Thanksgiving: It’s not always about turkey

By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal

For most Southerners, the words Thanksgiving dinner conjure visions of turkey and dressing. But that’s not the case for three families in Northeast Mississippi.
The Robinsons of Marietta, the mother-daughter Bramletts of Tupelo and Pontotoc, and the Oswalts of Blue Springs all find different kinds of foods on their holiday tables.
Marcia Robinson said she and her husband, Nathan, and the three children they share have dined on chili for their Thanksgiving meal for the past four years.
“We’ve done it since we started dating,” she said. “My dad has been married three times and now we have Nathan’s family and once you visit all of them, you get tired of turkey real fast.”
The Robinsons decided to do chili because it was different.
“We use my dad’s recipe,” she said. “He makes the best chili ever. We still have turkey and dressing when we go to visit all the relatives, but on Thursday night when we get back home, we make a big pot of chili.”
Johnette Bramlett of Tupelo and her mother, Ruth Bramlett of Pontotoc, turn to non-traditional fare for a totally different reason.
Johnette co-owns and manages Ms. Ruth’s Express in Gloster Creek Village and up until Wednesday, her mom operated Ms. Ruth’s Diner in Verona.
“We’ve been in the restaurant business for nine years and we’ve always done chicken and dressing on Fridays,” Johnette Bramlett said. “So when Thanksgiving gets here, it’s not that special to us.”
One year, the two had a shrimp boil. Another year, they grilled steaks. Once they even dined on pizza.
This year, they’re headed to Memphis to eat steaks or seafood at a locally owned restaurant.
“We could eat here in Tupelo, but if we go to Memphis we have an hour-and-a-half drive in the car and we’ll get to visit more,” Johnette Bramlett said. “If we went out to eat here, it wouldn’t take as long.”
For 20 of the past 23 Thanksgivings, Lee Oswalt and her husband, Johnny, have dined on Cornish game hens and rice pilaf on Thanksgiving Day.
“When we were newly married, we were living in Japan and it was just the two of us,” she said. “A turkey just seemed really big and neither one of us is real crazy about turkey.”
So Oswalt prepared one game hen and stuffed it with rice pilaf and served it alongside Le Sueur peas, salad and bread.
“We loved it, so we did it again the next year and the next year,” she said. “In fact, we’ve done it every year since we married except for three, and that was when I was going through my turkey-brining phase.”
This year, Oswalt said the family is doing the big meal at her mother-in-law’s house. Mom will make the cornbread dressing and mashed potatoes, and Oswalt will provide the Cornish game hens, rice pilaf, sweet potatoes, Le Sueur peas, creamed pearl onions, homemade bread and a pecan pie.
“It’s still that same first meal we had,” Oswalt said. “I’ve just dressed it up a little this Thanksgiving.”
ginna.parsons@journalinc.com