jolie laide

jolie laide

I started this when I lived in Brooklyn and struggled for grace in a city that grants moments of beauty and ugliness breathtakingly close to one another. Now I live in a place where things are a different kind of ugly and the beauty is pedestrian. I struggle with that.


There are leaves clogging my gutters. This is a month of so many anniversaries, events, poignancies, that I can't write, I am stuffed so full.

Thanksgiving. Where do I even start with this? I love an opportunity to be grateful. I love the idea of a whole day set aside to think about this. I adore the idea of doing this with friends, with family. I love cooking for people, for making a gift of sustenance, for feeding them, almost literally, my love and affection. I love sharing meals, and the bigger and more festive, all so much the better.

I love the food of Thanksgiving. I love the interplay of sweet and savory, I love the colors that mirror the leaves of autumn, the reds, the rusts, the oranges. I love the challenge of making ten dishes at once, even though I have long ago gotten this down cold.

The menu is the same as it is every year, there is insistance on this. It is not my insistance, but I am happy to oblige. There is a turkey, of course, a small one as there are vegetarians. There is cranberry sauce made from real cranberries, the berries soft and deflated and counterpointed with rough curls of orange zest. There are potatoes, boiled and mashed by hand with milk, butter and garlic and with their skins still on, slivers of redness against creamy white. There are sweet potatoes, pureed and tarted up with bourbon and pecans, and you must act quickly because the 79 year old matriarch will eat all of it if you don't arm wrestle her for your portion. There are baby carrots, simmered in orange juice, glazed with apricot conserve to heighten their sweetness and ginger to spike your tongue.

There is corn pudding, and if you have never had it you must ask me to make it for you because you would never believe that corn and nutmeg in custard could make you swoon. There are haricot verts, blanched and brushed with worchestershire sauce and wrapped into bundles with strips of bacon and baked unless you are sadly one of the vegetarians and then you miss the crisp rill of bacon against the crunch of the bean. There are two kinds of stuffing because I cannot choose which and why should you have to choose between the savory--mushrooms, sausage, celery, walnuts, corn bread and the sweet--apricots, dried cherries, apples, almonds, sourdough bread.

There is a simple, unadorned pumpkin pie and a second one to eat for breakfast the next morning, its skin cracked from the ride home balanced in your lap. And there is the hazelnut cheesecake, drizzled with hazelnut liqueur, because hazelnuts are somehow, magically, majestically, the connection between the matriarch and the world she lost during the terrible war that propelled her to this country.

There is so much to be thankful for I am practically breathless.


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