Living in London hasn’t changed some things: Thanksgiving is approaching and, like every year, I am at once hugely looking forward and also dreading it a little. For many years we’ve hosted large parties for Thanksgiving, it is our favorite holiday. It’s also, of course, a lot of work. Being as I am, I like to cook the meal fully, I am not one for potlucks. But there invariably comes a time when everything seems to come crashing together — too many things, too little time. Thomas might tell you this happens every single time we have friends over for dinner, whether it is just one guest, or twenty five. He has a point. But that doesn’t help.
Having read many great reviews of Sam Sifton’s clever book Thanksgiving: How to Cook it Well, I was anxious to soak in some of its wisdom, suffer a little hand-holding that might make this year’s preparations slightly more — um — relaxed. I enjoyed the book tremendously. It is fun and well written, full of good insights about the holiday. What to eat, what not to eat, how to set the table (and how not to), how to serve the food. Sifton’s style is at once light and unapologetically authoritative.
‘Thanksgiving is no place for irony. [...] We are going to cook Thanksgiving correctly. [...] It means there is going to be turkey [...]. There is going to be a proper dinner table [...]. There are going to be proper place settings for each person and glasses for water and wine. There are going to be candles. There will be dessert.’
But I didn’t find what I was looking for. I wanted, I realized, a timetable. What should I prepare in advance, when can I make the mashed celeriac? Will it sit for a while without becoming pasty and dry? I tend to leave everything to the very last minute, for fear of losing flavor. On Thanksgiving it’s a hard bargain. So Thanksgiving wasn’t all that helpful for actual logistics. I guess that would have been too practical; it would have tarnished its flavor.
Somewhat related but not exactly are Yotam Ottolenghi’s celery recipes published in last week’s Guardian. I am firmly in Ottolenghi’s camp. Celery deserves to be treated as a proper vegetable and score the starring role. The recipes sound incredible and would sit very well on a Thanksgiving spread. Or would Sam Sifton approve?
Finally, for those unconcerned by Thanksgiving or in need of an escape from cranberries and pumpkin pie, this fascinating article about Venice caught my attention recently, as I perused the internet for interesting eating suggestions in view of a short weekend trip to La Serenissima next Friday to catch the tail end of the Biennale (!!!). Some things do change when you live in London…