Thanksgiving Tales: Turkey TV Dinners and Oyster Escapades

I have written so many stories over the years about Thanksgiving that I found myself struggling for a new idea. We all get the point of the holiday, and the general menu, but I think we need to take more time to pause and reflect.

I decided to Google “Thanksgiving 1960” (my birth year) and I was really surprised to see it was a historical year… with the creation of the turkey T.V. dinner, created by the Swanson brothers. Dinners had been in freezer departments for years prior, but the Swanson brothers claim to be the first company to create turkey with the holiday trimmings.

Marketing was a big part of the success with commercials showing a woman, beautifully dressed, placing a frozen dinner in the oven while her husband eagerly waited. People bought the concept and Swanson made a fortune.

This made me immediately think of my grandma. She thought T.V. dinners were the greatest invention ever created. In all honesty and love for my grandma, she was a horrible cook. If grandma had worked on her wardrobe a little, she would have looked exactly like the women in the commercials. Somehow she produced two daughters that were great cooks. During Thanksgiving, my mom always assigned grandma to dessert and she would always arrive with a half-thawed pumpkin pie. Bless her heart.

Sometimes my mom would research recipes for Thanksgiving and do a couple authentic dishes. According to, “Lobster, bass, clams and oysters might also have been part of the feast” in 1621. My sister and I love raw oysters, but not cooked. We hated when our mom made oyster dressing. One year, we devised a plan to get rid of them as soon as they arrived. While mom had her back to us, we each scarfed down a pint of oysters. When she started looking for the oysters, she blamed my dad for forgetting to buy them. Back to the grocery store he went. As he walked out the door, he turned and looked at us and said, “I’m on to both of you.”

I know this year has some people in a panic about the price of groceries or eating out. My mom would have each family member tell her one dish that, if not on the table, Thanksgiving would be ruined. Then she wouldn’t cook the dishes we didn’t care for – like oyster dressing. Although it was still always on the table because that was always her choice.

The food can’t hold a candle to the time spent with family and friends. I don’t necessarily remember what I cooked or ate, but I remember the love and laughter I felt.

This year, as you gather around the Thanksgiving table, don’t forget to pause and reflect on everything you are thankful for.

Karin Jenkins is a Licensed Esthetician, Makeup Artist, and the author of the book, “Pageant Land and the Family Who Lived There.” She has been involved in all aspects of the beauty industry and in show business for over 30 years. Karin is the mother of two and the grandmother of four. She and her husband David co-own the local family business - Applause Salon in New Smyrna Beach. (386) 426-5454

Leave a Reply