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Join our very Philly Friendsgiving

Sheryl Lee Ralph, the Phanatic, Emily Riddell and others share recipes and stories for Friendsgiving this year.

If Philly personalities attended a Friendsgiving, here's what they'd share and the guest they'd invite.
If Philly personalities attended a Friendsgiving, here's what they'd share and the guest they'd invite.Read moreCynthia Greer

The Philadelphia Inquirer has been to a lot of Thanksgivings, roasted plenty of turkeys, and baked our share of pies. So this year, we’re “hosting” a Friendsgiving potluck.

There isn’t an exact origin for the gathering that mashes friends and Thanksgiving — Merriam-Webster dictionary found its earliest print use dating back to 2007 — but it has become a sibling holiday, where like-minded people gather in lieu of (or in addition to) Thanksgiving.

We invited six of our favorite Philly friends to join us for our hypothetical Friendsgiving, and we asked them to share a dish and tell who they’d bring as a plus-one.

You’ll find turkey prepared by Emmy Award-winning actress Sheryl Lee Ralph, who stars in Abbott Elementary, and mac and cheese from Joyce Abbott, the teacher who inspired the hit TV show. The Phillie Phanatic, beloved mascot of our National League champs, Nardeep Khurmi, award-winning director featured at the 2022 Philly Film Festival, and Philadelphia Orchestra’s Yannick Nézet-Séguin are all bringing starters and sides. Emily Riddell, who was recently named a Best New Chef by Food & Wine magazine, has dessert covered, and drink maestro Jamaar Julal is making a party punch.

Get your pots, pans, and Dutch ovens ready for A Very Philly Friendsgiving! If you make any of the recipes, post a picture and tag us on social @phillyinquirer.

The Starter

Who is the Phanatic bringing to the party? His mother, Phoebe Phanatic, of course.

“She used to host a lot of great Thanksgivings when the Phanatic was on the Galápagos Islands,” said Tom Burgoyne, the literal beating heart of the mascot.

Friendsgiving is a fun time for the Phanatic and his friends, the Galapagos Gang — Iggy the Land Iguana, Bessie the Blue-Footed Booby, Sid the Sea Lion, and Calvin the Turtle, Burgoyne said.

“One year, they were all together and Iggy ate a 40-pound turkey in one gulp.”

The Phanatic whips up a dip to pair with all your Thanksgiving munching.

The Sides

Thanksgiving is particularly special for Abbott, the teacher who inspired ABC’s hit show Abbott Elementary.

“Growing up I can recall my father putting out the best china for our gathering,” Abbott said. “We were not wealthy by any means but having a five-star experience with family, even in the midst of struggle, was important to my father. After my father passed, the yearly Thanksgiving gathering continued at the Parks residence. My sister Bonita and husband Leonard Parks hosted a beautiful, loving Thanksgiving gathering. Family uniting was very important to them.”

During the holiday, Abbott hosts her own version of Family Feud.

“The competition was as if we were in front of Steve Harvey himself,” Abbott said. “It brought so much laughter and joy! When I was asked to join the Abbott Elementary Cast on Family Feud, I was ecstatic. I reflected on my Thanksgiving moments with my loved ones.”

Abbott’s special Friendsgiving guest is her daughter, Janeé Latrice, “my heart, and love of my life, my only child.” And she’s got her go-to dish from Philly’s very own Patti LaBelle.

» READ MORE: Thanksgiving prep, cooking and hosting tips from a Philly expert

On the first Thanksgiving the award-winning director and his family celebrated, they decided turkey wasn’t for the main dish for their feasting.

“It was a modest gathering, just the immediate (family), and we had never cooked a turkey before,” he said. “My mother, the world-famous cook she is, took it upon herself to fashion up a turkey that would delight. But as we sat down, we all had the same thought: ‘It’s so dry! Why do people like turkey so much?’”

His mother, ever the planner, anticipated this outcome, so she “mischievously” brought out a rotisserie chicken.

“Our palates saved, it became our tradition to have a rotisserie chicken along with Indian food (aloo gobi, saag, samosas, chaat) in our Thanksgiving lineup — to balance, or maybe circumvent, some of those traditional Thanksgiving flavors.”

Khurmi’s dish of choice is palak paneer.

As a Canadian, Nézet-Séguin has never celebrated an American Thanksgiving. His celebrations take place on the second Monday of October, which is Canadian Thanksgiving. On the holiday, his mother fills the table with turkey, mashed potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes, green beans, and homemade cranberry jam.

He’s excited to see how American traditions differ from the ones in Canada, so Nézet-Séguin happily takes on a classic side dish. With his husband, Pierre, by his side, the Philadelphia Orchestra’s music director comes to Friendsgiving with cranberry jam, using the recipe that his mother follows each year for their festivities — her tip: add fresh ginger to taste.

The Main Course

Sheryl Lee Ralph

Abbott Elementary’s all-knowing clapback queen is popping in with her favorite way to prepare the turkey.

The Drink

If Julal could bring a plus one to A Very Philly Friendsgiving, it would be artist Tierra Whack.

“She is one of my favorite artists to come out of Philly,” he said. “Her energy is unmatched and I feel as if the conversations would be top tier all night long. Not to mention she’d probably be the life of the party.”

Keeping the party going is something Julal fondly remembers from holidays past. With more than 20 people packed in the living/dining room, Julal and his roommates, Matt and James, hosted Ringgold Friendsgiving in 2019 in their South Philly apartment on Ringgold Street.

“I just remember a lot of food and love being shared,” Julal said. “It was probably one of the most wholesome and rewarding things I had part in orchestrating. This and Thanksgiving with my family, have been the last times I had the opportunity to cook and share a meal with them.”

Julal serves us his take on the traditional sorrel beverage that he and his family grew up drinking.

“I combined ingredients I use for JamBrü Ferments Citywide with ingredients traditionally used in sorrel,” he said.

The Dessert

In the Riddell family, holidays are “always large and loud” but more so for Christmas than Thanksgiving.

“The night always ends with a sing along accompanied by a few guitars around a bonfire,” said Riddell, recently named a Best New Chef by Food & Wine magazine. “Our Christmas Eve is more rowdy — filled with piñatas and dance parties.”

This Friendsgiving, Riddell is making memories with us with her apple crisp in hand. She’s bringing her boyfriend, Michael Rafidi, who is also a chef, “because I always want to eat whatever he’s cooking.”