Breaking Tradition


In my family, Thanksgiving has always been THE family holiday.  My mama was a good cook and her Thanksgiving meal was absolutely the best.  When my husband and I got married, I requested (claimed) Thanksgiving be the holiday we would spend with my family.  The first time he tasted her giblet gravy, he declared, “I didn’t know giblet gravy could taste that good” and promptly asked her to show him how to make it. The traditions and the dishes served rarely wavered. The location changed (the beach, mama’s house, my sister’s house or my house) and it often began with the Turkey Day Run or sitting around watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade, but the menu never changed.  Turkey, dressing, rice, giblet gravy, mac and cheese, Le Sueur peas (I know … often my contribution because I traveled), sunbeam brown-and-serve flake rolls, canned cranberry sauce (ugh), squash casserole, sweet potato casserole, and pumpkin pie.   To this day, I use my mama’s hand written recipes she gave to me to replicate the meal she did so well.

But it is hard to keep traditions alive sometimes.

And as my parents aged, I knew this favorite holiday would be difficult one day. So difficult that I told my husband early in our marriage, the first year I am without my parents, we are going to NYC to see the Thanksgiving Day Parade.  He never questioned it, he completely understood that I would need a big distraction when that time came.

And that day did come.  And we broke tradition.  And we were not sad that Thanksgiving Day.  I woke up early, looking out at the New York skyline so excited to see what the day would bring.  Instead of sadness and grief, our day was filled with anticipation, childlike joy and wonderment. I learned a big lesson that Thanksgiving.

It’s ok to break tradition.  It’s ok to try something new.  To seek new experiences on days that are filled with “but we always.”  There is something very liberating about doing something new and different on a day that you typically want to repeat your favorite memories, experiences.

After that year of departure from tradition, we hosted Thanksgiving in our new, old home.  There were new experiences, like picking the ripe orange from the tree, riding our bikes to the Turkey Day Run (and promptly spraining my ankle), while keeping with the traditional menu.

And this year, who knows what it will bring.  But it will have new experiences, new joys, and new memories that we may never repeat.

To help you start a new experience, here is my momma’s giblet gravy recipe!

Betty’s Giblet Gravy (as written to me)
Remove giblets from turkey, wash and place in 1 1/2 quart saucepan with 1 carrot, 1-2 medium onions, 1 rib celery and 3-4 cups water; salt and pepper.

Cover and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for several hours.

Remove giblets, cool and chop gizzards and liver. Pull meat from neck. (You can blend some of the broth with onion, don’t blend the carrot unless you want orange gravy). Discard the celery.

After blending, add chopped and pulled meat to liquid ~ use 1-2 tablespoons of corn starch to thicken gravy. (Mix cornstarch in 1 cup broth until smooth, then combine.)


English Drews is a native Charlestonian, a fourth generation Kuhne-Drews. In the past year, she has managed to turn her life upside down, for the...

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6 thoughts on “Breaking Tradition

  1. English, this was such a wonderful and heartwarming article! As you well know, I have also lost both parents so can totally relate. What is so ironic is that your traditional Thanksgiving meal is very similar to ours including the goblet gravy. And, I also went to the Thanksgiving Day parade and had a blast. Hope you are well!

    1. Clary! Thank you so much. The first holiday without parents is really painful, no matter how old you are. Creating a new experience was healing for me. So glad you could relate…I have heard from many people that our meal was their meal… must be a Charleston thing! xxoo

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