“Sometimes I have loved the peacefulness of an ordinary Sunday. It is like standing in a newly planted garden after a warm rain. You can feel the silent and invisible life. All it needs from you is that you take care not to trample on it.” ~ Marilynne Robinson
“It's hard to believe Thanksgiving is already over,” a friend emailed me this weekend. “All that's left are the sweet potatoes.”
I know what she means. In our fridge is a lone container of bean casserole that neither of us can bear to finish off. It's our favorite thing in all of the world.
When I was growing up, my grandparents hosted Thanksgiving dinner for our family. Well ahead of the day, my grandmother would pull out her recipe card holder and begin making lists. Thanksgiving was a week-long process that included moving the furniture around, sliding leaves into tables, ironing tablecloths, grocery shopping with two carts, staying up late the night before, peeling potatoes and rolling lefse
By one in the afternoon, as relatives began to arrive, the smell of homemade pie filled the house. In their arms, braided loaves, homemade fudge, kringla, and a red tin (or two) of fruitcake that I don't remember anyone ever eating
Some of the dishes I remember most were the coconut cream pie, the turkey roasting in the oven, stuffing (always the stuffing), and the softest buns that were perfect for sandwiches the next day. There was the lefse, that could be slathered with butter, or cinnamon sugar (my favorite), or even jam made from berries picked from the garden in July
It was my job to wash the grapes, stuff the celery, stir the dip, gather the crackers, and arrange the olives on the lazy susan. (My brother ate the olives faster than I could arrange). The aunts and grandmothers chatted in the kitchen, and the men would retreat, drinks in hand, to the living room and football on t.v.
Between one pm and two, the meal was on the table, without fail. Heads would bow, while someone said grace, giving thanks for the health of everyone gathered around, blessing the food, the family, the day.
The menu never varied: turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes and baked sweet potatoes, gravy and cranberry sauce, green bean casserole with french fried onions on top, warm buttery buns, and jello salad. At least two kinds of pie
Every year was declared the best year ever, with every dish the best it had ever been. Always, someone would say they'd eaten too fast. Always, someone who claimed to be too full to swallow one more bite, but would agree to seconds anyway, if only to make the moment last
Somehow, by the time the last car pulled out of the drive and disappeared into the night, the kitchen would be restored to order, the dishes done (all by hand because she didn't have a dishwasher), the turkey carcass encased in foil and tucked into the fridge, surrounded by a precarious stacks of leftovers
My grandmother made the entire thing look easy. As a result, although I'm now a middle-aged mother of two grown children (and three grandchildren), and fancy myself a moderately good cook, I've only cooked a turkey once or twice in my life
Last week, my parents hosted Thanksgiving dinner. No longer is it the whole (or same, for that matter) clan. Death, circumstances, and the passing of time have separated us. This year, with my sister-in-law at her family's, my husband in Wisconsin visiting his sons, the kids (and grandkids) far away, there were just five of us at the table.
As small a Thanksgiving as we've ever had as a family
We edited it a little, no fruitcake, no cream-of-something green beans or homemade lefsa. But otherwise, the meal was the one I've eaten all of my life. We talked about all of the familiar topics: railroading, investing, books we'd been reading, podcasts worth listening to, beer and wine worth making, cool Instagram accounts to follow
Throughout the night, each one of us saying, in our own unique ways, “I'm just glad we're still able to do this”
Earlier in the day, I'd taken a walk with the dogs and passed a house where cars were parked in the drive and on all sides of the block. For an instant then, I found myself feeling a bit nostalgic, longing for the good old days when the holiday was a production. But really, it was just for an instant. We've had that; I reminded myself. We've lived it, loved it, and have now come to a different part of life's journey.
The five of us lingered at the table for a long time that evening, enjoying one another's company as well as the meal. We savored what was ours to savor in the moment. And then, before you knew it, the time had come to divvy up the left-overs and say our good-byes.
As I type, it's a quiet Sunday afternoon and another Thanksgiving holiday has come to an end. My husband had the last bun with a bowl of soup for lunch. The tray of left-over stuffing from Food at First has been divvied up amongst the neighbors. The coconut cream pie and I have had our moment
Someday, I know, I might be in charge of the affair one day, but admittedly I hope it never happens.
I'd never be able to recreate my brother's smoked turkey or a family friend's stuffing, or the homemade beer my father keeps on tap. I'd never be able to create the feeling of connection we have when we're together, my sister-in-law's laugh, my father's kindness, my husband's silly jokes, my brother's gentle manner, my mother's gift of having the perfect wine for any occasion
I remember all of the things I'm grateful for this year. Knowing that for now, above all else: I'm grateful for the fact that I'm still somebody's daughter
I've always loved the fall, for its excitement of back-to-school, the warmth of Thanksgiving, and the joy of the holidays we celebrate as the year comes to a close. But mostly, I love it for baking. This time of year, when the days are short and the weather sometimes dreary, the pleasure of making and sharing something homemade is greater than ever
When my husband's son came to visit this past week, it was a lot of fun to try a new recipe
A homage to a favorite treat of all time. If there's anything I know for certain: chocolate and peanut butter are a match made in heaven. Luxurious decant chocolate is lovely when paired with the salty, nutty flavor of peanut butter.
~ Adapted from Food52
The Biggest (and Best) Peanut Butter Cup You'll Ever Eat
- 1 ½ cups chocolate wafer crumbs
- 2 Tbsp natural sugar
- pinch sea salt
- 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted, but not hot
- Filling and Glaze
- 1 cup creamy peanut butter
- 8 oz cream cheese
- One 5.4 oz can coconut cream (or the cream from a can of coconut milk, but be very careful to use it straight from the fridge and drain off the extra liquid—you’re aiming to use only the cream)
- ½ cup maple syrup
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp sea salt
- 4 oz dark chocolate, chopped
- ½ cup milk (non-dairy milks work great as well)
- 2 Tbsp natural sugar
- Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter a 9" tart pan with a removable bottom
- Mix the crumbs, sugar, and sea salt. Pour the melted butter over the top and stir until everything is combined
- Turn the crumbs into the prepared pan and use your fingers to firmly press them along the bottom and up the sides. Poke some holes in the crust with a fork
- Freeze the tart shell for 10 minutes
- Place the tart shell on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper; bake about 10 minutes or until the crust has taken on some color
- Remove the shell from the oven and allow it to cool completely
- Peanut Butter Filling
- Blend the peanut butter, cream cheese, coconut cream, maple syrup, vanilla extract, and sea salt in a blender or food processor until smooth.
- Pour the filling into the tart shell, then transfer the tart to the fridge and allow it to chill for at least 3 hours (and up to overnight)
- In a small saucepan, warm the milk and sugar until they’re hot but not yet simmering.
- Pour the hot milk over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate is melted and the mix is glossy
- Pour the glaze over the top of the tart, being careful to stop when it reaches, but doesn’t cover, the edges of the tart shell.
- Transfer the tart back to the fridge and chill for at least 1 hour, or until the top is set.
- Slice and serve.