Monday, November 23, 2009

Family Recipes

The best way I could think of to share Thanksgiving with you is by sharing a family recipe. My husband's Aunt Mary passed it along over the years. But it was his sister, Ann Burckhardt, who brought it up to date for us. She's great at that. Her last book, which was considered one of the best cookbooks of that year by The New York Times, revisited all the standard hot dishes and made them work in today's kitchens with the best ingredients. It's called Hot Dish Heaven, published by the Minnesota Historical Society. Ann's been a kind of food detective in Minnesota, bringing back many of the grand old favorites.

This year, we finally decided to give up on the baked mushrooms we've considered a holiday standard. We forgot to bring the recipe west with us and neither of us could remember it exactly. Additionally, I'd noticed that the past few years guests just weren't thrilled with it. We're trying a new vegetable dish instead. But we're going to try it out before it makes its way to our Thanksgiving table. It's always a good plan.

A few years ago, The New York Times printed a letter I wrote about Thanksgiving and the joy of sharing it with others. It was in response to an article about how annoying it was to have "orphan" guests. I guess the author of the article had a poor experience. My experience has always been just the opposite. And in New York, there were always people who couldn't get home to be with their own families. These guests made us even more thankful that we could share what we had with them. Having them grace a seat at the table was a precious tradition. That's a recipe for a Happy Thanksgiving.


  1. I am always looking for orphan Thanksgiving guests. This year the orphan will just come in the evening for dessert after spending the day with his mom in a nursing home.

    Thanks for the special recipe.

  2. We had an orphan guest with us last year, and it was such a delightful experience that he is going to be with us again this year. He is a single young man with no family in the area. Because he is single he usually chooses to work on holidays, so that others can be with their families. He will come to our home after his work shift, and there will be a place just for him at our table. I am thankful to be able to provide both food and a "family" for him to celebrate with. :)

    I had actually read your letter to the NYT editor and thought your response was spot on. Thank you so much for being one of those examples of thankfulness... encouraging us to show gratitude in our daily lives. Thanks also for sharing that recipe with us. I hope you and your family have a very blessed holiday.


  3. Gathering family and friends around a table at the holidays is one of the great joys of life. Your letter was perfectly crafted, Nancy (as always) and your response is so in keeping with the spirit and soul of Victoria. Nice matters, especially at the holidays! Orphans everywhere salute you!
    Karen Marline, wishing you a heartfelt and happy Thanksgiving...

  4. My husband & I are frequently transferred due to job (11 times in 23 years). For Thanksgiving we are usually either the orphans or host fellow orphans. We've even had turkey in the form of sandwiches at a ski resort in Alaska! I love your blog and the old Victoria. I had a different take on Judith's article. I thought she was complaining about all the complaining that accompanies the holidays. I prefer a more upbeat tone - but I think her sentiment was to enjoy the day and all that it brings - even orphans. P.S. Is anyone asking you to consult on their magazine?

  5. I received Hot Dish Heaven in the mail a few years ago when I was still a food writer for a daily newspaper, and loved it! I still have a copy.

    Someday, I hope to be at the point in my life when I can take in orphans for Thanksgiving and other holidays. Right now, given my job, the holiday provides an oasis of calm in the midst of a very busy time of year.

    I was an Thanksgiving orphan once, and ended up having a wonderful time with my friend Terry and her parents. I cherish those memories today.

  6. Happy Thanksgiving Nancy & all!--Love,Valery

  7. @Anonymous: I have been asked many times to consult, especially on start-up magazines, and have done it, in fact. However, at this point, I would have to have my arm twisted or hear a very good story!

  8. Here, in Quebec, Thanksgiving isn't popular in our french communauty... but I like to read about this. I have many recipes for this time of November.

    Concerning your letter, Nancy, it's nice to invite those who don't have family nearby. Enjoy!

    Québec City