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Giving Thanks: When you’re chosen to be part of the family for Thanksgiving, it means something greater


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.

Thanksgiving. During this time of year, I am thankful for how lucky I am to still have family and friends who share their homes with me for the annual event.

As a single, middle-aged man who no longer has biological grandparents in the realm of the living, I should be purchasing holiday themed TV dinners ready for the microwave. But so far, that’s not the case.

My earliest experiences of the holiday, just like most other Americans, involved trips to my grandparent’s house to indulge in a feast lovingly prepared by grandmother. My maternal grandmother always cooked the typical fare, mashed potatoes, candied yams, turkey and stuffing. But each year she also made a dish I have not seen in other households since, Mandarin green beans.

Most children don’t like to eat their veggies, and my brother and I were not much different. However, this dish included toasted almonds, celery and an Asian inspired sauce that elevated them above regular green beans. Grandmother passed decades ago, along with several other family members, and while her green beans are no longer on the table, fortunately other people have stepped in to provide a place to gather for a Thanksgiving meal.

After my mother didn’t have enough people to cook for, the ex-wife’s parents stood in for a time and welcomed me until that relationship came to a close. From then on and to this day the family of a close friend opens their doors, providing a seat at their Thanksgiving meals through the decades.

As the unofficial “adopted son” of my best friend’s mother, I get an invite to eat Thanksgiving dinner there most years. She doesn’t have the recipe for Mandarin green beans, but she does make some tasty baked beans with little sausages, homemade macaroni and cheese and of course homemade mashed potatoes.  Her cooking never fails to fill empty bellies. And someone will bring green beans with bacon, which can arguably be better than any dish with almonds.

Each year, members of the family gather in her country home and as the years have passed, the number of seats has grown because just like how she welcomed me into her home, she has given that same endearment to a now expanded family of three couples who gave her nine grandchildren. Their playful screams and trampling feet fill the house until it’s time to eat. If it’s cold enough, which it won’t be this year, she lights the fireplace. Fire or not, the evening is typically consumed with updates on what’s been going on in each other’s lives and funny stories of raising little ones, a topic on which I have little to lend.

It’s been decades now and I still get an invite to spend an evening at her house, and that is something to be grateful for. Because when someone chooses you to be part of their family, rather than it occurring through birth or marriage, it means something greater.

I lament the fact so many people who were close to me are no longer a part of my life, either through death or due to other family members holding on to meaningless grudges, but it’s a reminder to make the most of the invites I still get. And it’s a reminder how fortunate I am to still have a family, both blood and chosen, that has endured the passage of time.

Mandarin green beans

(Recipe borrowed from food.com.)


  • 1 lb cut green beans, fresh (canned can be substituted)
  • 2 tablespoons blanched almond slivers (or slices if you prefer)
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1⁄2 cup coarsely sliced celery
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch, mixed with
  • 1 tablespoon water


If using fresh green beans, boil them in water for about two minutes. Drain the liquid and save it for later. Brown the almonds lightly in the oil and then add the celery. Sauté for two minutes. Add 1/2 cup of liquid from the boiled beans plus the bouillon cube, soy sauce, sugar and lemon juice. Cover and simmer for 3 minutes. Stir the liquid mixture in with the green beans and cook until hot. Add cornstarch/water mixture to the sauce and cook to desired thickness.

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