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Find Out About the Thanksgiving Adventures of Your Favorite CAS Faculty


Here are a few interesting Thanksgiving questions we asked our faculty:

What is the funniest or most interesting thing that has happened to you on Thanksgiving?

Increasingly, I am in the minority in my love for pumpkin pie. The majority, meaning my wife and children, therefore feel entirely free to try to ruin my enjoyment of said pie by making rude comparison between the color and texture of pumpkin pie filling and various things that should not be named here. I guess this is becoming our newest tradition. Professor Mike Mayer, Biology

The very first Thanksgiving that my wife, Molly, and I hosted for our parents was a complete disaster. The turkey took twice as long to cook as we suspected, and in the end, it was overcooked. To add insult to injury, we did something to the gravy where it tasted like soy sauce. After everyone went to bed, I had a bowl of cereal to stop the hunger pains. Professor Mike Williams, Political Science and International Relations

Bringing my future fiancé (current partner) home after only knowing him for three months. My sisters silently clapped as he argued with my mother about the future of communism – it was 1983. She was vociferously arguing for Maoism and he took her on as a full-blown free-market capitalist. My sisters were silently clapping – not because they are all free-market capitalists – but because somebody had taken my mom on and looked like they were winning. The funny part – I was mortified by the exchange and haven’t recovered yet. Professor Noelle Norton, Political Science and International Relations

Unfortunately, I'm not allowed to tell that story... Professor Belinda Lum, Sociology

There is absolutely NO QUESTION what the funniest thing that happened on Thanksgiving would be. At the end of the day one Thanksgiving, we needed to help my grandfather get the Christmas decorations down from the attic. However, as evidence of his masculinity-despite-age, "Papa" wanted to be the first up into the attic. Suddenly, we heard a loud crash. My grandma yelled up from the kitchen "Stanley, where are you?" His response? "I'm in the shower!" As the ENTIRE family ran to the bathroom to see what happened, we all doubled over laughing. My grandfather was wedged between the floor joists with his feet dangling through the ceiling, with a large pile of drywall and tile on the shower floor. It's a good thing Papa had eaten a ton of food that Thanksgiving, because his considerable "heft" was the only thing that prevented him from falling 15 feet onto a pile of rubble! Professor Jonathan Bowman, Communication Studies

Many years ago I decided to barbecue the turkey on a spit and stuffed it first. The dressing kept falling out and one can imagine the result. We finally rescued it and transferred the dressing to the oven. Professor Iris Engstrand, History

I was brining a turkey one year and set the cooler on the back porch. Sadly that evening a giant possum raided the cooler and dragged our lovely turkey across the yard gnawing it all over! We caught him in the act, but it was too late for the turkey! Professor Sue Lowery, Biology

The year, we decided not to take along our own dinner when we stayed at a local hotel in Santa Barbara, and ended up eating Domino’s Pizza for our Thanksgiving meal. Professor Jim Gump, History

Do you have any Thanksgiving traditions?

I traditionally do everything I can to avoid carving the bird. My wife, Courtney, is much better at it. Professor Mike Mayer, Biology

We gather around the TV and root against the Dallas Cowboys - the same thing that everyone else does in 49 of the 50 states. We also eat way too much and tell ourselves that we only do this once a year. Professor Mike Williams, Political Science and International Relations

Every year around this time, I think much more often about the massacre and displacement of so many people native to the land we now call these United States and about how history is simply a story about those with the privilege to shape it. Professor Jericho Brown, English

Arguing about politics at the dinner table. Professor Noelle Norton, Political Science and International Relations

Political arguments with my dad once a year. Pick a topic and we've argued about it. Our family knows to stay out of the way. Professor Belinda Lum, Sociology

My family does have a couple weird traditions, specifically centered around two jello-based salads that we don't ACTUALLY eat that much of...We have a mandarin orange jello concoction called "Billie Salad" and a layered cranberry sour cream salad called, well, "That Cranberry Thing". While we never eat much of these two dishes, my extended family will riot - literally riot - if they aren't on the table. One Thanksgiving someone forgot to assemble the Billie Salad in time, and someone actually declared that Thanksgiving "ruined"...! Professor Jonathan Bowman, Communication Studies

We have pancake breakfast, eat nothing else rest of day, then have dinner at 4ish...and of course lots of football! Professor Lori Watson, Philosophy

We go to one or two of the museums on Friday. Professor Iris Engstrand, History

Christmas Eve has more traditions (ravioli, gambling, games). Thanksgiving is pretty much straight up eating and then lying around. Professor Esteban del Rio, Communication Studies

On Thanksgiving morning we either hike in the Santa Ynez Mountains or bike along the coastal highway in Santa Barbara up through Montecito. Professor Jim Gump, History

What are you plans for Thanksgiving and with who will you celebrate?

