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These are Thanksgiving dinner ‘must-haves’ for Las Vegans

Thanksgiving tastes like memories.

That’s what we discovered when we asked readers what dishes must be on their Thanksgiving tables each year, and why. For most of the 34 people who responded, those recipes have a place at the table because they evoke memories of families, friends and Thanksgivings past.

“Growing up, Mom always made deviled eggs for Thanksgiving,” Cathy Orfe wrote. “She would hide them the best she could, but my brothers and I would always find them and devour as many as we could before she caught us. She realized it was just easier to make extra and hide them better. Mom and Dad are gone now, and every year when I make my deviled eggs I’m reminded of a time we were together as a family, if only for a short time.”

“Our family’s ‘must-have’ for Thanksgiving is my Aunt Irene’s dressing,” Rose Peters wrote. “My aunt was an immigrant from Peru, and she was an excellent cook. She would prepare the Thanksgiving dinner every year and she created the dressing recipe. She did not write it down, and she did not use measuring cups or spoons. I got the recipe by watching her make it and writing it down as she did it, eyeballing the amount of ingredients. My Aunt Irene is gone now, but we continue the tradition of serving her dressing every year.”

“Making this (dressing) recipe always reminds me of helping my mother make this when I was young,” wrote Felina Pence, who also sent a dressing/stuffing recipe, this one a gluten-free adaptation of her mother’s. “She would call out what she needed, and I would bring it to her and watch her mix it up. I miss her. I have to make it every year or it just doesn’t seem like Thanksgiving.”

“A very good friend gave me this recipe in the ’70s,” Sheila Figarsky said of the clipping she enclosed with a recipe for candied sweet potatoes. “She is no longer with us, but it reminds me of her and her good cooking.”

Some readers’ memories were a little humorous.

“We are always so thankful for those of us that come together for Thanksgiving dinner,” Jackie Tieman wrote. “As we are filling up with all the turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy and cranberries … we talk about what we are so thankful for. One year, one of the little ones piped up and said, ‘And thank you for Gramma’s bread pudding.’ We have made sure that it is included every year since.’ ”

Some recipes became “must-haves” because of practical considerations.

“This recipe was a family answer to ending the canned cranberries as a necessary side dish at Thanksgiving,” Nancy Siebert wrote of her cranberry salad. “We also eliminated several old gelatin salads (with cottage cheese, fruit cocktail or canned pears) but kept this colorful dish, which covers the ‘fruit, salad or dessert’ category.”

“I believe the cool, refreshing taste is a change from all the other foods that are served hot,” wrote Cheryl Bechard of her cranberry relish. “Canned or store-bought relish has never been served, because this relish is so easy to prepare. After 65 years, I think there would be a revolt if this was not served.”

“Some members of my family don’t like plain cranberries as they feel they are too tart, even though there is sugar in them, or consider them too blah,” wrote Barbara McCarthy of her cranberry whipped cream salad. “Most of us eat this with the meal and others consider this as a dessert. The recipe was given to me by a neighbor and we have used it every Thanksgiving for the last 35 years or so.”

Other recipes make it to the table each year because they’re just so darned popular.

“The first time I made this recipe (1999), it was a Thanksgiving test,” wrote Laney Gutstein of her creamed spinach. “Before I had a chance to sit down at the table, it was gone! Since then I usually triple the recipe. My family is not really concerned about the turkey, the stuffing or other side dishes. The big question is, ‘Are you making your spinach?’ When we are not hosting Thanksgiving, and are traveling to see our family on the East Coast, the question is, ‘What shall I buy so you can make your spinach?’ ”

Thanksgiving is, after all, a time when we honor tradition.

“Thanksgiving isn’t Thanksgiving if it doesn’t have a dish similar to the first Thanksgiving,” wrote Kaelyn Cheney, who provided a squash recipe she calls “Pilgrims’ Original.”

The winner of the drawing for a $100 gift card is Pauline Ives.

Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at Hrinella@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0474. Follow @HKRinella on Twitter.

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