Thanksgiving, Extreme Edition: The Craziest Holiday Traditions

You think your holiday traditions are crazy? Read about a woman who smoked a turkey outside - in Alaska - or the eat-a-thon at Joan Rivers's house, and other Thanksgivings served up with a heaping side of "You've got to be kidding me."

By Elizabeth Jenkins


As an Army wife of 18 years, Michelle Polhamus, 42, has hosted Thanksgiving in every place her husband was stationed, no problem. But a few years ago, she found herself off the grid and out of her element - in North Pole, Alaska. Still, she wasn't about to let a little thing like the weather (38 degrees below zero) get in the way of a good meal, so Michelle and her husband decided to cook a 22-pound turkey in a free-standing smoker. Outside. On their front deck the night before Thanksgiving. After tossing in apple and cherry wood chips, the couple bundled up at 6 p.m. - a balmy 2 degrees at the time - and placed the turkey on the grill. They trudged outside every two hours to monitor its progress, crashed at 2 a.m., and woke up at 8 a.m. on the big day to discover that it was smoked, all right...but raw on the inside. She salvaged the turkey by baking it in her oven for 4½ hours. "It was amazingly moist and wonderful," she recalls, "but I don't think I could ever repeat it...nor would I want to!" Michelle's Must Have Recipe: Pumpkin Crunch Cake


Comedian, actress, and Fashion Police host Joan Rivers, 77, cooked the Thanksgiving meal for her family... 30 years ago. "It was so terrible we had to send out for deli food," she recalls. "My husband said, 'You can write a joke. Get out of the kitchen.'" Virtually ever since, Joan has hosted a catered dinner for family and friends in her New York City apartment, complete with waiters, place-card seating, and a pianist friend who plays show tunes. The feast includes (deep breath, please): five appetizers (such as caramelized-onion-and-goat-cheese tarts GET THE RECIPE HERE), first-course pasta (pumpkin tortellini), pumpkin soup (served in a carved-out pumpkin), roast turkey, smoked ham, six sides, and six desserts. No detail is overlooked - even the ramifications of eating so much food: "My nephew's a doctor, so he's right there if anything happens." Continue reading about Joan Rivers' Thanksgiving traditions.


As a chef and caterer, Maili Halme Brocke, 42, is used to producing events in large spaces. The Thanksgiving dinner for 32 she's hosted with her husband at their Ventura, CA, home is much smaller in scale - it has to be, given that her kitchen, dining room, and living room total 500 square feet. "We're all together, no matter what!" she says, laughing.
Maili's Must Have Recipe: Green Beans With Mint, Feta and Pecans
To squeeze everyone in, Maili and her husband, Jason, move out most of the living room furniture the weekend before Thanksgiving. "We stack pieces in our shed and fill the laundry room with piles," says Maili, a mother of two kids, ages 12 and 11. "Sometimes pans or pots we didn't get to wash end up in there too!" Find out where she puts the turkey! Continue reading here.

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Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.