The Best Thanksgiving is a Shared Thanksgiving - No. 55
Five Substack food writers to check out & Cara’s Cocktail Shrimp
It’s going to be the most costly Thanksgiving ever, warns the New York Times, so how do we survive? Breathe. Today I share Thanksgiving thoughts from fellow Substack food writers and a beloved recipe Aunt Janet always brought to nibble on before the turkey was carved. She got it from her hairdresser.
WHAT I LOVE ABOUT THANKSGIVING is that I get to eat other people’s cooking. The homemade rolls, sweet potatoes simmered in orange juice, Steve’s pecan pie, cocktail shrimp we try so hard not to fill up on, and those roasted Brussels sprouts that really shook up the casserole game and were devoured by all.
So this year, to keep in the spirit of gratitude and great recipes, I share Thanksgiving thoughts from other food voices here on Substack.
Go check out what they write about each week. Because it’s one big table and it’s a lot like our family at that table - we’ve all got something to say!
Potlucks and pie start with P
Pie guru and self-proclaimed apple geek Kate McDermott writes her Kate McDermott Newsletter about food and life from Port Angeles, WA, a logging and fishing town on the coast of the Olympic Peninsula west of Seattle. She’s originally from Santa Barbara, CA, and was a home baker before she literally wrote the book on pie and created virtual workshops on topics such as baking gluten-free pie. Kate’s been gluten-free since 2006.
I reached out to Kate to ask her what pie she’s baking for Thanksgiving and what her plans are this year:
I am hoping to attend a potluck that has been going on for 40 years. At its peak, this potluck has had up to 40 or 50 people. It is held on the Olympic Peninsula at a home above the Elwah River.
For the last one I baked a gluten-free pork pie in a mold. I also cook Brussels sprouts with bacon and blue cheese and do layers of this in a pan. I could stand at the kitchen stove and just eat that. But this year I will make an apple, pear, and quince pie.
There is always homemade eggnog, the host cooks a very big turkey, and everyone brings sides. Sometimes there is fresh caught salmon slow roasted outside on sticks set up around a fire.
Kate says she was invited to go to the Thanksgiving potluck more than three decades ago because the people organizing it had children in her son’s playgroup. Now those kids are grown and they’re bringing their own kids.
What does she love most about the meal?
For me, the main course of a potluck is everyone coming together. Our special connections season everything that we eat and drink.
(Look for Kate’s apple pie recipe next week right here in Between the Layers, the same day I pop up over on her newsletter and share a cake to bake for Thanksgiving.)
‘’So many cooks treat Thanksgiving Day like it's All Martyrs Day…Some people just really love the adrenaline and the chaos.’’- Addie Broyles
A former newspaper columnist, originally from Aurora, MO, Addie started working for the Austin American-Statesman in 2006 as a copy editor and then took the food writing job two years later. She has written a blog called The Feminist Kitchen since 2010, now on Substack, and it explores traditions like Thanksgiving where key themes are grief, gratitude, adapting to change, and building connection with family, neighbors, and community.
People think they want new ideas for Thanksgiving, but what everyone really wants is to feel something special that they've been feeling (hopefully) every year when they sit down on that day… The nostalgia for long gone days. The frustrations that many of us feel navigating the ins and outs of the dinner. The sadness that comes after loved ones die and are no longer at those holiday dinners.
To Addie, Thanksgiving feels the same this year, but different.
That might have something to do with the my kids ages (14 and 11), where they are growing so fast from year to year. Factor in the pandemic and living so far away from my mom and sister (they are in Missouri and Idaho, respectively), our holidays always look a little different.
While Addie’s older relatives haven’t let her host Thanksgiving for the entire family - in spite of writing about it for more than a decade - she has hosted Friendsgiving. First bit of advice: Divvy up duties and don’t take on too much.
So many cooks treat Thanksgiving Day like it's All Martyrs Day. I don't need help in the kitchen. I don't need you to bring anything. Don't worry about the dishes. Those phrases really drive me crazy, but I've learned a lot about letting the host be however they want/need to be on Thanksgiving. Some people just really love the adrenaline and the chaos. I'd much rather go on a walk in the neighborhood with my cousins or catch up with a relative who is helping me get the dishes together.
Emily Nunn brings the salad. Plus wit and candor.
I learned somewhere that if you’ve invited to a potluck and don’t know what to bring, it’s safe to bring salad. So I asked author and former columnist for The New Yorker, Emily Nunn, who writes the Department of Salad newsletter, for her recommendation. She didn’t waste any time suggesting ‘’bitter greens with bacon, pecans, and warm balsamic dressing.’’ Best part? You deglaze the bacon pan to make the dressing.
Emily writes from her salad lab in Atlanta, but she grew up in southwestern Virginia and heads back there for Thanksgiving to an extended family and memories.
I spend the holidays at my Aunt Mariah's house, in Galax VA, where I grew up. I was raised on big pots of pinto beans, cornbread, green beans cooked with country ham and lots of casseroles and soups and stews…We were a big family with five kids so things came in big pots and casserole dishes. I had an eccentric mother and absent father - but both of them were really good people. My mom was a terrific cook and a lot of fun. My dad was smart and funny and kind.
But we were also a super-dysfunctional gothic southern family. Today, no one speaks and everyone is mad at someone else all the time, with people not communicating and being angry for decades. It's like something out of a book, but not one you want to read. Hahaha!
Which is why I'm especially happy to gather with my cousins at Aunt Mariah's at Thanksgiving. My cousin Susan rules the kitchen, and her daughter Katie has taken over the job of making my Aunt Mariah's Rolls, which are heaven. But I usually do dinner one night, usually two kinds of risotto: my mushroom and arthichoke risotto and a simpler one, or the greatest recipe I've ever invented, my Shrimp and Grits Risotto.
