Friday, December 6, 2013


It all started in the late 80s. Johannah was a producer, Susan an art department manager, Jim was a photographer, Rick a job manager and I was a designer in an industry that required twenty-four hour attention managed by a healthy dose of various stimuli. We worked together, frequently vacationed together and always spent the Thanksgiving holiday together. As the eighties slide into the nineties Johannah and Susan added husbands and soon after sons, Roby and Andrew. We added a home in the Catskills where every fourth Thursday in November we'd gather for a long holiday weekend of food, wine, sledding down the mountain out back and huddling around a blazing fire in the snug.
The kids have grown. Johannah and her family have moved to San Francisco, Susan and her brood now live in Atlanta, and we now have a home in Madison, Wisconsin. But our friendship hasn't changed nor skipped a beat and neither has our Thanksgiving.
Johannah, Adam and Roby were the first to arrive, the Tuesday evening before Turkey Thursday. Jim came the next morning after flying in from New York and Susan, Randy and Andrew drove in from Atlanta that evening. Cooking began immediately and never stopped.
Tradition is a glazed ham Wednesday evening with cheddar and sage biscuits. Rick always makes the glaze out of apple cider, brown sugar, and mustard and then studs the ham skin with cloves. For me, this is the food I most look forward to savoring.

William Sonoma now has a red velvet Bundt cake mix and Rick added that to the Wednesday menu as a special treat for me. He knows how much in love I am with red velvet.
The real cooking starts early Thursday morning with the preparation of the stuffing. It starts with sautéing onions and celery in a ton of butter and then browning Italian sausages from our local Italian purveyor. This gets mixed with a bunch of rubbed sage and fennel seeds. Loaves of Italian bread had been purchased days before. On Wednesday night the girls ripped the loaves into bite size pieces and left them out by the fire to dry. In the morning all of this is rolled together with a container of chicken stock and a half dozen eggs and thrown in the oven for about 45 minutes. When the turkey is finally cooked the drippings are made into a creamy gravy and then used to smother the dressing.
The wines come out pretty early along with sparkling cider for some of us teetotalers. The selections aren't overly pretentious: a Chardonnay white and a Malbec red.
The turkey is the next item on the preparation list. The turkey is first rubbed with butter and stuffed with lemon, sage stalks, onions, carrots, celery and salt and pepper, then the secret magical cloak is prepared. It's the ingenious invention of our mentor and phantom sous chef, Martha Stewart. She calls it Turkey 101 where you soak cheesecloth in a mixture of melted butter and white wine then wrap the fat laden cloth around the turkey to bake like George Hamilton on a beach on the French Riviera. You put the turkey in the oven feet first at 450 degrees for thirty minutes. Then you turn the oven down to 350 and let the carcass cook for another two and a half hours, basting every twenty minutes with the remaining butter and wine. There is nothing better than a drunken turkey resulting in a perfect golden bird with seasoned, succulent meat.
After that everyone has their specialty to prepare. Mine is clean-up.
Johannah makes her Southern pecan pie.
Adam does his English apple pie with huge chunks of firm apple.
Susan does a medley of roasted root vegetables
and Jim makes potatoes Anna, always done in a seasoned skillet with layers of russet potatoes sandwiched with pounds of butter and salt and pepper. The key is in the constant application of pressure forming a dense juicy pancake with a crispy outer shell.
Johannah and Susan run the preparations like captains on a ship making sure we end up with dinner arriving promptly at six.
The young adults set the table with a combination of vintage tabletop and silver from our collection that now lines the walls of our garage.
None of us worry about Black Friday. The weekend is about food and friendship, making sure the fireplace is always blazing and giving thanks for a lifetime of memories.

Rome, Italy, 1959
Henri Cariter-Bresson, photographer
Represented by Magnum Photos

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