For Thanksgiving one year, Kate Collins, an associate librarian at Duke, turned to the past for help feeding family and friends.
Collins re-created a sweet potato custard recipe from a November 1870 issue of The Rural Carolinian. The experience of preparing a vintage dish helped her feel a connection to people from the past.
“It’s another way that we can make history feel really close to you,” said Collins, who wrote about the experience in the Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen, a blog by Duke University Libraries staff. “This just feels like another way of getting to know them and connect with that history and getting a little more information about what their life was like.”
In a similar way, family recipes have become holiday staples because they’re tied to memories and nostalgia of special times gathered around the table year after year.
This Thanksgiving, Working@Duke collected favorite recipes for mains, sides and desserts from staff and faculty and created an e-booklet featuring 20 recipes and some special stories about the dishes. To whet your appetite, here are a few of the recipes.
Feed a Crowd
Leanna McKay has fond memories of childhood Thanksgiving road trips to Illinois to share a feast with 30 or more family members.
Every year, the house was always full of cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents and often, more people to feed. When that happened, McKay and her grandma headed into the kitchen to whip up a cherry pineapple dump cake to satisfy the crowd.
“Nobody would mind the extra mouth to feed but desserts had a tendency to disappear faster than everything else,” said McKay, a human resources specialist for Duke University Health System Clinical Laboratories. “So, we always managed to have spare cans of pie filling and yellow cake mix in the pantry, just in case we ran out of dessert before we ran out of guests eating. Usually, we could have it whipped together and ready to eat before the last guest arriving could fix their plate and finish eating dinner first.”
A Taste of NYC
Stan Paskoff enjoys leading the charge of Thanksgiving preparations for one to two dozen friends and family at his house every year.
While he makes the usual turkey, vegetables, and other fixings, his favorite dish is the potato stuffing. The recipe is reminiscent of the filling in a potato knish, a treat of carby goodness from his childhood in New York City that could be found in any deli.
Paskoff inherited the recipe from his wife’s stepsister, whose mother-in-law brought the stuffing recipe with her when their family came to the United States as immigrants in the early 20th century.
“She brought the cookbook when she emigrated from eastern Europe,” said Paskoff, an IT analyst and network administrator for the Sanford School of Public Policy. “That recipe was one of recipes in that book.”
A Tribute to Her Father
Leah Austin’s father knew she and her sister did not like old-fashioned stuffing cooked inside a turkey.
He always set aside some of his special Italian sausage stuffing to cook in a glass dish, joining together savory and sweet flavors from sausage, onions, celery, apples, maple syrup and fresh herbs.
Since her father’s death in 2017, Austin continues to make the stuffing dish as a tribute to her father, Allan, and a reminder of special holiday times spent together.
“There’s not a lot of stuffing recipes that are as good to me that have that perfect mix,” said Austin, assistant manager, Event Management for Duke Venue and Production Management. “It’s really good, but it also is tied to those nostalgia memories of having it with my family every year.”
On Monday, Nov. 14, join LIVE FOR LIFE for a "Health Matters" live webinar about healthy Thanksgiving recipe ideas at noon. If you can't make it, a recording of the session will be available afterward.