Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Thanksgiving preparations are going in to full swing so I wanted to do an early Thanksgiving post.

I have a great deal to be thankful for this year.  All of my friends and family are healthy.  Everyone close to me has made it through the recession without the difficulties that many have faced.  I have 111 followers I never expected to have.  I've been able to complete a fairly major renovation on my home and I'll be hosting Thanksgiving dinner at my "new" house.

Although I often joke with my mother about my brother, sister and I being victims of her Crock Pot-everything with Cream of Something soup-the truth is much different.

My mom taught me to cook.

Mom with my grandparents and her younger
sister about the time they emigrated from Canada.

Mom wanted her boys to cook.  Just in case no one would have us, at least we wouldn't starve, she said.  Every Sunday after church while dad puttered in the cellar, mowed the two-acres of yard or worked on a home improvement project, my brother and I would put on our "play clothes" and help mom prepare Sunday dinner.  It was always the best meal of the week and never, ever from the Crock Pot.  Not on Sunday.  It was usually roast beef, Yorkshire pudding and whatever vegetables were fresh out of the garden (or frozen from the garden):  potatoes, carrots, onions, green beans and squash were typical accompaniments.  She planted a seed in us that matured into a love for cooking; in fact, I think she would agree that we're both really good cooks.  My sister on the other hand can't make toast.

My brother and I shortly after being incarcerated.
I'm the one with the ears (which I'm thankful my
parents had fixed when I was six.)
Click on photo to make my ears bigger.

My brother Cliff is a real "guy's guy" cook.  He loves to smoke and grill things; I prefer to saute and braise.  He's more of a tried-and-true cook; I'm more of an experimenter.  He would never make a dessert because that's a woman's job; I love to bake.  He loves Emeril and Guy Fieri (and Giada, but that's a different story); I love Julia and Ina.  He uses recipes; I tend to skim recipes to understand flavor profiles and then just wing it.

(It's my dream to retire early and go to culinary school)

As a result of this gift my mother gave me, everyone wants to be at my house for holiday dinners.  I love trying new dishes on my guests but, at Thanksgiving, people don't like you messing with the traditional dinner.  A few years ago, I presented a Southwestern Thanksgiving that included potatoes gratin with poblano peppers and goat cheese and sweet potato tacos with maple-ancho chili glaze.  My spicy Thanksgiving dinner received a chilly reception.

So it was expected when I put out the idea that we would have a vegetarian Thanksgiving this year, that I would be shot down.  Not only shot down but offered a few expletives in return.  I explained that I would come up with several wonderful vegetarian dishes filled with the flavors of Thanksgiving so one would even miss the turkey.  No one was buying in.

So this is my menu:

Stuffing with fresh herbs and apples
Mashed potatoes and gravy
Roasted and pureed butternut squash
Roasted brussels sprouts
Fresh cranberry-orange relish
Pumpkin pie

It's a meal perfect for any nursing home.  But it's what people want and it will be nice to spend the day with friends who appreciate it.

This year, an old friend is visiting from Upstate New York.  It's been 22 years since he was here on Thanksgiving and, the last time, the occasion was marked with a snowstorm.  It will be a  long weekend event with probable visits to the newly opened wing of the Museum of Fine Arts and a day in Maine or "down the Cape."  I'm also doing brunch on Saturday for another group of friends.  I have no idea what I'm making but I'm experimenting with a brunch cocktail to kick it off.

Rosemary twigs in Svedka vodka

Although I've joked to the contrary, I'm not a big drinker but I am very interested in the idea of infusing savories into sweet foods and drinks.  So I'm infusing rosemary into vodka that will most likely be mixed with grapefruit juice, a lemon-lime simple syrup and maybe a splash of champagne.  A Rosemarymosa maybe?

I'll let you know how it works out.

Still life with gravy boat and pomegranates

This is a peek at Thanksgiving table.  I like to mix and match and create a spirit of the holiday without being too literal.  I love cotton bar towels for napkins.  They're cheap, not at all fussy and they're more generous in size than a standard napkin.  This simple red striped towel (about $1 at Ikea) pairs as well with brown transferware for fall/winter dinners as well as it does with a blue plaid tablecloth for summer cookouts.

Whatever you do, wherever you are, whatever you eat, I hope you have many things to be thankful for this year.  And don't forget to be thankful for the cook!


  1. Steve,
    This is one of my favorite posts that you have done...you were a darling little boy and it was great to learn more about you! I love how you and your brother are so different in respect to cooking...and the fact that you both appreciate what your mother taught you speaks volumes about you. I loved her comment about "in case no one will have you..." :)
    Your meal(besides the turkey) sounds wonderful. Sometimes traditions just make us feel good -we look forward to them. Your friends sure are lucky - I would love to be a guest in your new gorgeous home! Love the mix on the table too - sometimes I wish we stayed at home for thanksgiving just so I could set the table.
    Anyway, I hope you and your guests have a wonderful holiday!

  2. Messing with the menu at Thanksgiving can be a bad business. I never knew you were incarcerated! You and your brother were/are? pretty cute. I didn't know you had a brother either. Does he live near? Your mother was ahead of her time teaching you boys to cook. What happened to your sister though? Have a great Thanksgiving and I wish I was coming after all.

