usually prepared for Christmas. Do you also eat turkey at Christmas?

  • Reply
    Sandy Barnett
    November 22, 2010 at 3:50 pm

    I grew up with corbbread dressing and make it for my own family now. My Mom used to put fried sausage in it sometimes but I always liked it best plain. We always had oyster dressing too because so many of the older folks loved it.
    We were/are like most folks with the traditional turkey, and sides of corn, green beans, sweet potatoes, wilted greens, mashed potatoes & gravy, waldorf salad and ambrosia salad, and of course the cornbread dressing! We always had multiple pies, bread pudding and banana pudding. Apple butter with homemade rolls or bread, whichever Mom had time to make. I come from a large family so holidays were always a large celebration of food, plenty of laughter and a day of different ones playing music and singing. We still gather with cousins now that all of our older folks have gone on to their heavenly reward. Better than the food and activities is being with family!
    Wishing you and yours a thanksgiving filled with much happiness and a boatload of special memories to cherish for years to come!

  • Reply
    Nancy Simpson
    November 21, 2010 at 7:22 pm

    Hi Tipper, Thanks for the dressing recipe. I read and read and laughed and said and said, this is like Mama made it, until I got the mustard. Otherwise, it is exactly like my mother made it, and we all love it. Yum!
    For us, the menu depends on who is coming to dinner. We never fail to get the traditional feast on the table, but when Jeremy comes I also make salmon topped with artichoke and spinach spread, wrapped in Fillo dough.

  • Reply
    Judith Alef
    November 21, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    My first thought about Thanksgiving this morning was the ad in the Sunday paper from a major grocery store “FREE TURKEY” and in small print, “when you buy $150 in groceries”. Like that’s going to happen! We’ll probably get a turkey breast, it being just the two of us.
    I still make the cornbread dressing from my childhood. I don’t use giblets [I won’t eat the inside of anything! mother would put them in the gravy and I’d pick them out.]
    I grow herbs so I take dried sage and rub it between my hands into the bread first, then whip up an egg or two and work it into the bread mixture; add sauted minced onion and thinly sliced celery w/ chicken stock and work it in along w/ kosher salt and course pepper. I use my hands up until the stock is added then I use a large wood paddle to turn it so it doesn’t get sticky w/ gluten.
    I will always miss sit down dinners during the holiday season. It’s been 15 years since we had one around here and the last ‘family’ dinner I remember must have been in the 1970s. My folks are gone and my brother and his families reside on their own planet. Last time I saw them altogether was at my father’s funeral in 2001.
    So between now and Jan.1 I will hibernate. My mother in law will call me out with a New Year’s “Shalom, my darling” and all will be good.

  • Reply
    Helen G.
    November 21, 2010 at 11:47 am

    Great post, Tipper… I’m one of those weird folks that never has been crazy for stuffing or dressing. Growing up my momma made cornbread/dried bread stuffing and since we had a large family, she always had enough extra for a big casserole dish of dressing besides what she stuffed in the turkey. My daddy was raised up in Tennessee and his special treat was ambrosia. Simply oranges and fresh coconut was how he liked it. My favorite was the giblet gravy and mashed potatoes. I’d eat some turkey and whatever sides, usually green beans or corn and a big old pile of mashed potatoes with a lake full of gravy in the middle. Had to be enough to get some with every bite or I’d have to put more gravy on the plate. Momma called me her gravy baby. Always loved good home made gravy. Still do… but I wouldn’t know how to cook any of it. Having two older sisters me and my baby brother were always scooted out of the kitchen, out from under foot, and I never learned to make gravy. I just have to be dependent on friends and family that know how to cook for my ‘gravy fixes’.

  • Reply
    November 21, 2010 at 9:45 am

    Mom always made the stuffing. She didn’t have a receipe either, just threw it in a bowl, mixed and baked. Which is why I never learned how to make it.
    But tell the Deer Hunter thanks for this recipe, I’ll definitely be trying it out.
    Must have pumpkin pie!!!

