Think Velveeta, pomegranates and Marie Callender pies.
By Chloe Sorvino, Forbes Staff
All you need to replicate the traditional Thanksgiving morning enjoyed by Lynsi Snyder, the In-And-Out Burger billionaire, is a vehicle — she uses her late dad’s 1979 GMC Sierra — a few hours of rain and an off-road place to do doughnuts in the dirt.
Snyder calls it “mudding,” and the spree of wild driving is part of her holiday every year. She’s gotten stuck a few times, and the mud tends to splatter on her face, and it’s only after she’s experienced a little woo-hoo behind the wheel that she’s sufficiently ready to sit down for the holiday meal.
“I love Thanksgiving. It’s my favorite holiday not because of the food but because I love being together with people,” Snyder told Forbes. “I’ve had a lot of loss in my life so having people around and spending quality time is my love language.”
This year, Snyder’s table, at the Northern California ranch she inherited from the father who died when she was a teenager, will feature ham, brisket and tamales. In years past, her holiday meal has been themed — traditional turkey or a Mexican fiesta or Southern-influenced, in honor of her mother’s Arkansas and Texas roots.
Snyder said her favorite part are the pies. She particularly relishes pumpkin pie and the French apple pie from Marie Callender — the one with the streusel on top.
Feel free to picture the billionaire chief of a vast restaurant empire swinging by the local supermarket for a $10.99 Marie Callender pie. When it comes to Thanksgiving, it turns out that food-industry billionaires aren’t that much different from the rest of us.
It makes sense that Lynda Resnick, the billionaire cofounder with her husband Stewart of Wonderful Co., which popularized pomegranate juice, would delight in turkey stuffing made with the exotic fruit. It’s fitting that Judy Love, whose Love’s Travel Stops and Country Stores made her a billionaire, would carry on a tradition of cooking with the young ones that now extends to her great-grandchildren. Or that Joe Grendys, the Koch Food billionaire, has a special recipe for an appetizer that’s filling enough to be a meal on its own.
A Little Velveeta
The Grendys household starts its chowdown around 1 in the afternoon with the treats, which no one in the family has ever named. It’s a combination of browned ground sausage, browned ground beef, a little onion and melted Velveeta cheese. A tablespoon is dolloped on a Keebler wheat cracker. The loaded crackers are placed on a cookie sheet and set under the broiler for a minute or two and served on a tray. They’re devoured.
Sandwiching the otherwise traditional holiday meal for the Grendys are fudge ice cream parfaits, which began as a little something-something for the youngest family members to enjoy but turned out to be so good that somehow they were never dropped from the menu as everyone grew up.
Resnick became known as the Pomegranate Queen after she started juicing pomegranates grown on Wonderful Co.’s California farmland — and now her Thanksgiving stuffing features the ruby red jewels. Her Pom Wonderful juice adds moisture and zestiness to the stuffing, and the little pomegranate arils add a burst of sweet to the mixture.
“Thanksgiving has a special meaning for us because it’s when Stewart and I celebrate our wedding anniversary,” Resnick said. “It’s also when we mark my father’s birthday, who passed away a few years ago at the age of 98.”
Stuffing is also a must for the Love family. The recipe dates back to the 1960s, when Tom and Judy Love were first starting a family. Their children helped them pull the bread into pieces each year, and that continued with each generation. This year, Judy Love’s great-grandchildren will be shredding the bread.
Some entrepreneurs opt for a vegan menu, like kombucha pioneer GT Dave, who slipped off the billionaire’s list last year. His menu for 20 is set to include acorn squash stuffed with mushroom rice, purple sweet mashed potatoes and pumpkin sheet cake.
Caulipower founder and Forbes 50 Over 50 lister Gail Becker, who also dropped off the Self-Made Women list last year, told Forbes she’s been hosting the holiday for 20-plus people for years. One menu item, the caramelized Brussels sprouts, “has a wonderful origin,” she said.
“I first tasted them at the Soho House and called the manager to track down the recipe,” she told Forbes. “They kindly sent the recipe, but it was for 500 people and in English units of measurement. Fortunately, I’m married to a Brit with a Ph.D. in chemistry who could translate. After all that work, I figured the dish should be a permanent fixture.”
It’s not a type of food that has the greatest resonance for Becker. It’s a kitchen tool. Some years ago, she had a 30-year-old extremely worn turkey baster passed down from her mother that she thought needed replacing.
“At the store, my then-10-year-old son took the new baster out of the cart and said, ‘Mommy, you can’t get rid of our old baster. It holds so much tradition. Think of all the good tastes still in it from past Thanksgivings. It just keeps making the turkey better and better.’
“And with that, the new tool went back on the shelf and each time I use that well-worn baster on my extra-large bird, I’m reminded of the importance of tradition and the powerful insight of children. Here’s hoping that overworked kitchen utensil — and the spirit behind it — stays with all of us for many generations to come.”