While many are home gorging on Thanksgiving Day, some CDL truck drivers won’t have that luxury. That’s not stopping them from cooking a Thanksgiving feast on their big rigs, though.

“I  have little more than a butane stove and a big ‘ol skillet. That’s it,” says driver Kani Kahapea, who cooked Thanksgiving dinner in his truck last year and may have to do it again this year. Despite limited space and little equipment, the Swift owner operator created a feast reminiscent of his Hawaiian upbringing.

Kani Thanksgiving dinner“In my family, we do Thanksgiving with ham and turkey,” Kahapea says. “I wanted my dinner to be as similar to that as possible, so I did strawberry and guava-glazed ham and deep-fried turkey in my truck. It wasn’t going to be easy to fit a whole turkey breast in my skillet, so I deep-fried it, half at a time.”

Kahapea, who once worked as a cook in Hawaii, also made creamed corn, potato salad, rice and stuffing. Modifying recipes he normally makes at home, he tweaked traditional dishes so they were “semi-homemade.”

Karl and JeanetteAnd Kahapea is not alone. Others with CDL trucking jobs are making big spreads in their big rigs, too. Karl Pickard, a company driver with
Anderson Trucking Service, will be cooking Thanksgiving dinner with his wife, Jeanette, in their truck for the first time this year. Jeanette’s going to cook the turkey and Karl’s going to make green beans with bacon and onions.

Their setup won’t allow them to cook a whole turkey, so they’ll cook a turkey breast with a cranberry-orange glaze. Garlic cream cheese mashed potatoes and fudge for dessert are on the menu, too.

“We have several things in this truck that make cooking easy,” says Karl. “A Coleman stove, a toaster oven, an Aroma cooker. We’ve got a mini-kitchen in here.”

Still, it’s hard being away from family on holidays, says Carie Partin, a former CDL driver who now rides shotgun with her husband, James. The Partins’ first holiday on the road came last Easter, when Carie cooked up ham, mashed potatoes and deviled eggs shaped like chicks.

“It’s lonely out here on the holidays,” she says. “Easter was my way of taking home to the highway. It made me feel like we had a little bit of home right there with us.”

CarieThe Partins will do it again this Thanksgiving. They’d hoped to be home, but it’s not going to happen. They’ll make the most of it, with slow-cooked chicken, deviled eggs, the rice stuffing Carie’s mom used to make and a vegetable platter shaped like a turkey.

“Don’t let your mind limit you,” Carie tells big rig cooks who have to be on the road this year. “Look at it as an adventure. Enjoy it the best way you can. That’s how we approach it. We have a lot to be thankful for.”

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Featured image courtesy Google.com

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in November 2015.

glazed ham

Strawberry/Guava-Glazed Ham Recipe:

  • 2 lbs. ham steak
  • 1/4 cup strawberry preserves
  • 1/2 cup guava juice
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar

        1. In a pot, put strawberry preserves, brown sugar and guava juice.
        2. Bring to a simmer.
        3. Reduce by 1/4. It may need a little thickening. If so, a simple mix of cornstarch and water will do it.
        4. Pan sear ham steaks until cooked through, add glaze to pan and coat steaks well.
        5. Serve alongside the rest of the Thanksgiving meal.