  • Reply
    November 21, 2010 at 8:34 am

    Thanks for thecomment! Grannyalways makes ambrosia salad for Thanksgiving and Christmas too-but shes guilty of adding the marshmellows : )
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Music, Giveaways, Mountain Folk
    All at

  • Reply
    November 21, 2010 at 6:39 am

    we always had cornbread dressing when my mother was cook and she cooked holiday meals for us until I was 40 and moved to florida. since i hate all things cooking, my hubby makes the turkey and dressing for the past 26 years. His dressing is to die for, he is PA german dutch. he makes potato stuffing and my children do not want the traditional they want his. so easy to make even i can do it. Potatoes, onions,tons of butter, cubed toasted bread, salt and pepper. it is sooo good.

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    November 21, 2010 at 6:22 am

    Your recipe for dressing sounds familiar. My grandmother McLain made hers very similar, with the hard-boiled eggs and she always used oysters. It was always a favorite. My wife’s mashed potatoes are made with whipped chives cream cheese, butter, and sour cream. They are mashed, then turned out into a casserole dish with almond slivers on top, then baked until lightly browned. They are wonderful. There will be 13 people at our house for dinner this year.

  • Reply
    Janet Pressley
    November 21, 2010 at 1:50 am

    Nana also likes the dressing raw. Papaw Tony maks a good raw mix of the dressing. He also adds raw oysters to the mix that completes the recipe. And make sure you have some sage.

  • Reply
    John Dilbeck
    November 20, 2010 at 11:47 pm

    Mom used to make her stuffing (we called it dressing, because it never went inside the turkey) about the same way The Deer Hunter does, except without the celery and the mustard.
    I like a traditional turkey meal with dressing, cranberries or cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and gravy, and some kind of good pie or cake.
    If the hunters have been lucky, I enjoy venison and/or bear roast, too. More than once, we’ve had fresh caught fish for Thanksgiving.
    More than the food, however, I enjoy being with people I love to celebrate the holiday and being grateful for the bounty we have.
    This year, I’m thankful to be here. It didn’t look like I would make it to Thanksgiving earlier this year, but I will (and a few more, hopefully).

  • Reply
    Vicki Lane
    November 20, 2010 at 8:21 pm

    We have to have my grandmother’s pumpkin chiffon pie — with whipped cream and caramelized almonds on top — along with the turkey and dressing and gravy and my grandmother’s cranberry/celery/pecan gelatin salad. That’s the basic feast — the vegetables vary depending on who’s eating with us.

  • Reply
    November 20, 2010 at 8:18 pm

    My dad always made cornbread dressing for us on Thanksgiving. Except, his recipe did not have the eggs.

  • Reply
    Cheryl Soehl
    November 20, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    My daddy always put giblets in the stuffing — used half and half cornbread and bread crumbs. One of my favorite things is ambrosia fruit salad. Not too many folks make it, so I usually do myself for Thanksgiving — fresh oranges, apples, canned pineapple, coconut and chopped walnuts. Save out the coconut until just before serving, otherwise the walnuts will turn it brown. And no, never ever put those little marshmallows in it. That’s just sacrilege!

  • Reply
    November 20, 2010 at 8:11 pm

    Thanksgiving is my favorite time of the year. Since I was big enough to go deer hunting with my
    daddy and older brothers, there are great memories of Thanksgiving
    hunts and that wonderful meal that
    Thank you for sharing the family
    recipe for cornbread dressing. My
    family always made it about the
    same way, except for the mustard.
    We don’t use any meat in dressing,
    just stock and cream of chicken.
    But this time I’m going to try the
    mustard added to the fixins. I love the giblet gravy poured over
    the dressing and turkey. Creamed
    potatoes, green beans and cold
    cranberry sauce, rolls and pumpkin
    pie are a must. Wow! I’m hungry.
    Happy Thanksgiving…Ken

  • Reply
    kenneth o. hoffman
    November 20, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    tipper: sounds to me the deer hunter has the angle on the dressing. i dont pretend to be a cook ,although i do make a perty mean meatloaf,not for thanksgiving though.i really enjoy the side dishes more than the gobbler. my dear ole mother dropped the turk on the kitchen floor one thanksgiving and its one of my best memories. how i miss that girl. blessings to all the blind pig family. k.o.h

