It’s the Sunday night after Thanksgiving. It’s so quiet in my Brooklyn apartment that it feels like I’m either in some country house I’ve rented for the weekend or it’s New York City in January after a blanketing of snow quiets the city. Never mind, a neighbor just started blaring some Katy Perry remix and all is normal again.
For the first time, I hosted my family for the holiday and was really honored to do so. It’s been a full house here for days. My family is almost always together for this holiday, which includes celebrating my older sister’s birthday, but we are usually in Vermont. It’s hard to beat my father and stepmother’s house, the fireplace, the snow (sometimes), the sauna, the woods, it’s pretty perfect for the occasion. But for various reasons we decided to do Brooklyn this year and my boyfriend John so graciously hosted us in his slightly bigger apartment than mine up the street.
This is such a sullied American holiday—one that’s nearly impossible not to celebrate here in the U.S. and yet one that never feels right celebrating either (what with the whole genocide of native peoples and all, not to mention a holiday founded on the slaughter of animals)—so it’s complicated really. I do love to gather my siblings and half the parents together and have days to sit around catching up on our years and the months we haven’t seen one another. My nephew, just past 2 1/2, projectile-vomited right before the dinner. Poor little guy. I was in the kitchen managing the last-minute shenanigans and I can’t say I’m sorry I missed it. But moments later, like a champ, he was sitting around the table like the rest of us, asking over and over if it was time for cake yet. That’s the spirit.
The attendees: Dad and stepmom from Vermont; sister, sister-in-law, and nephew from Northampton, Mass., brother from Boston, sister from Durham, N.C. and her doggie. As soon as it was confirmed I’d be hosting I wanted to invite my NYC friends but nine was about the maximum that could fit around the table.
The best part of the Thanksgiving organizing was menu planning. I culled recipes mainly from Bon Appétit, the Minimalist Baker (which has become one of my new favorite sources for recipes and inspiration), and the New York Times. I was accommodating a variety of diets, including: non-dairy; can’t eat garlic and onions; and vegetarian. As my boyfriend reminded me, it is often challenges that bring about the best creativity. Ugh, don’t you just hate when people saying annoyingly true things like that?
On the table:
Vegan Mashed Potatoes
Garlic and Ginger Green Beans
Vegan & Gluten-Free Spaghetti Squash Lasagna
Parsnip & Sweet Potato Soup, served with Caramelized Pears and a Gorgonzola-Mascarpone Whip*
Raw Broccoli and Brussels Sprout Slaw
Homemade Parker House Rolls
Desserts I can take no credit for, but:
Apple Crumble Pie
Birthday cake with chocolate-buttercream frosting and the kind of candles that never blow out completely, hehe
*This is an unpublished recipe that will appear in the forthcoming book by Meike Peters of the popular blog Eat In My Kitchen, published by Prestel USA in Fall 2016. I ate it in Berlin in October and knew right then and there it had to be on my Thanksgiving table.
**My stepmom’s classic recipe, the only thing I specifically asked that she bring with her from Vermont. She was so so kind enough to also bring, unsolicited, homemade apple sauce from her tree!
Now, my notes. The outstanding dishes had to have been the soup and the raw slaw, though everything was very kindly applauded by my family, who honestly, I think were stunned at the quantity of food I produced. I did have a couple of great helpers in the kitchen — John and my sister Emily. And very sweetly, in the hour before dinner was served, my dad gamely mashed the potatoes and carved the turkey and my stepmom stepped in to make the gravy, which was so good, as always.
The soup is this delicious blend of sweet potatoes, parsnip, herbs, and stock. It can be made totally vegan and it tastes like fall. If you’re not making it vegan I do recommend the whipped gorgonzola and mascarpone dollop. The raw slaw was a hit because it’s such a refreshing contrast to all the heavy roasted side dishes. The stuffing, which includes a sub-recipe for Suzanne Goin’s Tuscan kale, was so labor-intensive I might shy away from it in the future but it was damn good. And the spaghetti squash lasagna was so good and relatively easy to make I’d put this in my regular weekly rotation. (Instead of dairy the cheese-like filling is made from a tofu-olive oil-basil-lemon juice concoction that’s so rich and flavorful.)
After the last of the turkey was carved and the leftovers stuffed into every last tupperwear container we could possibly find, John and I slept for nine hours. For dinner tonight we made brown rice with tofu and steamed broccoli. Can you blame us?
Previous posts about Thanksgiving:
2011: Thanksgiving Overload
2012: Giving Thanks
2014: Butternut Squash Galette