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Giving Thanks

Remembering the Thanksgiving traditions of a childhood in New England and a mom who, it seemed, could do it all.

Growing up in New England and having a mom who is a professional chef means that you take Thanksgiving very seriously. For me, as a kid, as soon as the maple leaves changed color and the nights were chilly and crisp, our family’s preparation for the holidays was underway. In September, we picked apples and gathered bushel baskets of butternut squash, onions and russet potatoes from the autumn harvest. In October, we picked pumpkins and colored gourds to decorate the holiday table. We polished the silver, organized the linens and by November, we knew who would be sitting at our table.

My mother started days before, shopping for ingredients and cooking anything that could be done ahead. She made the filling for pumpkin and mince meat pie and fresh cranberry sauce. The night before Thanksgiving, my mother stayed up late making her famous stuffing and flaky pie crust. My father got the job of paring the vegetables and peeling the apples for pies. And us kids – we helped set the table.

Thanksgiving morning was my favorite. My mother would get up at dawn and get the turkey and pies in the oven. With only one oven, there was a lot of juggling. As soon as I woke up, no matter what time, I could smell the turkey roasting all the way upstairs in my bedroom. My mom would busy herself all morning making creamed onions, Brussels sprouts with brown butter and bacon, mashing potatoes and butternut squash, and making her famous scalloped oysters, a tradition both in our family and all over New England.

Thanksgiving has always been a favorite holiday of mine. Maybe it’s because I am a chef and the day focuses on one of my favorite things – food. Or maybe it’s because the day brings back so many wonderful memories of my mom and my family. And now, every year when I’m cooking turkey and mashing potatoes for the people I love who will be sitting at my table, I always think of my mom and the joy she felt sharing the table with those who were closest to her heart. Now that’s something to be thankful for.

Recipes:
I would like share with all of you my tried-and-true method for making the most perfectly moist roast turkey. Be prepared, you have to start a few days in advance but it’s well worth it.

THE PERFECT ROAST TURKEY
JOANNE’S DOUBLE STOCK TURKEY GRAVY

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