And as you probably know by now, this was the first and last year in our lifetimes (and for another few lifetimes yet) that Hanukkah and Thanksgiving overlapped. Hanukkah has always felt exactly like a time of miracles. By virtue of timing, it was one of the first Jewish holidays I spent with Sweetheart’s family, where I rode the Staten Island ferry for the first time (and drank a beer on the way, because a) you can, there’s a bar on it! b) I was a little nervous). It was raining that day and I wore a scarf tied over my hair, and when he picked me up from the ferry, Sweetheart’s Uncle Bill said “You look like you belong”. Always a bustle of sisters in the kitchen, I volunteered to fry the latkes. This, I know now, is the most detestable of tasks, uniformly disliked by all mamelahs, so that ended up a point in my favor, but all I knew then was that though I might not know all of the traditions, I at least knew how to fry. One of my best, earliest memories of Sweetheart’s divine Aunt Sheila is her coming into that Staten Island kitchen like a ship, peering over my shoulder and giving me the benediction in her wonderful storyteller’s voice I love so: “You’ve fried before”. This, the exact center of the Southern-Jewish venn diagram: deep fried potatoes and the honor of the matriarch. This year, we took it down south, Sweetheart consulted the oracles (his mama, his aunt, and Mimi Sheraton) and made and cooked the latkes (a point in his favor) in lieu of mashed potatoes, we had a brisket, we lit the candles, we said the words, and we had this electric menorah that made it through the flood and still worked. A season of miracles, a year of family, a feast of thanks.
You know it was a good time if you literally only took one picture of the whole shebang and it was this total WORK OF ART (I suppose I decided that the vision of dear sweet Ravenel deglazing a skillet of aromatic and reducing roux that becomes the base of her incredible cider gravy while a boozy put of mulled cider bubbles in the background and Nick tears bread for apple and herb stuffing and a pecan pie cools off slowly by the woodstove was worth saving for posterity’s sake, and I suppose I’m not wrong). Out here in the world of the internet, though, while one hand laments decorative gourd season and the other pins gilded pumpkin tablescapes that could/should never exist outside of Martha, I sort of like that this was the only snapshot I thought to take. When you’re dancing in the kitchen, there’s no time to stop and stage photographs. But, because you asked, here are a few shots I scooped up from a few dear ones who thought to take a moment and capture some loveliness while I was making sure everyone had enough wine. And that the bird was ready at the same time as my hairdo.
This was our Black Friday. Shaking out the dust and pecan pie crumbs and hitting our old favorite trail. Visions of turkeys and latkes and table settings and crimped-edged pies and luscious hams and champagne toasts and Christmas tree tagging and parlor games and living room jam sessions (perhaps) to follow, but, just like after the heated flush and bustle of a nineteen person ever-thankful dinner surrounded by loving friends and sweetest family needed a follow up chill-winter-air-rosy-cheeked mountain hike to clear the mind, this is now a week of introspection and TCB-ing and preparations for the next bourbon soaked gathering coming in hot in lo three weeks. Wow.
Time flies when you’re having fun. And time also flies when it’s being blown along at a blustery clip accompanied by a 20 degree windchill. Thus this incredible week of my dreams begins. A whirlwind trip of wine and laces up to New York and back down to sweet, cold Virginny, where the leaves have been blown off the mountainsides and the hills look like brushed velvet somehow in the deep pile of their bare branches, and where 22 people are coming to our house for Thanksgiving. Today. It will the best possible time, one marked in between full moons on my almanac calendar, what seemed to be years away back in balmy September, and is now just here at the doorstep like an early guest and I feel like my hair is still in curlers. It’s what I’ve been waiting for…all of my favorite things- dancing in the kitchen, the noise of pots and pans and soul music and laughter and plenty of wine and dear friends aligned on the compasses of time and memory and family reunited-and-it-feels-so-good and pretty plates and feathers and, of course, about a million ham biscuits. And on this never-to-be-seen-again Thanksgivukkah, I’ve just got to say: infinite thanks and mazel tov, y’all. My heart is full.
Just up the road from my house there is a monastery where the Trappist sisters wear homespun robes with wide tanned leather belts and make and sell cheese. They are open every day, and you go in and there is no shop, just a sister behind a door and a standard white kitchen fridgidaire filled with glossy red waxed boules of handmade cheese. You give her a check, she gives you a new gouda, heavy and shiny, and silently blesses you as you quietly leave. The whole thing feels like a kind of sacrosanct drug deal. And the cheese. Well, you keep your fingers crossed when you cut into it because since you did the whole shady-monastery-cash-for-cheese re-up you want it to be incredible, and it is. It’s buttery and mild and sweet and just hard enough to go perfectly with a crusty bread and a little white wine. Thank you, sisters.
Fruit flies. Ugh. They are manifest by the compost bin, having a dance party on the pears Sweetheart loves and has left to linger, fruitful and multiplying over last night’s wine, all up in your face, even worse than stink bugs because at least you know that stink bugs will come incessantly like the bucket-brooms of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice regardless of what you might have left on the counter, but if you have fruit flies, it’s kind of your fault. BUT. There’s an old-wives-almanac-solution, and it works (see above fruit fly massacre). Take a small mason jar, put in two fingers of apple cider vinegar, a tiny squeeze of dish-soap, cover with plastic wrap poked full of holes, add a lid rim and boom. Fruit fly trap. The flies are attracted to the vinegar (forget what they say about catching more of them with honey, that’s only true as a metaphor about being nice) and try to land on it, but the soap breaks the surface tension of the water and the flies demise. Simple, effective, bug carnage.
These are French Macarons. That we made. From scratch. And no, not the coconutty pile of the macaroon (though those have, surprisingly, made their way into my heart via Sweetheart’s mama dipping them in chocolate around Passover … though now thinking about it THIS macaron is the perfect Passover dessert oh my yhwh) but no, not the macar-oon-, the macaron, the delicate almondine fluff and crisp sweet explosion of the world’s most perfect cookie (dare we even call it a cookie? a pastry… a delicacy… a mouth cloud of joy?). Heretofore known, really, only in Paris, coming wrapped in pistache green Ladurée boxes and tied with ribbons as if a simple parcel of macarons was as worthy of such trappings as a brace of jewels (they are). The macaron has always seemed to me like the soufflé or the perfectly poached egg or neuroscience: something probably best left to the experts. But! When one of those experts comes into your very home and pulls back the luster-dusted curtain and shows you the secrets and teaches you the wiles of measuring egg whites by the gram, well, then all of a sudden the macaron ceases to be one of life’s great mysteries and becomes a giddy joy of I can’t believe we’re actually making these and then the five of us are going to eat all. of. them. Almond, Lemon (with a slice of raspberry), Strawberry, and Coffee with Chocolate ganache. Oh my.
Infinite thanks to resident-macaron-expert-and-sweetheart Miss Lucy (whose instagram is full of positively pornographic pastries, such as, ahem MACAR-OO-N BIRDSNESTS what the what!?) for walking us all through it step-by-step, Miss Maggie for constantly re-filling our coffee and deciding when it was time to switch to wine, Sweet Kitty for lugging her standing mixer (and being ever the perfect-and-slightly-doubtful-guest), and Mama for makin’ it all happen, always.
Don’t forget to vote today. If you don’t you could end up with someone’s mangy hands all over your exposed bosom, and that’s not even the worst of it. Death be always to tyrants, and let me decide what to do with my own bosoms (and everything else) thankyouverymuch.