  • Reply
    November 20, 2010 at 1:42 pm

    we just have a standard turkey dinner around here..been saving all the home made bread scraps for a week now for stuffing.. the only thing we do a little different is we make mini pies.. we can never agree on 1 pie.. so we make up several batches of pie crust.. refrige over nite.. day before Thanksgiving.. each grandie rolls out the dough for thier pies and we open a few jars of pie fruit we put up during the summer..grandies and I pull out all the muffin tins.. we actually have 12 tins.. we snag em at every rummage sale .. lots of uses for those pans.. well onto the pies.. we are always losing that dang biscuit cutter and gave up and use canning jar lids to cut out as we have tons of those laying around.. just ask the girl grandies where they are and you’ll find them in thier toy box for when the play gypsy.. they tie yarn around and wear on thier ears for earrings or bracelets… ok back to the pies.. I sometimes ramble .. can ya tell? we then spray oil our muffin tins real good.. tiny dusting of flour place the small pie crust in the muffin pan gently push down.. add a spoon of pie filling… now this is the tricky part.. do we want mini 2 pie crust or mini lattice.. I let the grandies choose for thier pies they are making.. usually ends up as half and half.. I usually get stuck with making the pumpkin and black walnut (made like a pecan pie} mini pies.. just because they won’t lick the bowl umm more for me..LOL.. sometimes I don’t think they know what they are missing.. we then egg wash and bake our pies.. we tend to do this all afternoon… till we get 12 doz or more or we run out of dough… as they come out of the oven we cool em down then flash freeze in the deep freeze and bag in gallon zip lock bags… and save for another day.. we are always dropping off extras to some of our elderly neighbors..soups, breads and the mini pies are just the right size for a bite or two…and we always have some mini pies on hand for a quick thankyou gift for someone..the grandies jobs are to make the care packages for our friends.. it simply amazes me they remember little things about our friends.. like ester won’t like carrots in her soup.. or jon jon won’t eat any thing with onions.. or bobbie joe loves apple pie.. they hear or see some of the things i tend to not pick up ..when we go to visit so and so.. last week travis is 7yrs says to me on the way home ummm grandma.. I think Mr John.. needs some laundry and dishes done.. why’s that I say.. cause he has on the same shirt he wore 3 days ago..and his sink is full of dirty dishes along with the top of the stove.. how’d you find that out?.. I asked Travis.. because I checked on the kitchen on the way to the bathroom…were you bein nosy? I asked him.. ummm no I was just checkin up on him.. I think the grandies will form thier own spy detective company when they get older.. so we turned the van around and went back to see Mr John and Travis kept Mr John busy with a game of cards.. found out later it was poker..and travis ended up with a few nickles..while i ran a quick run threw the kitchen cleaned up and gathered up his laundry.. and returned them the next day.. with another piece mini pie… I just give Thanks to all my family and friends that I have been blessed with and continue to be blessed… to all
    HAPPY THANKSGIVING.. I know we’ll have a house full.. I’m staying out of the family room… I don’t watch football.. it puts me to sleep .. I kid you not… everyone will be hootin and hollerin about football.. and I’ll be snoring on the couch.. I hope they have another SNAPPED marathon on this year.. (that’s the show where women actually thought they got away with killing thier husbands…)LOL I’ll have to check the local TV guide and pop some popcorn and watch on the other tv upstairs.. toooodle loooo..

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    November 20, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    We made it back to Florida in time for Thanksgiving with the family. We always have a 25# turkey with extra dark meat, my husbands mashed potatoes, pumpkin,pecan, mince, and buttermilk pies. My daughters chocolate chip cookies and brownies, parsnips, baby peas, and Oh so much more.
    My husband mashes the potatoes in the broth they were cooked in instead of milk and adds butter, he always uses Yukon Gold potatoes. So simple, but there is always the request to make
    them and there is never any left.

