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Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving – It’s...

Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving – It’s More Than the Pie

By: Laura Lee Leathers - November 21, 2023

In this series, Magnolia Tribune staff and contributors reflect on what they are thankful for and supply some last-minute recipes for the home cook preparing for Thanksgiving dinner.

In my childhood, Thanksgiving was held at my paternal grandparent’s house for years, less than a half mile from my family’s home. I looked forward to the large gathering of aunts, uncles, cousins, and along with several great aunts and uncles.

Grandma and Grandpa had a full-size basement. In the biggest room, I remember the food being placed on a makeshift table for the buffet. Long tables were set up for the adults in the middle of that room while the children and teenagers gathered in an adjacent room.

It was my grandmother’s job to prepare the turkey and the bread dressing. The daughters-in-law were responsible for the homemade mashed potatoes, bread and rolls, jams and jellies, the dill and sweet pickles, my mom’s contribution, and various vegetables.

And the desserts were unbelievable. My mom was known for her homemade pies. The crusts were the best, flaky, melt in your mouth. The lemon meringue was her specialty, but she also brought apple, rhubarb, and mincemeat. My favorite was the lemon meringue. For years, my dad told me that the meringue was called calf-slobbers. I don’t believe that tale anymore.

One of my treasured memories from that day was playing back in the corner of that room. We children were on our own. It was fun to go through Grandma’s boxes, finding all kinds of treasures. I loved sitting on her loveseat, tucked in a corner she no longer used. It was so soft, but wearing a dress made the back of your legs itch. I was told it was because of the horsehair stuffing. I digress.

Establishing New Traditions

Thanksgiving gatherings drastically changed when I enlisted in the United States Women’s Army Corps. Thanksgiving dinner at Fort McClellan, Alabama, had the traditional foods, but I missed my family, our day together, and mom’s lemon meringue pie.

When I married and lived in Augsburg, Germany, my husband’s grandmother, Nanny, sent us a box of pecans and her pecan pie recipe. Oh, my goodness, it was a new dessert for this northern girl. The word divine comes to mind whenever I sink my teeth into a great pecan pie. As a baker, I eventually learned to use chopped pecans in the pie and decorate the top with pecan halves. It is now a staple for our Thanksgiving meal.

Thanksgiving Day gatherings have evolved and changed in many ways over the past fifty-one years. We’ve gathered at home, other times at my in-laws’ home, and then at my parents. There were times when we celebrated at noon at one home and then again at another at six o’clock – family and food overload.

We’ve learned to make the modifications as the children have grown up, married, and moved away while remembering the people from the past gatherings who are no longer with us. Our Thanksgiving celebration isn’t always held on the fourth Thursday in November. We rearrange schedules to accommodate new traditions with children and grandchildren.

Cultivating a Grateful Heart

Here is something to help you and your family cultivate a grateful heart. It’s based on Scripture and the acronym for the word, grateful. I call it My Eight Words of Thanksgiving.

Grace – “But You, O LORD, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth. Psalm 86:15 NKJV

Righteousness – I will praise the LORD according to His righteousness, and will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High. Psalm 7:17 NKJV

All – Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 ESV

Teach – Teach me Your way, O LORD; I walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name. Psalm 86:11 NKJV

Exult – Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. Psalm 100:4 NKJV

Faithfulness – I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. Psalm 9:1 ESV

Understanding – Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV

Love – Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his love endures forever. Psalm 136:1 ESV

Reviewing my journals for this year, I have a long list of things I am grateful for. In addition to faith, family, and friends, I am thankful for the times of celebration and the challenging times. Daily, I continue to learn to give God thanks with all my heart (Psalm 138:1).

A Thanksgiving Traditional Recipe

I don’t remember having sweet potato casserole growing up. However, when I found this recipe almost thirty years ago, it became a family favorite next to the cornbread dressing. I decrease the sugar for the casserole and the topping.

Lady Laura’s Favorite Sweet Potato Casserole

  • 4 cups sweet potatoes, mashed
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 stick butter or oleo
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 cups milk 
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 eggs

Mix well and place in a 13 x 8-inch baking dish. (This looks thin, but it will bake perfectly.)


  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup sugar  
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 
  • 1/2 stick butter 
  • 1 cup pecans, finely chopped 

Mix all ingredients until crumbly and put on top. Bake for 1 hour at 300 degrees uncovered. 

Lady Laura’s Pecan Pie

  • 3 eggs
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 cup Karo corn syrup
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup pecans
  • 8” single pie crust

Beat eggs slightly with a rotary beater, add sugar and a dash of salt, and stir until dissolved. Next, stir in Karo corn syrup and butter. Mix well. Stir in pecans and place pecan halves on the top of the pie.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes and cook on the lower shelf in the oven.

From My Home to Yours

May you and your family have a joyous, safe, and wonderful Thanksgiving as you count your blessings.

Thanksgiving Blessings

Lord, as we bow our heads to pray.
We celebrate Thanksgiving Day.
Help us have the right attitude.
As we turn to you in gratitude.
Thank you for our festive mood;
Thank you, Lord, for this great food;
Thanks for blessings great and small;
Thank you, thank you for it all.

Joanna Fuchs (
About the Author(s)
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Laura Lee Leathers

Laura Lee Leathers is a writer and speaker. Imagine Lois Lane, over sixty-five, and living on a farm. Her metropolis is the area of freelance writing. Her primary love interest is the Word of God. She digs for information, interviews fascinating people, offers a cup of biblical hospitalit-tea, encourages, and helps others with the ‘how-to’s’ of life.