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No, thanks: A look back at some questionable Thanksgiving sides from Austin's past

An illustration of a turkey and pie on a table with a pitcher and flowers
McFaddin-Ward House Museum via Texas Portal to History

This story originally ran in 2018.

It's not Turkey Day without turkey, but let's be honest: Genetics aside, your shared love of stuffing and cornbread is pretty much the only connective tissue binding you and that one cousin who drank seven Bud Lights last year and tried to explain blockchain to your grandmother.

Sides can make or break a meal. So, in the interest of history, we at KUT culled issues of the paper of record — The Austin American-Statesman — for some side dish recipes of Austin's Thanksgivings past.

What we found was a truly haunting assemblage. Here it is — presented without embellishment. (And, for the record, we have not tried any of them.)

Doris' crab-meat mold with crackers

If the phrase "crab-meat mold" wasn't enough to turn you off this Thanksgiving appetizer, wait till you see how much mayonnaise Doris, the sister of then-Austin American-Statesman Food Editor Marilyn Hansen, packed into this 1972 appetizer. It's a cup. A whole cup of mayonnaise. Gelatin, too. Oh, and a can of cream of shrimp soup. It's also a crab dish that's shaped (in a jello mold, of course) like a fish, so there's that, too.

Here's the recipe in full from the Nov. 12, 1972, edition of The Statesman:

  • 1 can cream of shrimp soup, undiluted or 1 can cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
  • 2 packages (3-ounce size) cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1 can crab meat, drained and flaked
  • 1 cup finely chopped celery
  • Salad greens
  • Lemon wedges
  • Slice pitted black olive 
  • Pimento strips 
  • Assorted crackers

1. In a medium saucepan, combine soup, cheese and onion. Heat until cheese is melted; stirring. Blend in mayonnaise, remove from heat.

2. In another saucepan, sprinkle gelatin over water. Over low heat, stir until gelatin dissolves. Stir into soup mixture. Add crab meat and celery.

3. Pour mixture into 6-cup mold. Refrigerate 6 hours, or until firm. 

4. Unmold on serving plate, garnish with salad greens and lemon wedges. Use olive slices for eyes, pimiento strips for scales. Serve as a spread with crackers.

Cauliflower with celery sauce

Nothing says "Thanksgiving" like a sauce made out of everyone's favorite source of insoluble fiber in vegetable form: celery. This 1960 recipe from the Austin American-Statesman's Melanie De Proft calls for a cream-based celery sauce atop a hot cauliflower, which is then broiled and topped with — you guessed it — cheese.

While that overall mise en place may sound aggressively 1960 in a culinary sense, liquefied celery is having a moment in 2018, according to CNN, as a holistic cure-all for seemingly everything. It probably isn't, but one Instagram post with nearly 93,000 views claims celery juice will alleviate everything from tingles to lupus to Raynaud's syndrome.

It's safe to say neither the celery juice nor the celery-based sauce that cascades over the lightly charred, cheese-topped cauliflower can cure any of those afflictions — or the resentment serving it to your loved ones might inspire.

Here's the full recipe from the Nov. 20, 1960, edition of The Stateman:

  • 1 medium-size head cauliflower
  • 1/4 cup chopped celery
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1/16 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2/3 cup cream
  • 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese

1. Remove leaves, cut off all the woody base and any blemishes from cauliflower. Cook in salted water until just tender; drain. Place in center of a heat-resistant platter. Using a fork, gently separate flowerets for ease in serving. 

2. Meanwhile, cook celery in boiling salted water until tender. Drain, reserving 1/3 cup celery liquid.

3. Heat butter in a small saucepan. Blend in a mixture of flour and seasonings. Heat until mixture bubbles; remove from heat. Gradually add celery liquid and cream, stirring constantly. Bring mixture rapidly to boiling; cook 1 to 2 min. longer. Stir in cooked celery and pour sauce over hot cauliflower. 

4. Sprinkle with grated cheese and brown lightly under broiler. Serve immediately. 

Yams and broccoli with provolone sauce

Yep. You read that right. In 1966, when the concept of umami was but a mere glint in the eye of the culinary lexicon, Melanie De Proft swung for the fences and tried to create a fifth flavor with this seemingly algorithmically generated Turkey Day side. Broccoli. Brown butter. Maple Syrup. Yams. Onions. Whipped Cream. Provolone cheese sauce.

