11/26/2014 09:44 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Remembering My Big, Fat, 1970s Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is this week and I have to say, I'm excited.

I love my family's little traditions, from the paper cutout paper pilgrims on the doors and windows to the chalkboard turkey that we write "Happy Thanksgiving" on every year (what else you would write on a giant chalkboard turkey?) My mother and mother-in-law both come over, they each bring part of the meal and we have a low key feast with our two boys.

I'm thankful for the Thanksgivings my husband David and I share with the kids and with our moms. I'm also thankful for the memories I have of my childhood Thanksgiving celebrations.

It was a different time then -- no handheld devices, telephones brought to the table, no viral turkey videos and no uploading photos of pumpkin pie. Not that there's anything wrong with that last one, I thoroughly enjoy looking at pictures of pie.

But my 1970s Thanksgiving was a lot less of that stuff, and a lot more of this:

Car trip.
The week of Thanksgiving, my family and I would take a trip up north to Rochester, New York to visit my mother's family and stay at my grandparent's house. We did not go by plane or train, oh, no... no... no.

We went by automobile. SIX HOURS from Ossining to Ra-cha-cha sharing the giant couch like backseat with my brother, Mike. Back seat provisions included Nancy Drew novels, an afghan and those Handi-Snacks with the compartmentalized gooey cheese, crackers and red stick. The car trip in itself was like a vacation! My dad would smoke and crank The Doors and The Eagles on the 8-Track player, mom would cross-stitch and write down the menu for Thursday's big meal.

Sleeping on the davenport.
We saw mom's family twice a year, so this was a treat. Mike and I shared the pull out sofa (or "davenport" as Grandma would call it) in the living room. I remember Grandma in her housecoat (or "duster" Grandma would call it) sneaking downstairs at five in the morning on Thanksgiving to get the turkey (or "turk" for short... Grandma called normal things by different names) ready to put in the oven. I would get up and she would make me Cream of Wheat with lots of butter and brown sugar. I called that damn good.

'70s tablescape.
The centerpiece on the table was the same every year; it consisted of one of those felt turkey heads that you stick onto a pineapple (we used a wax pineapple from the fake fruit bowl) along with various ceramic pilgrims, Indians, and turkeys. Mom's brothers, my Uncle Bob and Uncle Tom, would amuse us all by having the ceramic pilgrims fight, make out, or dive bomb into glasses of water, pools of gravy or jello molds. I remember an Indian getting chipped after Uncle Bob catapulted him across the room with his fork. Grandma was not amused.


Broccoli with Velveeta.
Because yes I will eat my vegetables if you smother it with Velveeta cheese sauce. I will also pour some on my stuffing and dip my "turk" in the gravy boat full of bright orange "cheese food." Don't judge, it was the '70s.

Grandpa was a photographer. At Thanksgiving we were treated to a Kodak moment, an old school carousel slide show of birds feeding from their hummingbird feeder, roses from the park by their house, or various shots of family and friends.


Dressing up like pilgrims.
Mike and I always sat down for our meal dressed as pilgrims, having brought hats or collars we had made at school with us to wear on Thanksgiving day. Do kids still do this? Make these hats? I hope so.


And of course there was the food which was tirelessly prepared by my mother and grandmother... buttery mashed potatoes, sweet sweet potatoes, stuffing from inside the bird, dressing from outside the bird, gravy, broccoli, that cheese sauce and of course, the "turk."

Today I still like to melt a little slab of Velveeta for my broccoli. No one else likes it that way... they must be nuts.

And when mom comes over for Thanksgiving dinner we still exchange a smile when I ask her to please pass the turk.

Lori's website, Drawn to the '80s, is where her 5 year old draws the greatest hits of the 1980's. Her blog, Once Upon a Product, is where she writes about important things like food, beauty products and her Mick Jagger obsession.


Sweet Potato Recipes 2013