A Cook’s Thanksgiving Story

Last year at about this time we were honored to have Kate, from Kate in the Kitchen write a guest blog around the theme of Thanksgiving.  Kate is a Minnesota blogger that we have had the pleasure to meet several times at blogging meet ups through out the year.  Kate is going to be joining our table again this December for our “Savoring The Holidays” series.  We will have 12 straight days of talented bloggers sharing their cookie recipes, stories, and tips for savoring the holidays.

Kate is an amazing cook and baker and a beautiful writer.  So, we thought like any good recipe…this post is worth repeating.


October has swept by us, barely with any notice. If I didn’t have a calendar to look at on some of those days, I would have thought we’d leapt straight from September into November with it’s low heavy clouds, and somber dreary days. Where was the gaping awe of an October day, heaps of brilliant and flaming trees sketched against a shocking blue sky? Those last gasping days of sunshine are a dire necessity before the dull palate of winter, endless rifts of white against skeleton trees and long dark nights made best for a thick sweater and some extra socks. Not to mention the calm before the holiday storm.

I need my days of apples, lush snapping chunks of orchard fresh fruit in hand, or dressed in a pie, maybe simmered to a delightful spicy sauce to spoon over yogurt or ice cream. What I look forward to is a slow and steady climb to soups and hearty stews, an austere chicken braised quietly amidst Fall’s root harvest, all crackling skin and clear juices. I don’t want to jump from September’s garden closing flourish, counter tops of misshapen tomatoes and the last of the peppers, stray bunches of herbs that dry within grasp of the stove to the fast descending holiday dishes, the cranberry options, how best to smoke the turkey this year and what kind of dessert would be most eagerly devoured. No one seems to remember that they’ve groaned under the weight of a holiday dinner, swore that they couldn’t take another bite and yet, a burnished pie plate or aromatic cake pan later, the forks at the ready and nary a crumb remains.

But this is, apparently, what I’m getting this year. September, gorgeous as it was with it’s late season heat and sunshine that tempered into perfect sweatshirt nights, somehow pushed aside the 10th month. October has been sorely missed among the raindrops and scuttling clouds. I pulled out my wool sweaters much earlier this year, and the extra blankets. Now, what about that upcoming holiday? When is it ever too early to think about what to place on the table, how to best light up the eyes that look your way, hoping to find a taste, a memory among the bowls and platters?

As all families do, with age mine has changed dramatically. It isn’t so much which faces have been permanently removed from the portraits, but more so about where the clan gathers to feel like they’ve come home, finally. It’s ironic to me that as we grow and mature, as our thoughts inevitably turn from leaving the hearth and bosom of family to find our grandest adventures, then when we get out in the world realize that we are constantly searching for something to call ‘home’. We may have our own place in life, our name on the utilities and possibly even a mortgage, but when holidays roll around, our one thought is to go ‘home’. But once your home is gone, where do you find the feeling to replace what is lost?

For my family, it’s been my house, and I gladly offer that to them. But as time too has changed our family, it’s also changed what gets set before them, and I am in a constant pull of irony during holiday meals to offer them the tastes and flavor of a home we no longer have together, while still maintaining some semblance of modern acceptance to the changing food world around us. I’ve learned that it isn’t the easiest task; besides the fact that they enter my own home and plant themselves in chairs, talking, laughing, pouring wine and heating the apple cider while generally making themselves part of our lives here, I could probably serve them pizza, or chicken soup and they would gobble it up with a smile but it may not be what they really want. I could roast to perfection a pan of amazing vegetables, a melange of harvest offerings and someone would say ‘Where’s the mashed potatoes?’ I could stagger in the door with my pan of smoked and grilled turkey that has driven my neighbors mad all day cooking outside on the grill, and if I didn’t offer them a bowl of salty gravy, I might hear a little whine. The fresh cranberries, sparkling tart and crisp with orange zest and a touch of cardamom would be gobbled up, and someone will always sigh while remembering the cans of jellied red glop that held embedded tin lines. A plate of gorgeous cookies might be devoured so fast that several pairs of hands collide over them, and yet I might be asked, once again, why there isn’t a pumpkin pie.

