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Paralympians Share Their Essential Thanksgiving Dishes

By Melissa Zhang | Nov. 21, 2018, 12:20 p.m. (ET)

Photo of a Thanksgiving dinner meal laid out on a table
Find out which Thanksgiving foods are a must for some of our Paralympic athletes. 

With eagerly-anticipated Thanksgiving feasts just one day away, U.S. Paralympians share which Thanksgiving foods and traditions they can’t go without:

Chuck Aoki (wheelchair rugby)
My favorite Thanksgiving food is a tie between au gratin potatoes, and warm, flaky biscuits. I like to cut open the biscuits and put a little turkey, butter, mashed potatoes, and gravy for a delicious sandwich. It's no Moist Maker, but I think Ross Geller from the TV show “Friends” would approve. 

The newest Thanksgiving tradition that I have encountered is the process of "spatchcocking" the turkey. I spent Thanksgiving with my girlfriend's family last year, and they'd decided to try this new technique of meat preparation. Let me tell you, it was the most delicious turkey I've ever had. I can't explain what exactly spatchcocking is, but suffice to say, I highly recommend it. 

Sam Bosco (cycling)
I would have to say my favorite Thanksgiving food is pumpkin pie, because what better Thanksgiving food is there?! For the longest time, I thought I would be a baker, so pies are probably my favorite Thanksgiving food because I like to make them and find a new one or a twist to a traditional one each year.

An essential Thanksgiving dish on my family’s table – when I’m home – is the turkey, only because when I’m celebrating Thanksgiving with my parents and brother, I make the turkey. It’s the only one that my dad will eat the gravy from, because I make the turkey with bacon and brown sugar. It’s fun for me because I love cooking for the people I love.

McKenna Dahl (shooting)
My favorite dish at Thanksgiving is the turkey, because my dad smokes the entire bird all day and there is no better way to cook a turkey in my opinion.

Our family essential would definitely have to be our homemade pies. Whenever I go home for Thanksgiving, I absolutely love spending the morning in the kitchen helping my family make pumpkin, apple and banana cream pies. 

Hailey Danz (paratriathlon)
I’m a big fan of stuffing and believe it is truly ridiculous that we only eat it once a year.

I come from a family of foodies, so we take Thanksgiving very seriously. Most of our meal is pretty traditional, and we don’t change it up too much. The exception is the sweet potato recipe, which we change pretty much every year. We’re all a little obsessed with sweet potatoes and have been known to start sending each other recipe ideas starting in October. 

Our other big family tradition (not food-related) is watching [the movie] “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” after dinner to close out the night. It’s one of the things we look forward to the most, and even though I watch it every year, I still cry every time. 

Mike Schultz (snowboarding)
Turkey when baked perfectly is pretty high on my list, but my favorite dish on Thanksgiving is the homemade apple pie.  It's been part of the dinner spread as far back as I can remember, with my grandma baking it in the past, and now my mom. 

Jamie Stanton (alpine skiing)
My favorite Thanksgiving dish is turkey! The reason that the turkey is so special is because Thanksgiving is the only time each year when my family makes it. The smell is always amazing and when we finally pull it out of the oven, it smells even better. My mouth is watering already!

The essential dish that is always on our table is our green bean casserole. My family’s green bean casserole has been passed down for generations. I don’t know all the ingredients in there, but I love it! 

Roderick Townsend (track and field)
The main dishes on my table are ham, sweet potatoes, baked mac and cheese and banana pudding for dessert. I don’t think Thanksgiving is Thanksgiving if any of those are missing. 

Beyond food, this time of year means a lot to me because it is wonderful to have this time to spend with family that I am so thankful for. 

Related Athletes

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Roderick Townsend

Track and Field
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Mike Schultz

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Jamie Stanton

Alpine Skiing
US Paralympics
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Hailey Danz

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Samantha Bosco

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Chuck Aoki

Wheelchair Rugby
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McKenna Geer