  • Reply
    lynn legge
    November 20, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    tipper like you i love the traditions of family and the things passed down.. im a kind of traditional stuffing girl.. and do it the way my grandmother did… and stuff it right in the bird.
    i use day old bread, crusts.. etc and sauteed (onions,celery,poultry seasoning in butter)salt, pepper to taste and then when done just enough to soften the celery… i add to bread with some milk.. i stuff the turkey the same day.. and take out soon as turkey is done.
    no matter what kind of food.. as long as the family is together and happy and healthy… thats all i ever need.. sending big ladybug hugs and love to you and yours over this holiday season.. and thank you for your blessings to us with your stories and songs.
    much love

  • Reply
    November 20, 2010 at 11:50 am

    I’ve got to bake a corn pudding and a couple of pies for my part of Thanksgiving dinner. Deer Hunter’s dressing looks quite interesting with the addition of mustard. How does it effect the taste? The recipe for your oatmeal rolls sounds yummy.

  • Reply
    November 20, 2010 at 11:26 am

    It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without my sweet potato casserole. My husband loves the stuffing, he says it is the best part of the meal. We never had cornbread stuffing, but my mom made the best stuffing you ever put in your mouth. My kids used to watch her make it and loved eating spoonfuls of it before it was baked. My sister now makes the best stuffing you ever put in your mouth. I’m working on it, but haven’t got the hang of it yet. We boil chicken pieces and giblets and shred it into pieces and use the broth to get the right consistency. We also cook our celery before putting it in. We don’t put in eggs. We use bags of seasoned croutons (stuffing). Of course, you have to have pumpkin and pecan pie. I have got mom’s pecan pie down pat until it is just about as good as hers was. Hope you have a very happy Thanksgiving!

  • Reply
    November 20, 2010 at 10:45 am

    I learned to cook like “the deerhunter” and very seldom go exactly by a recipe. Am so looking forward to eating Tgiving dinner with my children.Seems like I cook for 2 days, eat it in 30 min. and have a week’s worth of leftovers. Oh well, it’s good the next day too. Have a good day.

  • Reply
    Shirley Metts
    November 20, 2010 at 10:27 am

    Talk about almost coming famous for a certain dish you make, my family has about put me there with my dressing. My dressing is almost the same as the Deer Hunter’s, I learn this recipe from my grandmother, only she boiled a chicken and used the stock from it to use to mix it, then she cut up the chicken and put around in the dressing. I use cream of chicken and chicken broth soup and lots of it. I also add saltine crackers.I add about the same as the Hunter of other things, only I don’t put eggs, and I put butter in with my soup and on top of the dressing before I bake it. turns out a golden brown. For thoughs that don’t like the celery, I make a pan with cream of celery soup, and they never know. I make more than a 9×13 dish, my pan is 14×18 and 3 inches deep, then on the other hand I have a large family. Wishing all a Happy Thanksgiving from the Metts in South Ga.

  • Reply
    Glenda Beall
    November 20, 2010 at 10:18 am

    Yes, Thanksgiving is almost here, but this year will be different for me. We will not eat at home. Just my sister and me with a couple of good friends will eat out.
    I will miss my cornbread dressing and the leftover turkey for sandwiches. Shucks, maybe I’ll just make a small pan of dressing (I use some chicken broth and some cream of chicken soup) that makes it so good. Also, I use poultry seasoning instead of sage which is a bit too strong for my taste.
    I am getting hungry just thinking about that dressing. Maybe I’ll also cook just a very small turkey breast for sandwiches later that evening.
    This will be quite different from the big family dinners we had growing up on the farm. Although we had little money then, Mother always cooked a fabulous meal for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
    Thanks for your blog, Tipper. Such a joy to read.

  • Reply
    canned quilter
    November 20, 2010 at 9:40 am

    Tipper my recipe for stuffing is very similar except I use duck. My Mother always made it with wild duck and I continue the tradition.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    November 20, 2010 at 9:38 am

