Thanksgiving leftovers may be the main thing that some people look forward to after the holiday is over. Think about the wonderful turkey sandwiches (on Merita bread and slathered with Duke’s mayo, if you grew up in my house), the plate of your favorite re-warmed sides, or the slice of pie for breakfast the next morning with your cup of coffee. It all seems even better when it’s left over.
One Thanksgiving years ago, my mom and grandmother thought, “Hey, why not go out to eat for Thanksgiving this year and avoid all that work?” So they talked to us all about it and we got on board.
We put on our Sunday best that Thanksgiving morning, and drove over to Captain Anderson’s restaurant in Panama City for lunch. It was a beautiful location, right on the lagoon. I will always remember the large picture windows looking out at the boats on the water. It was a perfect view.
The restaurant was serving on-point Thanksgiving fare, in addition to their usual wonderful seafood. We enjoyed turkey and dressing, delicious sweet potato casserole, and numerous other vegetables and sides on a buffet in the dining room. I remember the oohs and aahs as we enjoyed the meal, and we visited and relaxed as we “let our dinner go down” a bit so we could enjoy some pie in a little while, before we left. It was really nice, and Mom and Grammy were spared hours of cooking, baking and cleanup.
We got home that afternoon, and settled in for football games on TV and a nap or two. A few hours later, though, my parents realized with dismay what they had done.
Dad was ready for a little dinner that evening. Mom said she was too, and they went into the kitchen. Then the awful truth hit them; there were no Thanksgiving leftovers. No turkey for sandwiches, no sweet potato casserole, not even a slice of pie. What had they done?
Because they were both disappointed after this delayed realization, they did what anyone else longing for leftovers might do. They went to the store the next morning, bought all the ingredients for a delicious turkey dinner, and we all pitched in to cook it together, and to clean up afterward, on Friday.
That meal was even better than the wonderful meal at Captain Anderson’s, I assure you. There was no water view, no boats sailing by to watch with pleasure, no buffet with countless sides and desserts. But because it was made up of our favorite sides, like mom’s delicious dressing (one with, and one without, oysters, since my sister and I didn’t like the oyster dressing), her delicious sweet potato casserole, and the delicious roast turkey and vegetables, plus the chilled Ocean Spray cranberry sauce slid from the can and embellished with those trademark rings around it (I still love it, y’all)… it was the best meal we’d had all year.
As we giggled about our own silliness, we enjoyed the meal together and had leftovers to spare for several days. Not only that, mom could make her cheesy turkey tetrazzini from the leftover meat as well, and we absolutely loved that.
Those kinds of memories are the ones that sustain us all, I think. I imagine even when I’m 80, I’ll think back on the Thanksgiving dinner we made the day after Thanksgiving, and smile as I remember.
If you are lucky enough to have some leftovers from your turkey dinner, here are two recipes that I really enjoy. I hope you do, too!
Happy holidays, my friends!
Stephanie Hill-Frazier is a writer, food blogger and regional television chef, whose on-air nickname is “Mama Steph.” She grew up in Gulf County, on St. Joe Beach, a place she will forever call home. She is married and has three sons who are significantly taller than she is. You can find more of her recipes at WhatSouthernFolksEat.com.