(Emily is sharing her black-eyed pea salad with Between the Layers in December, just in time for New Year’s!)
Thanksgiving for Jolene Handy is about gratitude and baking up memories
A fellow food history lover, Jolene Handy bakes out of her lovingly restored 1927 Chicago kitchen and writes the Time Travel Kitchen newsletter. We both love old cakes - she shared my orange chiffon cake recently. I’d just love to roll back time and bake a cake in Jolene’s kitchen!
When I moved to this apartment I was so touched by the fact that the kitchen was intact after almost a century so I wanted to write about it.
My kitchen has the oldest metal cabinets ever made in the US, made by the Murphy Bed Company in 1927 by a spinoff company called Murphy-Cabranette. My apartment is in a former residential hotel built by the Wrigley family in the 1920’s on Lake Michigan.
And from this vintage space, New Yorker Jolene who was born in Brooklyn, grew up on Long Island and lived in Manhattan for 40 years, dives into recipes from across America like that chiffon cake as well as Ebinger’s Mocha Buttercream Cake and Ginger Molasses Cookies.
This year, still mourning her mother’s recent death, she is not making the sausage stuffing, roasted root vegetables or fresh cranberry sauce she normally does for Thanksgiving, but going out to eat with her brother and sister-in-law.
It will be a treat to be a guest at a restaurant! I will, however make a turkey breast at home so we can all have sandwiches the next day, very important!
Jolene says to make sure you have good bread on hand because there is nothing better or more thrifty than hot turkey sandwiches on Friday!
I think the pandemic has changed how I look at everything. The one thing that hasn’t changed is that this is the season of gratitude.
If your idea of turkey dinner is making reservations, head to The Food Section
Hanna Raskin is a former newspaper journalist from Ann Arbor, MI, who covers the food and drink of the South, from restaurants and bars to farmers and fishermen. She’s always loved sweet potatoes and was known to keep them in her desk drawer at Charleston’s Post & Courier to microwave for lunch. And she’s always loved oysters and is envious of people whose Thanksgiving traditions involve them, since her mother’s shellfish allergy prevented oysters being served.
When she’s not on the road 15 to 20 days a month, she’s in Charleston, SC, writing about restaurant discoveries and trends.
Thanksgiving 2021 could provide one example of the pandemic bringing much-needed sanity to the F&B industry. For years, the only restaurants which stayed open for the holiday were attached to hotels: I well remember eating Thanksgiving dinner at 10 a.m. before serving a gazillion people at the Inn on Biltmore Estate.
But in the years leading up to the pandemic, it was the rare restaurant which surrendered the revenue opportunity. Even in 2020, most restaurants were so starved for revenue that it seemed like everyone offered at least a takeout package. Now, as you say, staffing is such a challenge that many restaurants are rethinking that strategy and giving workers a much-needed day off. Here's hoping retail stores which have started opening their doors for Black Friday on Thursday at 6 p.m. do the same.
Our plan this year is to spend the holiday with my husband’s sibling and their wife. They got married last year, and we haven’t seen them as a couple since the pandemic started. My new sister-in-law is a talented and enthusiastic cook, so she's handling the whole meal, but I was put in charge of wine.
Hanna recommends an American wine for Thanksgiving… “bubbles are the best match for such a rich feast - especially when there's a wedding to celebrate!” She ordered a Gruet Sauvage Rose as well as an Evening Land pinot noir and Mathiasson Napa Valley white.
To friends, family, discoveries, traditions, staying at home or venturing out, to normalcy or not, and to writing columns here on Substack and meeting a new community of writers. I hope the upcoming season is a good one for you and yours.
This Thursday for Subscribers:
Let’s cook inexpensively on weeknights in the lead up to Thanksgiving with some cost-cutting tips and a fabulous frugal pasta recipe from Beth Moncel of Budget Bytes. And BIG CONGRATS to the October winner of an autographed copy of my book, Skillet Love - Mary Kramer!
You have a few days left to take advantage of my 6-month celebration discount and become a paid subscriber! This offer turns into a pumpkin after Nov 5!
More reading & that yummy shrimp recipe…
This Year’s Thanksgiving Feast will Wallop the Wallet, The New York Times.
Cara’s Cocktail Shrimp
My husband’s sweet Aunt Janet got this recipe from her hair stylist Cara Duffy in Chattanooga. I just love the idea of Aunt Janet getting her hair done and chatting about recipes. It’s such a quick recipe because you begin with precooked shrimp - let the seafood counter do it or buy those frozen precooked shrimp at Costco or Sam’s and defrost them. I can’t figure out why this recipe became a Thanksgiving staple, but it’s probably because all ages love it and it’s vibrantly colored and festive. And if by chance you have leftovers, they can be pulled out of the fridge for a next-day salad. My tweak is to sprinkle a tablespoon of drained capers on top for garnish.
Makes 8 to 12 servings
Prep: 15 minutes, plus overnight thawing, if needed, of the frozen shrimp
1 pound large shrimp, cooked, peeled, and deveined
1 cup mayonnaise (Cara likes Hellmann’s)
1/2 cup chili sauce
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
2 tablespoons chopped pimento-stuffed green olives
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
1 tablespoon finely chopped onion
1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
If the shrimp are frozen, thaw them in a bowl of cold water, then drain. Or, let them thaw in the fridge overnight. Remove the tails if desired.
Place the mayonnaise and chili sauce in a medium bowl and stir to combine. Fold in the celery, olives, parsley, onion, pickle relish, and lemon juice. Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste. Cover with plastic wrap and chill.
Just before serving, you fold the drained shrimp into the sauce. Place the bowl on a tray or large plate to serve. Scatter some more parsley or some capers on top if you like. Serve with toothpicks and cocktail napkins.