    Tipper–Oddly enough, my musings have been turning in the same direction of yours as late, with my most recent column on the Tuckasegee Reader being devoted to culinary memories of Thanksgiving. Here are a few of my most poignant memories of Thanksgiving dishes past (and present).
    We have cornbread dressing as well, but with a distinctive touch which makes a great deal of difference–plenty of chestnut meats mixed in. Miss Ann has already gotten them ready. Of course these aren’t the traditional American chestnut, but rather the closest available replacement in the form of nuts from Chinese chestnuts I have growing on the place.
    We almost always had a Thanksgiving breakfast–fresh fried tenderloin, cathead biscuits,butter, molasses, milk gravy, eggs,and grits. Then the feast came in mid-afternoon after the men folks, typically, had spent several hours working up an appetite while hunting rabbits.
    My favorite dessert was a stack cake, and grandma Minnie would make it several days in advance in order to let the sauce between layers, always made from dried apples, mix and marry with the cake in a moist, marvelous manner. There would be pumpkin chiffon pie as well.
    There was always a sweet potato dish, various veggies, pickles, and relishes, but our festive bird wasn’t, at least in my youth, a turkey. Instead, the assembled family–grandparents, parents, assocrted aunts and uncles with their offspring, and siblings–usually feasted on baked hens.
    Grandpa picked out a couple which were remiss in their egg-laying duties and literally “fished” for them with a long cane pole,a short piece of nylon line of the kind once used on casting reels, and a hook baited with a bit of corn. He would scatter some scratch feed and then, when the chickens got busy eating, carefully place his “bait” before a hen he had pre-selected. Once she “bit” and swallowed the hook, Grandpa would pull her towards him, squawking and flapping all the way, by going hand over hand on the pole. A quick ax stroke on the neck finished the business. It may all sound a bit bloodthirsty enough to send the PETA folks into paroxysms, but it was effective and much better than chasing hens all over the lot or lifting them from the roost and putting all the others “off” on their egg laying. In truth, I loved all of it but the subsequent plucking.
    But the best came when I was allowed to delve into the cooked carcass to get the little egg yolks in the making.
    Folks who never lived close to the good earth miss things like this, just as they fail to get a real understanding of the cycle of life.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    November 20, 2010 at 9:25 am

    Well Shucks, I was just about to post on the train songs when I noticed the Thanksgiving post…lol Just like me to let Thanksgiving sneak up on me…At any rate our favorite railroad/train song around here at the present, (due to a very active grandchild) is “She’ll be Coming Round the Mountain”….sometimes it’s a train, “toot, toot” or sometimes I sing it like a wagon with “Whoa Babe”…never could figure out that one when I was a kid!..but I did know that the “old red roosters” where used for chicken and dumplings since they were tougher.
    About that dressing…I use a whole pan full of cornbread..and some day old bread, I saute my celery and onions in butter and then..mix in and add a fresh egg or so…add my seasonings,S/P, sage, thyme etc..add the stock left from the boiled turkey giblets or chicken stock… (giblets are cut in tiny pieces to use later for the gravy)…mix only with clean hands…’til it looks and feels right..LOL
    Put in glass pan and bake until lightly brown on top…that way you know the binder (the fresh egg) is done…I have never used mustard or hard boiled eggs in my dressing…may try it..this year..
    Thanks Tipper for your posts…Gosh, I’m starving…

  • Reply
    Pat in east TN
    November 20, 2010 at 9:21 am

    It tradition that I always make cranberry relish and my daughter (in-law) makes an absolutely delicious sweet potato casserole.
    Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours Tipper.

  • Reply
    Patty Hall
    November 20, 2010 at 9:15 am

    Love cornbread stuffing!! Here is how my mom made it-homemade cornbread-crumbled, onion, salt/pepper, sage, celery, cooked giblets chopped up and enough of the stock from the cooked giblets to moisten. Hmmm! now you got me hungry!! She’d stuff the bird, what was left she put in a pan and baked. She always made a big amount so there was usually enough left before cooking to just eat it out of the big pot she alwasy mixed it in.
    Wish I could come for that festival but my daughter and sil re coming in from TN. Sounds like fun!
    Patty H.

  • Reply
    November 20, 2010 at 9:00 am

    my grandmother, whom i never met, had a cornbread dressing recipe, but the recreation my extended famiy makes each year tasted like salt pudding to me. i prefer what i grew up with in california: crumbled and crumbed bread with onion and celery, a raw egg, sage and turkey stock frozen from last year’s carcass batch. oh and roasted *in* the bird, or “inside stuffing”, for dad who liked that, plus the rest baked in a casserole dish, or “outside dressing”, for mom, ditto. i got both! still make it that way.
    have a great thanksgiving, tipper. i’m grateful that i’ll see you in just a few weeks! 🙂

  • Reply
    Abraham Lincoln
    November 20, 2010 at 8:57 am

    This is a nice post. The music was good too.

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