  3. Steve, sounds perfect and so nice to know a little more about you. I love Ina but also Guy and Jamie and The Wild Chefs - diverse tastes in people and food! Ina is The Goddess around here.
    Sounds like a perfect, classic menu. I think my invitation was lost in the mail. What time should I arrive? ;0

    xo Terri

  4. steve, i am absolutely smitten with this post. smitten i say.

    you are adorable! and the fact that you are a 'bad boy', well that's like catnip to me.

    ok on to the menu. sounds fab but you should have stood your bad boy ground on the vegetarian thing. but hey that's how i roll and you know the results of that...

    i love that you want to go to culinary school too.

    it looks like i'm the last of the fan club commenting here. i wish you a very happy thaksgiving and i am so grateful that we ever cyber-met. really i am, some days you really make my day.


  5. Hi Steve,
    I did read your last post reply to my swoon. :) Thank you for sharing your wonderful home with us and for the sweet things you said. I am in heaven visiting here. I love old houses. I am an artist living in N.C. After reading this post I have decided the only thing better than being in your home is being at your table. Yum! Enjoy your Thanksgiving.

  6. Hi again, Dianne.
    Knowing that you're an artist, all of your comments mean so much more to me! I LOVE art and would love to see what you do sometime. Maybe you can start an art blog!

  7. Tell me what you like...still life, abstract, landscape, figures? I need to know!

  8. That was the cutest picture of you with your ears all sticking out. Too cute. I think your Southwest Thanksgiving sounds divine! I'd never complain. I like trying new variations on old favorites. I like lots of herbs and spices in my food.

    I'm all about a vegetarian Thanksgiving...I used to be a strict vegetarian for about 13 years....I still am mostly now. Rarely do I eat meat...and I'd really rather not.

    But I do have to say the year we had a veggie loaf for Thanksgiving was pretty sad.

    But I'm actually perfectly happy with a big salad and pumpkin soup and my rice salad for the big dinner. But no one else will go for that. They want broccoli and rice casserole...green bean casserole...if you can't see the vegetable in the dish...then it's really not a vegetable. Who came up with covering vegetables in cream of mushroom soup? Ick.

    Anyway...I'll be going to a big dinner at a friends with all the traditional fixings.

    They will never let me cook the meal...last year for Easter I brought Matzo Ball soup and no one would even touch it. Well, except for my Mom...she loves it.

  9. Dianne,
    I love it all when it's well done but I have to say my biggest passion, hands down, is mid-Century abstract expressionism and, more specifically, the students of Hans Hofmann. Many from that New York School used to summer in Provincetown on Cape Cod and you can still personally connect with those people in P'town where their sons and daughters tell stories of Franz Kline, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Robert Motherwell and many, many other wonderfully talented artists, albeit not so famous like Peter Busa and Fritz Bultman just to name a few. A good Cy Twombly, de Kooning or Rauschenberg can just about make me cry.

    What kind of work do you do?

    You can e-mail me at urbancottageblog@gmail.com if you'd like.


  10. Steve,
    What a brilliant mother you have to teach her sons to cook! I grew up with a mother who used a can of Campbells in everything, and I'm not kidding;) Mine never made me help in the kitchen. I learned to cook from Ina! I follow a recipe to the teaspoon; however! I figure someone went to all that trouble (usually Ina;) to make it perfect, I'm not going to mess with it! Your meal sounds delish, and you table is beautiful- how lucky your family is to share it with you in your beautiful "new" home!
    You and bro are cuties! Yes, you really shouldn't have mentioned that 'bad boy' thing to Janet...I'm thinking you'll live to regret that:)
    Wishing you and your family a wonderful Thanksgiving! Have a great weekend also!


  11. Steve - Wonderful post! I love your Mother's line of thinking. My mother never enjoyed cooking and never cooked anything very inspired (or fresh for that matter). I do credit her for the fact that I've been thin all my life, though. I pretty much grew up thinking eating was a task! Somehow I turned into a very adventurous cook, though, and I truly enjoy cooking (baking not so much) and eating!
    I understand what you're saying about trying to do something new. This will be my first completely vegetarian Thanksgiving, as I've always had to make other family members happy. This year they won't be here, so I can make what I want. On the other hand, I'll miss them.
    Have a wonderful weekend!

  12. What a wonderful post. It was so wonderful I read it twice!! I love the picture of you and your brother as jail birds, too cute. Hope you had a wonderful day.

  13. this was such a sweet thanksgiving post! loved your still life photo. and of course your jailbird pic.

    hope your dream of culinary school comes true, sooner rather than later.

  14. Dear Steve, I just LOVE this post and you, ears and all.
    There are Thanksgiving good wishes from me, and Himself, infusing in your Rosemarymosa.

  15. Your menu is wonderful and your memories are delightful. Thanks for sharing them both with us. I hope you have a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

  16. Hi Steve, what a great post. I love the story of learning to cook and the difference between you and your siblings. I am the same type of cook as you are and I love to experiment. I'll bet your table was beautiful. I'm a fan of brown transferware but don't own any. My husband and I have such different styles! Anyway, I hope your brunch today as a lovely success, too.