Giving Thanks 2008

Mother bakingWhen the last trumpet sounds, I’ll have to confess I wasn’t a proper mother.

I brushed aside my little children’s pleas of “Mommy, Mommy, can I do that!?” In our family there are no photogenic, heart string moments when the tiny tots climbed onto the kitchen counter to stir the pot.  No magical memories of baking and decorating cookies for us. I was far too intent on testing recipes and writing cookbooks to teach my own children how to cook.

But unlike other years, this year…this year my daughter Hilary and I did the whole Thanksgiving dinner together.  We shopped together, cooked together, shared the dinner with our friends together — and Hilary washed the dishes entirely by herself.  (She offered and I gratefully accepted when I tottered off to bed.)

In a way, the day was entirely her’s. She supplied the recipes. I can’t begin to tell you how many cookbooks we have in our house: a few thousand, I’d guess. But this year, our Thanksgiving menu came entirely from Williams-Sonoma, a charming, little 2000 recipe booklet, a giveaway Hilary had picked up in one of the stores when she lived in San Francisco.

The message on the first page, written by Chuck Williams, the founder of Williams-Sonoma, says, “This year we are honoring Thanksgiving as it is done in New England where our forefathers held their first celebration in the early 17th century.  Our menu comes from three old traditional inns and a small hotel from the region.” (As we live in the Hudson Valley, this sentiment fitted right in with our plans.) Thus the Thanksgiving Menu:

Cream of Butternut Squash & Apple Soup

Roast Turkey

Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes

Creamy Giblet Gravy

Maple-Glazed Acorn Squash

Pear, Chestnut and Sage Dressing

Brussels Sprouts with Crispy Bacon & Walnuts


Cranberry Chutney

Creamy Pumpkin Pie with Poached Cranberries

It was a feast indeed! I resisted (almost) every urge to change the recipes, well…except for the drop of Madeira that I sneaked into the giblet gravy, the sip of triple sec that found its way into the cranberry chutney and the little splash of fine bourbon that added a spirited touch to the pumpkin pie.  Some little touches that added a whisper of enchantment to each dish.

I’ve now had a moment to reflect on Thanksgiving, 2008. While we faithfully followed the traditional recipes I realize how much stays the same.  With each feast day in the calendar, we symbolically hold hands from one generation to the next. But this year there were a few changes. Gathered together, we all were a little depressed about the goings-on in the stock market.

Yesterday you could buy 25 shares of General Motors or 12.5 shares of Citibank for the same price as an organically-raised, free-range bird, free of hormones, additives and preservatives.

The good news: today our turkey stock will make a lovely, nourishing soup. Tomorrow is another day. Hilary and I are already planning the menu for New Year’s Eve.