It’s here! It’s here! My family is like a Thanksgiving moth to a flame. It’s just our holiday. My dad used to love it so much, as does my mom, and because of that it’s the time of year when we gather friends and family—as many as are around, the more the merrier—and make a big, fat Thanksgiving meal. Everyone comes: those who want to toss around a football, those who want to sit and watch football, and those who want to join me and my mom and my sister in the kitchen. (Although here’s a tip: I’m a big fan of not too many people cooking. Most guests should stick with the wine-drinking and gravy-making advice.)
Every year, my mom says we will eat at 4 p.m., and every year she wakes up later than she planned and yells out loud that she didn’t get the turkey(s) into the oven early enough, and every year we eat at 5:30.
That, my friends, is called a tradition.
But here’s another part of the tradition, which is super nice. We serve the food buffet-style each year! And each year (unless my mom gets a spike on her control-freak-ness, which also happens) the kids create the centerpiece for the buffet table. They go outside and pick up colorful leaves that have fallen, and they find pinecones, seasonal fruit and vegetables that we leave in a little mound for them to dig into. There’s even a cornucopia for them to fill in the center of the table. This real-time crafting keeps them busy and it’s quite adorable to watch (the big guys leading the little guys, but letting the little guys do their thing); it’s a great way to bring the kids into the feast-making process. Over the years—I might cry a little here—the little kids become the big kids and the cycle continues. And the centerpieces always look wonderful.
This year, the kids’ centerpieces will be supplemented by some pretty cool extras, like these gorgeous pillar candles and orange paper lantern stems. We throw a piece of fabric down the table and mix and match silverware. And because we live in New York City where real leaves aren’t always an option, I brought in some of these very cool burlap leaves as a substitute. The table looks lively and gorgeous before the food even sails out of the kitchen, and the kids are always very pleased with themselves. The grown ups are free to catch up over the cheese platter (and happy that the kids are engaged in a screen-less activity).
Did you know there was such thing as Thanksgiving Crackers? Well, there are. And in conclusion to this centerpiece business: When in doubt, fill a bowl with apples. It will always look beautiful.
Autumn Chopped Salad with Pears, Dried Apricots, Feta, Farro and Bacon Recipe
A gorgeous chopped salad is a welcome addition to a holiday meal. It not only rounds out a meal that can lean towards the heavy side, but also adds wonderful color to the table. And if those reasons weren’t enough, when the salad is bolstered with some grains and cheese, it can function as a vegetarian main course for those who are skipping the turkey (if this is what you’re going for, skip the optional bacon).
This salad practically willed itself into creation. I started thinking about what kind of salad I would feel great about plunking down on the Thanksgiving buffet and seriously the ingredients pretty much listed themselves. You can really slice or dice or chop the various components any way you like; consider these prep directions more as suggestions. The idea is to mix up the way you cut the different ingredients a little bit so the salad has some great visual interest and texture. If you haven’t cooked with farro yet, this is such a nice way to give it a try; it’s somewhat barley-like in texture, but chewier, and it gives the salad great substance. This dish is just plain fun to eat! Every bite is filled with exciting textures and flavors, and I’m pretty sure it’s going to earn itself a permanent place on the Thanksgiving menu.
images by Evi Abeler Photography