Giving Thanks (Again)

November 19, 20124 Comments

Setting a holiday table turns into a trip down memory lane for me. As I pull my wedding china from the cabinet, I think about how bitterly I argued with Andy over it during our engagement. He didn’t want it, certain it would sit in a box collecting dust. Why don’t we pick something we’ll actually use, he reasoned. Like grilling tools. Or a panini maker. I desperately wanted the full set, complete with gravy boat, creamer and sugar – the whole enchilada. I knew I’d find plenty of occasions to use it and that each time I did, we’d be creating sweet memories.

We spent an uncomfortable afternoon in the wedding registry section of the Marshall Field’s on State Street in Chicago (now a Macy’s for those who knew it and loved it, as I did). I thought the bride-to-be was supposed to sweat the details of bedding choices and placemats while the groom-to-be would just nod and hope it was all over soon so he could get back to checking football scores. Not this groom-to-be. Oh, he was interested in the football scores. But they’d have to wait. He was all up in my business, wanting to weigh in on every last napkin ring and paring knife. The task was exhausting.

We had it out right there, oblivious to the stares we attracted with our terse words, finger pointing, huffing and pouting – all amidst fluffy piles of towels and glass cases full of sleek flatware. It seemed like the piped department store classical music suddenly became very soft. It wasn’t our proudest of moments. Realizing I’d stand there all day before I’d leave the store without my name affixed to a china pattern, Andy finally backed down. We could register for china. But there was a condition. If we were getting china, he would choose the pattern. What?! I knew I was marrying a very particular guy with distinct tastes, but this was going a bit far. He didn’t want china and now he was insisting he choose the pattern that would be handed down to our children and their children? No way, man.

We took a few more laps, pointing that little laser gun at glass pitchers and pillow cases until finally there was nothing left to choose but that damn china pattern. And so he did. It’s pictured above. Pretty, isn’t it? I have to admit I love it. Almost as much as I love him. Okay, not that much, but I do think it’s timeless and beautiful. And every time I’ve pulled it out, I smile thinking about how it came to be ours. It’s been more than a decade, so it has become funny. As I dry each piece to put it back in the cabinet, I smile again thinking of the wonderful meal we’ve enjoyed and the friends and family we are lucky to have. Funny how a plate or a teacup can remind you to do that.

Though I’m not cooking this year, I pulled together a few (mostly unlikely) dishes in case you are still deciding what to make for your own feast or bring to someone else’s.

To drink…

Warm Mulled Wine

To start…

Butternut Squash Tart
Feta and Chive Spread
Fresh Herb and Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms

The Bird…

I’ve made The Bird every which way you can imagine. Here is my favorite method of all time.

To accompany…

Gingered Cranberry Fig Chutney from Alicia’s Seasonal Kitchen at Whole Foods Market Cooking
Amanda’s Radish and Pecan Grain Salad
Lentil and Quinoa Pilaf with Cauliflower and Marcona Almonds
Roasted Acorn Squash with Quinoa and Pistachios
Roasted Winter Vegetables

Sweet endings…

Genius Pumpkin Pie from Food52
Cranberry-Apple Crumb Pie
Pumpkin Brownies with Maple Rum Cream
Double Chocolate Bundt Cake (not traditional, but nevertheless a staple at any Sokol family holiday)

4 responses to “Giving Thanks (Again)”

  1. Andrea says:

    I loved and miss that Marshall Field’s too! My grandma used to go their with my mom, and then took me as a child as well. At least they kept the green clock when it became a Macy’s! And thankfully they were smart enough to keep selling the Frango Mints 🙂

    • Alicia says:

      Agree – somebody was wise to hang onto the green clock and the Frango Mints! We took our boys there a couple summers ago and they loved watching the Frango Mints being made behind the glass. Did you notice your cranberry-apple crumb pie has won a permanent spot on my annual Thanksgiving dessert list? My boys asked for it this year. They said they wanted a “cranberry pie” and since this is the only one I’ve ever made, it has to be this one. Thanks again for that recipe, Andrea.

  2. Julia says:

    I tried your favorite method of all time for the turkey and it worked beautifully! I’ll do my turkey that way from here on out. I also made the green beans and the apricot stuffing off of last year’s list. Loved both! Thank you so much for continuing this blog; I love it and you’ve come through with great recipes for me quite often. Question: do you have a recipe or method for gravy? Mine never comes out quite right and I’d love any advice you have on that topic. Maybe for next year’s Thanksgiving list? Thanks again for such a great blog!

    • Alicia says:

      Julia, thank you for the kind comments! I’m so glad my high heat turkey method worked well for you. It takes a bit of faith, but I do think the result is well worth it. As for the gravy…I’m afraid you’ve just exposed my Achille’s heel. I do not know how to make gravy. I either give a guest that horrible tasks while I rush around finishing everything else or buy it pre made! You have just presented me with a challenge. Next year may be the year I learn to make gravy once and for all! Thanks again.

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