Thanksgiving could very well be my favorite holiday. I think the last time we traveled for it was over a dozen years ago – we were usually given a pass since we had so many to fly or pile in the car – so it's become the default for us to stay at home. It's one of those holidays that doesn't suffer too much if it's down to the wire, and I am a real procrastinator at heart, so... it's the best. In the years since we started our business, it's been my tradition to head to the Publix supermarket around 5pm on Wednesday night. Sid usually brings home tacos for dinner so that everyone can stay out of my way while I begin to cook. I'll have some wine and roll out pie crusts and my girls will drift in and out and chat with me. The Midwest/Mississippi differences between me and Sid are never more clearly defined than at Thanksgiving. I will make sure we have pumpkin pie (pecan would have been at his table growing up), my sausage-and-sage stuffing (as opposed to his cornbread dressing,) and the turkey will be roasted and not smoked because I cannot imagine not filling the house with the scent... which we all know is the biggest emotional trigger of all.
All the time at home, but especially at Thanksgiving, I am dressed for movement and comfort – and the star of the show for me is the apron. It defines you as the cooker... the boss for the day. For years I had a sweet Pierre Deux printed one with pockets, and a few years ago we made some in Liberty prints as an update. But THIS year I am thrilled to be wearing my dream apron... in leather! This is so very French country – who wouldn't want to look like Mimi Thorisson??? It might seem over-the-top and luxurious, but is actually so practical to me. Leather gets better the more you wear it, and each splatter of grease will improve it, just like all the speckles and water stains on the pages of your cookbook. You've earned them! You're a true cook! Under the apron, I will probably wear a pair of jeans, driving moccasins and a t-shirt, but it's nice to have a costume change for dinner once you're finished cooking. It marks a transition. I'll slip into some navy cashmere jogger pants, put on a clean white shirt, and arrive at the table both comfortable and chic. We are all very casual in our house – but I promise you these pants actually flatter, so if we go over to someone's house for a drink after dinner I will put on a pair of heels and it will look even better with some added height.
We have all been bombarded over the last years with food-based "content" – cooking shows, celebrity chefs, and, oh my goodness, most of the Instagram feed is filled with pictures of what everyone made or ate or perhaps just photographed. For me, it can be a bit much. But the truth is that food does stir up such powerful feelings, and I think on this holiday more than any other, since it is so deeply tied to family. In our own office, at a recent meeting, my head of production shared that she will be creating a new tradition and making a road trip to a restaurant out of town, as it is the first Thanksgiving without her father. The turkey and her dad were knit too closely in her head, and thus, the car trip to Birmingham... plucked as a destination simply because it's not Atlanta. Ruth Reichl weaves her own stories and memories into her food writing, and to me she's unmatched. She is sensitive and wise and has excellent taste, and I love her way with words almost more than with food. (If you haven't read any of her books, you need to, I promise.) In a very favorite passage, she talks about the simplicity of putting butter and sugar and chocolate together at the end of a long day... because suddenly, with a pan of brownies, you've accomplished a goal. Sometimes that's all you need – to make something delicious out of a few ordinary ingredients. I have a page torn out from Gourmet magazine around 1990 where she listed her three go-to dishes. Vegetarian chili, a weird kind of bread that had no yeast, and the aforementioned brownies. That was the year I taught myself to cook in my tiny kitchen in New York. I made those dishes over and over and over again, and while my grandmother may have taught me to bake – it's her pie recipe I'll be making on Thursday – Ruth has influenced the way I FEEL about cooking and serving and sharing, more than any other. She just gets to me.
Content or not, cashmere joggers or not, we all know that the whole point of Thanksgiving is to spend time with others, enjoying the very simple pleasure of good food and being together. Especially for my own family, it is the last real exhale before the rush of the holiday season kicks in and we are all in overdrive til December 26th. Whether you are going strong on years-old traditions, or creating some new memories to change things up this year, happiest Thanksgiving to all. And you should try my pie recipe... it's even better eaten cold for breakfast the day after.