It’s not that they don’t appreciate, or enjoy all the finer trappings of a holiday meal that I make for them. We grew up in the 70’s. Clearly not a gastronomical time by any means. And while my mother did some things well, she did only what she knew how, and it wasn’t all that varied then. Turkey often was dry and flavorless, far too overcooked as no one ever used a meat thermometer. Nothing was seasoned, and fresh herbs? Please. Did we even know they existed? I can offer them a place to drop their hats, to rest from the weariness of life and meals that aren’t fresh and scratch made, but I can’t bring them back home again. Not with the food that I can make now. I can come close, and sometimes I get angry when they complain, but I have to remember why they gripe, and where it’s coming from. It isn’t a reflection on what I do, the dishes I cook and set before them. It isn’t that they don’t love the apple and cherry smoked turkey, so moist that the breast slices glisten in the flickering candle light. They scraped the bottom of the pan that held those golden roasted vegetables, well, except the turnips but I think those were funky to begin with. At any rate, I know it isn’t me. Or my cooking. Should that be the case, they’d turn down my invitations but instead they bust down my door, loaded with bags of extras, shouting over the din of each others’s voices. I know why they are here, and it isn’t even really about the food. It’s about the need to walk through a doorway into a world that accepts you, loves you and embraces you close, no matter what. Home isn’t always a physical place; it’s doesn’t have to come inside any specific four walls but it does have a feeling, a passing glimmer of genuine love, a measure of affiliations that dive to the depths of our heart. Home is so much a feeling, now more than ever, that binds us together. Home touches our souls, whether by a plate of food, a certain smile, the elbow jabs of a sibling. We are thrilled to get there, over anticipated days and the last few miles in the car, and then we never wish to leave.

It’s been many years since we’ve all lived in the same house, but when I open my home to my family, it’s like barely an hour in time has passed. My brother digs around for my corkscrew and pulls out the wine charms while my husband pours the cider, dropping in cinnamon sticks. My son is in his element and the kitchen smells fantastic. They poke into the refrigerator in earnest and I push them away from it, wanting to savor the moment when I call them to table. Everyone wants to know what I made, where I got the recipe, how much did I shop. They want to know where I got the Champagne cheddar cheese and they revel over the marinated olives, crunchy with mustard seed, tendrils of lemon and thyme sprigs among thick skinned briny orbs. Everyone troops outside to admire the turkey, and exclaim about how good it smelled when they opened the car door. The game cupboard is ransacked and wine glasses are refreshed regularly. The volume increases. I love every minute of it. And by the light shining on their faces, the cheeky grins, I can tell they love it too. We feel our mother smiling down on us from above, and from sunny Florida, our Dad calls to send his greetings and ask about the weather. The food is good and there is way more than we can all eat. I almost always have to kick them all out at a late hour and they huddle reluctantly by the door, saying goodbye.

Maybe I’ll make mashed potatoes this year. You know, for nostalgia. And remind me to replace the battery in my meat thermometer so that turkey comes out perfect. And do I need more wood for the smoker? I better check. I have plenty of time, but really, it’s never to early to start thinking about bringing everyone home.

october sun at loveless6801_2

Kate Selner writes her food blog ‘Kate in the Kitchen‘ with an eye towards healthy, simple recipes and an inclination to keep mealtime from getting too mundane and boring. Believing that food should fill more than your stomach and can always tell a enchanting tale, Kate weaves stories and delicious musings through her recipes, and thinks nothing of roaming the city for one special ingredient. She would rather go without cable than cut back on her food budget.~~


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by ChrisAnn and Kristin, ChrisAnn and Kristin and ChrisAnn and Kristin, Tracy Morrison. Tracy Morrison said: Love this and Kate RT @LoveFeast: @katenthekitchen shares a Thanksgiving story as a guest at our table!! http://bit.ly/baYVIH […]