I’m leaving for South Africa on Thanksgiving day. This means I’ll be having my holiday meal on a Plane! I wonder if it will be festive?!
Since this is a holiday centered around food, I feel it would be sacrilegious not to write a post about it in delicious and decadent detail, so I’m going to entertain you with tales of Thanksgiving on my grandparents’ large farm growing up.
I hope that sharing some of my family’s favorite holiday treats will spark some recipe ideas for your own feast!
Some of my fondest memories of learning to cook from my grandmother came at Thanksgiving, when the kitchen was an active stage of cooking chaos!
My extended family would gather together (about 20 of us) on my grandparents’ farm in Massachusetts for our Thanksgiving feasts.
I always enjoyed the familiar, heady aromas of damp woods and fields, the smoky campfire smells coming from my grandmother’s European kitchen fireplace, and the scents of freshly baked pies, roasted nuts, and, of course, turkey!
The adults sipped on flutes of fizzy golden champagne, shot clay pigeons in an expansive field outside the kitchen, and caught up on about a year’s worth of family news.
I could usually be found in the kitchen, helping prepare the food, and learning to make crispy, delicious pie crusts; the butter needed to be cold and crumbly, and the dough, “just so.” The filling had to be simple, with as few ingredients as possible; the fruit has to shine as the number one ingredient.
From blueberry pies to grape pies, and a drop your jaw amazing apple pies—many of the fruits my family used in our cooking over the holidays, (especially the blueberries and the grapes), were home-grown on my grandparents’ farm.
One of my favorite aspects of Thanksgiving is not only the gathering of family, but of the food traditions it creates within them. My family’s feasts would consist of the same dishes year-to- year, sometimes with a bit of variations in herbs, spices, or vegetables.
- Shrimp with tangy red cocktail sauce, and horseradish on the side, for a kick!
- Smoked Salmon on slivers of dark, earthy rye bread, dolloped with Crème Fraiche and sprinkled with finely chopped green onion.
- Bowls of walnuts and pecans on all cocktail tables, simply roasted with sea salt and fragrant springs of rosemary.
- Tins of caviar served with tender round blini.
- Dozens of oysters shucked with small sharp knives, using heavy gloves, by my grandpa and great uncle.
- A variety of cheeses, ranging from a creamy French Bries and pungent Blues, to harder varieties, like Gruyeres and Cheddars.
The main meal:
- Turkey accompanied by homemade stuffing (gizzards and all!) and gravy.
- Freshly made cranberry sauce (tangy and sweet).
- Brussel sprouts and chestnuts (savory and nutty).
- String beans.
- Little creamed pearl onions (which all of the children avoided!).
- Salad (with a beautifully simple vinaigrette).
- Little New Potatoes with parsley.
- Pie! Lots and lots of pie! Always with freshly whipped cream. Pumpkin, Berry, Apple, Pecan, and grape pie.
- Baskets of fresh seasonal pears, apples and grapes, on every table.