We’ll celebrate Thanksgiving at home with my parents and an extended family of friends. It doesn’t seem right unless you have a crowd of people. Professor Mike Mayer, Biology

I will be driving 6-7 hours with my wife, Zack and Ben (my twin boys who are two years old), and my dog, Hanford, to Morro Bay, CA to spend Thanksgiving with my dad. If that does not sound relaxing enough to you, keep in mind that we will be cooking in a kitchen that is not our own and keeping track of our boys in a very non-kid proof house. Who knows, we might just order Chinese and avoid the hassle. Professor Mike Williams, Political Science and International Relations

I'm taking a road trip up the coast to San Francisco with my boyfriend who lives in DC. Professor Jericho Brown, English

Going to my hometown, San Luis Obispo, CA. Although it is on California’s central coast, I can fly to New York and ½ way back in the amount of time it will take me to just get there on Thanksgiving weekend. That’s not even counting the drive back to San Diego. Professor Noelle Norton, Political Science and International Relations

I head home to San Francisco where my brother and I will celebrate Thanksgiving a minimum of three times. Once with my mom and her friends. They've known each other since High School. A second Thanksgiving is celebrated with my father and his wife, and my stepsister. A third Thanksgiving is celebrated at the bar that they own where all the regulars try to buy me drinks until they realize I'm the owner's daughter - and instead want me to buy them drinks. Finally - the wildcard is that if my dad's second wife is in town - my brother and I will celebrate a 4th Thanksgiving with our bonus family the Purcell's. Professor Belinda Lum, Sociology

My entire family is coming down here to San Diego to celebrate Thanksgiving this year. Whenever I host Thanksgiving, I make my family participate in a Turkey Trot fundraiser for a charitable organization. This year, we'll be running (and walking) in the Father Joe's Thanksgiving 5K in Balboa Park, which provides food and housing for disadvantaged locals in the San Diego area. After we run, we eat! As a participant in this year's Resident Faculty Program, I'll be cooking the whole Thanksgiving feast for my entire extended the residence halls! My parents are flying down from Northern California, my grandfather is driving down from the mountains, and the rest of the family is coming from various locations throughout Southern California. If you see me over the holiday, though, don't ask for any leftovers...I guard my food like a bulldog! Professor Jonathan Bowman, Communication Studies

I plan to stay in San Diego, celebrate with friends and my partner. My family is on East Coast, and too far to travel for just a few days. Professor Lori Watson, Philosophy

We have a very traditional Thanksgiving Dinner with turkey, dressing, cranberries, potatoes, vegetables and three kinds of pie for dessert. Calories do not count. With various relatives the count ranges from 12 to 16. Professor Iris Engstrand, History

This year, we head far away to my parent's house in Linda Vista, where we will celebrate the harvest with my parents, grandparents, my brother who is a Park Ranger at Cabrillo National Monument, my sister and her family, and of course my lovely wife and our two daughters Lucia and Ida Frances. Professor Esteban del Rio, Communication Studies

I will be celebrating with family friends at Big Bear Lake. Professor Sue Lowery, Biology

Lee Ann, Scott (our son), and I travel to Santa Barbara and spend Thanksgiving weekend at a local hotel. We take along our own Thanksgiving dinner and prepare it in the kitchenette in our hotel suite. Professor Jim Gump, History

What is your favorite Thanksgiving food?

There always seems to be a push and pull between tradition and familiarity versus experimentation with new dishes and recipes. We largely do things quite traditionally, and sometimes toy a bit with the turkey dressing or side dishes...but still being careful not to deprive my wife of her creamed corn or my sister of her spinach casserole, dishes that have entered the pantheon of thanksgiving mainstays. Professor Mike Mayer, Biology

My favorite food at Thanksgiving is the turkey, gravy and mashed potatoes - no doubt. Professor Mike Williams, Political Science and International Relations

I'll be missing my mother's pecan pie. Professor Jericho Brown, English

I made a mushroom ragout last year – which I loved! It was the best “gravy” type topping I have ever tried. Professor Noelle Norton, Political Science and International Relations

My favorite food - is the Asian Style turkey we have. My uncle cooks the turkey on the BBQ and uses a ginger, sake, and soy sauce marinade. My dad buys his from Chinatown where it spent many hours on the rotisserie. Professor Belinda Lum, Sociology

Without a doubt, my two favorite foods are sweet potatoes and any kind of a savory sage or rosemary stuffing! I really like toasted marshmallows on my sweet potatoes, as they add a great little crunch. And, the stuffing needs to be chunky with a lot of different textures to interest me; particularly, I like it when it has fresh herbs, chunks of green apple, and dried cranberries mixed in with the traditional fare. Professor Jonathan Bowman, Communication Studies

Favorite food: Tofurky. I have a completely vegetarian T-day. Professor Lori Watson, Philosophy

We usually have traditional faire made by my grandparents. My grandmother makes some great stuffing, perhaps informed by her Oklahoma roots. My grandfather was a Navy cook for 25 years, and can make a fine turkey and gravy. My favorite food, however, will be the pumpkin pie made from scratch (and a pumpkin) by my wife, Alicia. Professor Esteban del Rio, Communication Studies

Preacher Potatoes (sweet potato casserole flavored with bourbon - yes there’s a story that goes with the name). The recipe is from a small town Georgia community cookbook. After a fiery anti-liquor sermon, the minister had lunch with a family from the church. On the menu that day was the woman’s bourbon laced sweet potato casserole. He was so intrigued by the delicious flavor that he asked what was the unusual spice in the sweet potatoes. The church lady exercised her Southern charm and with a smile wisely proclaimed it a family secret. Professor Sue Lowery, Biology

Turkey, dressing, cranberries, brussels sprouts, crescent rolls, Pinot Noir, and pumpkin pie. Professor Jim Gump, History

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