Here's the entire mouthful from The Statesman's Nov. 20, 1966, edition:

  • 4 medium-sized (about 1 1/2 lbs.) yams, cooked, peeled, and quartered
  • 1 can (8 oz.) small boiled onions
  • 1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1 pkg. (10 oz.) frozen broccoli spears
  • 1/2 cup strong chicken broth (dissolve 1 chicken bouillon cube in 1/2 cup boiling water)
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine, heated until browned
  • 1/2 cup maple-blended syrup, heated Provolone Sauce*

1. Heat onions in their liquid with the salt; drain and keep warm. 

2. Meanwhile, cook broccoli in the broth until just tender. 

3. Drain broccoli and drizzle with browned butter or margarine. Pour the syrup over the hot yams. Arrange broccoli, yams, and onions in a heated 2-qt. shallow baking dish.

4. Pour all but several tablespoon-fuls of the hot sauce over the vegetables. Fold 2 or 3 tablespoons whipped cream into remaining sauce and spoon over top. Set under broiler with top 4 in. from heat source until browned.

*Provolone Sauce

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 1/2 cups (about 6 oz.) shredded provolone cheese

1. Stir a mixture of the flour and seasonings into hot butter or margarine in a heavy saucepan. Cook until mixture is bubbly.

2. Add milk gradually, stirring constantly. Continuing to stir, bring rapidly to boiling and cook 2 min.

3. Remove from heat and stir in the cheese until melted. Use immediately.

Lima beans in sour cream

It's a simple recipe that paints a harrowing tableau in a puke-green color palette.

This 1969 recipe comes from a woman who was literally referred to only as "Mrs. Donald C. Kolberg" — not by, say, her given name, which was Rachel — in the write-up of this recipe. (For the record, Rachel was remembered in 2004 as a beloved grandmother and great grandmother who successfully protested an attempt by the Austin City Council to cut funding to a senior citizen center.) She was also remembered as an outstanding cook. While that may have been true, this winning recipe in The Statesman's 1969 recipe contest reflects a decidedly Cold War flavor palette. Still, that's not to say it wasn't loved.

Here's the whole recipe from the Nov. 23, 1969, edition of The Statesman: 

  • 2 pkgs. frozen green lima beans
  • 1 bunch green onions
  • 1 small jar pimientos
  • 4 tbsp. butter
  • 1 8-oz. pkg. commercial sour cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste 

1. Cook beans according to directions on package. Drain and place in casserole.

2. Chop onions, using some of the green tops and saute in butter until limp.

3. Add onions and pimiento to casserole with beans.

4. Season to tase and fold in sour cream. Heat through at 300 degrees. Makes 12 servings. 

The casserole can be prepared ahead of time, but the sour cream should not be added until time to place it in the oven.

Winter orange salad

Nothing says "winter orange salad" like folding in a quarter-cup of mayo and some celery into a dessert, then serving that dessert on lettuce.

Here's the whole recipe from the Nov. 23, 1947, edition of The Statesman: 

  • 1/4 cup seedless raisins 
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery and leaves
  • 1 cups orange sections, cut in cubes
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise 
  • 3 tablespoons applesauce
  • Crisp lettuce cups

1. Place raisins in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let stand five minutes: then dry in a towel.

2. Combine with celery, orange cubes and mayonnaise which has been blended with the applesauce. Mix lightly and serve at once on crisp lettuce cups.

Chicken caviar aspic

Say what you will about the 20th century, but it was a real renaissance for putting savory food products in gelatin. This 1955 recipe broke the mold by combining chicken stock, an onion, celery, a clove, some parsley and lemon. Pat Folmar Robinson then took it a step further, topping it off with caviar, shrimp and not one but two kinds of dressing — just in case you were worried that texture was getting the slightest bit toothy.

Here's the whole recipe from the Nov. 20, 1955, edition of The Statesman

  • 3 1/2 cups chicken soup or stock
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 1 small onion, quartered
  • 1 whole clove
  • 1 sprig parsley
  • Slice of lemon
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 envelopes gelatin
  • 2 teaspoons imported, black caviar

1. In deep sauce pan, place chicken soup or stock, celery, onion, parsley, clove and lemon slice and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 30 minutes. 

2. Put 1/2 cup water in bowl and sprinkle gelatin on top. When softened add to hot mixture and stir until gelatin dissolves.

3. Cool, strain and when it begins to jell pour into individual ring molds which have been rinsed with cold water, filling them just half full.

4. Spoon a little cavier [sic] around in each ring, and then pour in remaining aspic. Let stand in refirgerator until firm.

5. Fill ring molds with cooked shrimp which have been chilled and marinated in French dressing. Serve on beds of lettuce and pass Russian dressing.

Andrew Weber is a general assignment reporter for KUT, focusing on criminal justice, policing, courts and homelessness in Austin and Travis County. Got a tip? You can email him at Follow him on Twitter @England_Weber.
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