This holiday edition of Cool Weird Awesome celebrates that for which we are all most grateful: the bewildering foods that inexplicably become part of our annual Thanksgiving dinners.

Writer Maya Kosoff got this conversation going on Twitter, when she posted her family’s tradition: seafoam salad, which is lime Jell-o, canned pears, cream cheese and heavy cream, blended together and molded to look sort of like a star, I think? It certainly is seafoam green.

When she asked others to share their unusual family food traditions, they delivered, especially when it comes to gelatin-based salads.

Those don’t have the cache they once did, but clearly people still make them.

One reply posted a “Cinnamon Salad” which consisted of applesauce, red Jell-O and red hots, which sounds like a good way to revive someone who just lapsed into a food coma.

Another posted what the family called “tunies”: canned tuna, margarine and cheese from a jar baked on top of English muffins.

That used, by the way, Ellen DiCandia, wrote that she had been “exposed” to tunies each year; interesting that she did not use the word “ate” in relation to them.

The one advantage most of these oddball side dishes have in common is that they can be prepared in not too much time by almost anybody.

A lot of families do have that one relative who probably shouldn’t be in charge of food that could make everyone sick if it’s cooked wrong, but can probably handle Jell-o and cottage cheese alchemy.

But if all else fails, I did find a recipe the other day in a newspaper from the 1970s, and it emphasizes speed and simplicity above all else.

"INSTANT APPETIZERS: Just as sure as November ushers in the holiday season, you'll be ushering in a few house guests of your own. With a package of skinless franks in the refrigerator, you can serve them appetizers on a moment's notice. Cut the franks into 1-inch chunks and heat them with bottled pizza sauce in a chafing dish. Guests can serve themselves with party picks."

The recipe calls for cutting hot dogs into one inch chunks. “Heat them,” the recipe explains, “with bottled pizza sauce in a chafing dish. Guests can serve themselves with party picks.”

You’re welcome. I think.

To me the best part of Thanksgiving is that it’s the gateway to the rest of the holiday season, especially all those cool displays of holiday lights.

A lot of towns have enthusiasts who turn their houses into massive holiday light displays, and the one known as Peteyville in Hammond, Indiana is a fine example of the genre.

Tons of lights, inflatable figures, a companion radio service with seasonal music and some history of the neighborhood – which, by the way, is the neighborhood where Jean Shepherd, the author of “A Christmas Story,” grew up.

So as you stand before Peteyville you can imagine Ralphie and his friends running by – and hopefully not shooting their eyes out.

i cannot wait to hear about the recipes you’re all excited to make for thanksgiving (Maya Kosoff on Twitter)

Instant Appetizer (Brady Carlson on Twitter)

Peteyville: A Holiday Lights Tradition for 30+ Years (Visit Indiana)

Photo by Marcia O’Connor via Flickr/Creative Commons