Saturday, November 26, 2011


I appreciate tradition. The connection to family and past through a cherished routine is visceral for me. There is a security, comfort and tangibility in breaking bread with family and friends.

And yet, lately, the most memorable times have been those moments when I throw aside tradition to do something totally new. Sometimes, it's a choice and other times it's circumstance.

Three years ago, I spent Thanksgiving in Kuwait. I was headed home from a deployment to Afghanistan. I passed the day with two traveling companions. We hung out in our tent, ate a late dinner in the chow hall--turkey with all fixings-plus--, played some pool and watched a black and white Cary Grant. Not totally without tradition, but the part I remember most is smuggling bottles of Welch's Sparkling Grape Juice (non-alcoholic) back to the tent. We saved one for when we finally got through military customs to start our flight home, so we could celebrate. It took a couple of tries, but our flight finally wasn't cancelled and we opened that bottle and passed it around as we waited to board our flight home.

This year, I decided not to travel home again. I rarely travel on Thanksgiving, because it's just too crazy and I like to save my leave for Christmas. A couple of close friends sent an invitation for dinner at their house for anyone who didn't already have plans. J&MP and I had talked about cooking a turkey together, because none of us had before and figured together we could figure it. However, it ended up just being the three of us.

I'm of the opinion that Thanksgiving dinner is same amount of work, whether it's for three people or 20 people. I was feeling lazy, so I convinced my friends that we needed to splurge on a really great dinner at a DC restaurant and that is exactly what we did. My friend SD was able to join us as well.

I had one of the best Thanksgiving dinners, in fact one of the best meals in my life. The food was amazing. It was Thanksgiving dinner from Italy and with fresh mozzarella, parmigiano and pecorino, pancetta and prosciutto for ingredients. We had turkey with the fixings and it was the best turkey I've ever eaten, so moist and perfectly flavored, with squash, stuffing, mashed potatoes and brussell sprouts. But dessert was an experience in and of itself - panna cotta, chocolate mousse, Torta del Finanziere (a carmel, brown butter apple cake) and, of course, pumpkin pie.  But wait, there was gelato! 

I've now decided that every Thanksgiving dinner must include gelato, and if it's from Bibiana then nothing else in the dinner matters. It was heaven on a spoon -- apple cider gelato that took me right back to the streets of Florence and dark chocolate gelato with so much cocoa you could feel the grains on your tongue. I was cheeky and asked for more gelato and we got these huge servings for the four of us to share as an after dinner treat. Our server, who was fabulous, told me that if I call ahead I can order gelato to go and the chef will prepare it for transport. I am so going to do to do this!!

After dinner we went back to my place to make pies, stopping off to get the "secret" ingredient for one of the pies, and to get ice cream and whipping cream. 

We made four pies: two Pumpkin-Apple Pies, one Old-Fashioned Apple Pie and a Bourbon Chocolate-Pecan Pie. We played around with cameras, played Rummikub and ate pie all night. It was great fun!

For an nontraditional Thanksgiving, this was definitely one for the books and had plenty of tradition mixed in:  good friends, pie making, games and great memories. I'm thankful for such a great day to add to my memories.

Here some photos of our pie making...

pumpkin-apple pie
apples on the bottom, pumpkin on the top

apple pie

the venting of the apple pie with stars

chocolate bourbon pecan pie
with chocolate covered pecans and 2 TBsp bourbon

eating apple pie

apple pie
And some photos from playing around with the cameras:

my house! 
playing the piano - i

playing the piano - ii


Ruthie said...

Sounds (and looks) amazing! I love the picture of you playing the piano.

Tara said...

Sounds like a great thanksgiving to me! would have been fun to be there with you all!