When it comes to Thanksgiving, we all enjoy turkey, stuffing and spending time with loved ones. Still, there are elements to everyone’s celebration that make it special. Each family brings its own customs and traditions to the table. We took some time to explore what makes the holiday unique for members of the McCrea’s team. Read on to learn about the fun and delicious elements that make Thanksgiving special to us.
Making a Special Family Recipe
Every McCrea’s team member can point to that one dish that makes Thanksgiving Thanksgiving. For Jason McCrea, co-founder, it’s his grandmother’s custard cream puffs, served for years as the ultimate finishing touch to a traditional family meal. For Sugar Chef Jake Chess, it’s his mother’s cranberry mold.
“My mother worked on that recipe for years,” he said. “At first the results were only so-so, however, she never gave up and now it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without it. Made with cream cheese and Jello, I look forward to it every year.”
Tinisha Lopes, sugar chef, says it’s not Thanksgiving without her family’s green bean casserole. Julie Ayotte, director of sales, prepares mashed turnips and carrots every year. In Sugar Chef Tony Darosa’s family, it’s the homemade eggnog and stuffing that completes the meal. Linda Caloumenos, a member of the McCrea’s packing team, also swears by her mom’s stuffing, a secret recipe consisting of chestnuts and sausage. And, Cat Harrigan, sugar chef, salivates when describing her family’s must have dish, sweet potato casserole.
The recipe, says Cat, is deceptively simple: “Brown sugar, vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon and butter, lots and lots of butter.”
Incorporating Family Heritage
Celebrating where they come from enables many McCrea’s team members to put a unique twist on the traditional Thanksgiving celebration. Tinisha is part Wampanoag. Her family comes together every year and enjoys turtle soup. Co-founder Kate McCrea’s family pays homage to its roots by laying out both the traditional American turkey dinner side by side with an Italian feast, the highlight of which is the perfect lasagna. Matt Roche (sales and operations) also enjoys an Italian feast alongside the more traditional offerings.
Kristina Pavone, sales and marketing, calls her Thanksgiving pretty traditional, with one exception.
"My dad prepares a turkey in the oven while my grandfather deep fries his,” explains Kristina. “There’s a competition to see who makes the best dish.” According to Kristina the twenty-year competition has yet to yield an ultimate victor.
Diane Parazin, McCrea’s director of marketing, says her family always lays out a puzzle or two, in a tradition that has turned into quite the competition.
“My daughter is a puzzle aficionado and can ALWAYS find that missing piece. Both my father-in-law and my mother are very much into puzzles as well. It becomes a race to see who can find the right fit first,” she said. “And the harder the puzzle, the better.”
Nothing says Thanksgiving like football. When Matt thinks about the holiday, he immediately thinks about gathering around the TV to watch the day’s big games. Diane’s family, too, enjoys watching and making fun bets (like who has to wash the dishes) on the outcome of the day’s head-to-head football matchups.
Julie and her husband make sure to take time for just the two of them every year. They book-end holiday celebrations by tuning into the same favorites… Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in the morning, The National Dog Show midday and a special movie in the evening.
“We alternate between It’s a Wonderful Life and White Christmas,” explains Julie. “It caps off a wonderful day and gets us in the mood for all of the December holiday festivities.”
Jake and his family, however, have an entirely different idea when it comes to fun on Thanksgiving Day. Every year the Chess family listens – and sings along --- to Arlo Guthrie’s hit single, Alice’s Restaurant. This fabulous tradition, says Jake, has been going on since before he was born.
And, if it’s snowing or too cold to enjoy outdoor activities over the holiday weekend, Jason likes to organize “fix it days” where he hauls projects and tools out of the garage for his boys to work on.
“It usually turns into a sculpture-building contest,” he laughs. “I’m not sure anything gets fixed, but it sure demystifies how things work and generates some awesome artwork.”
Showcasing the very best of McCrea’s, Hal Harkins (shipping and receiving) spends the holiday helping his cousin who is a caretaker for two special needs adults. He heads to her house and cooks Thanksgiving dinner for her charges, freeing her to spend time with family. Then he heads back home to curl up and watch Hallmark Channel’s Christmas movies.
Jim LaFond-Lewis, McCrea’s director of operations, is also one to give back. He can often be found walking the watershed areas of Hyde Park, Mass., and collecting trash. If weather permits, he says, he’ll most likely find himself taking a walk over the holiday weekend, photographing nature and picking up garbage along with way.
We hope this peek into the holiday traditions of McCrea’s team members gives you a few ideas you can incorporate into your own festivities. Whether you’re expecting a house full of guests or holding a more intimate gathering, including some of these fun, touching and delicious customs may help make your Thanksgiving even more special.
Happy Thanksgiving from everyone at McCrea's!