Thanksgiving memories from our authors

Sara Forte, Tanya Steel, Jean-Georges Vongerichten and others share their favorite Thanksgiving memories.

We love capturing those wonderful moments that happen during the holidays. Family traditions and the gathering of friends provide the perfect mental snapshots that one can both look back on and look forward to during the rest of the year. With this in mind, we and our sister sites asked our authors if they had a favorite Thanksgiving memory.

From our friends at Books for Better Living:

Author of The Sprouted Kitchen

My grandfather, my mother’s father, had Alzheimer’s. He passed away a couple of years ago, but I can remember a good six to 10 years of us all watching his brain and memory fail him. It was tough to watch, but at times, offered comic relief. I can remember one holiday, all of us at a table, and my grandfather chiming in to the conversation. He got names incorrect, was completely off topic and made no sense, but we all just played along with it. Though he couldn’t track the conversation at the table while we ate a great meal, we all decided to join in on his brain and just be nonsensical as well. We didn’t discuss it, but the family was all behind him, loving him in that way. It was special to watch and to think of in retrospect.

Author of Up

They stood in the driveway, hands raised in greeting, warm smiles brightening their deeply wrinkled faces. My parents’ Thanksgiving welcome was a reassuring constant in my often-turbulent life; I was back at the nest, however temporarily, and all felt solid and secure. During the months to come, I would use this memory, as I had in years past, to bring peace to a troubled mind. My children shouted their happy hellos as they tumbled out of the car.

Author of January First

Thanksgiving is a family holiday that often forces us parents of special needs children to take our kids out of their routines and put them in an environment with people who rarely see them, let alone “know them.”

It is Thanksgiving, 2006. Jani, our only child at this time, is four, and her diagnosis of child onset schizophrenia is still two years away and far off our radar. All we know is that she’s “different” and extremely smart, having just tested with a 146 IQ.

There are plenty of other relatives’ kids around, but I’m shadowing Jani, while she continues to go up and down the staircase, hoping she finds something, anything, that will interest her so she won’t start screaming to leave.

I have to shadow her all the time in case she says something that is considered “rude” or “weird” by her cousins. I’m ready to swoop in to defend her because the last thing I want is for the other kids to say something mean to Jani or even give a confused look. I don’t want Jani to feel “different.” She is who she is, and I never want her to feel ashamed of that.

I’m upstairs at this point, avoiding extended family members like the plague. They aren’t bad people, but I’m sick of trying to explain Jani’s odd behavior to them. She’s bright and eccentric, but so was Albert Einstein.

Jani gets hungry and starts downstairs to get some chips.

I follow.

As we enter the kitchen and family room I can feel the glances in our direction, as Jani is now talking freely about playing with her “Imaginary Friends.” I wish I could extend a giant force field around Jani to shield her from this “disapproval.” If I can feel it then so can she.

Susan is sitting at the adult table, trying to explain to one of the recently married young women why we are not forcing Jani to conform.

“She’s brilliant,” Susan tells her.

The young woman shakes her head over a wine glass and argues back. “But how is anyone going to see her brilliance if she isn’t normal and can’t function in society.”

Susan spots me, hovering over Jani taking some chips. “Well, Michael, what do you think?”

The young woman turns to me. “Don’t you agree that some conformity is necessary?”

I look down at Jani, who doesn’t appear to be listening, but what if she is? This “judgment” could sink into her subconscious.

I turn back to the young woman and smile. “Normal people don’t change the world,” I say.

She gets up from the table, wine glass in hand, and says, “Whatever,” while Susan looks at me, satisfied, glad to be done explaining Jani’s social eccentricities for the night.

As I think back to this moment, I can see how my statement is motivated by our denial that anything is “wrong.” I’ve come a long way since then, and so has Susan, but if I could go back in time
I would still give the same answer. Thanksgiving is about giving thanks for what we have, not lamenting what we don’t have. I am thankful for Jani, and I am thankful for everything she has taught me about being a father. She has taught me what Thanksgiving really means.

During Thanksgiving, there should be no future and no past. There should be only now. Celebrate the “now.”

Happy Holidays, Love The Schofield Family

From our friends at The Recipe Club:

Author of Home Cooking with Jean-Georges

My first Thanksgiving in the U.S. was in 1986. I was invited by the first farmers I met in Union Square to celebrate with them in upstate New York. I remember it feeling a lot like Christmas, since I wasn’t used to celebrating Thanksgiving. We ate sweet potato gratin, swiss chard with bacon, cranberry chestnut stuffing and a traditional roasted turkey. My favorite part of the meal was the pecan, apple and pumpkin pie.

For recipes, articles and other interviews with Jean-Georges Vongerichten visit The Recipe Club.

Author of The Epicurious Cookbook

My best Thanksgiving memory is when I was very pregnant with my twin boys. It was 1997 and we hadn’t decided yet what their names would be. My extended family sat around the table, a 20-pound roast turkey with a chestnut, raisin and apple stuffing, roasted Brussels sprouts, buttery chive mashed potatoes, and big goblets of Beaujolais Noveau, and we tossed around names. It was at that table we (or really I) decided to give them longstanding family names, William and Sanger.

For more Thanksgiving memories from our cookbook authors, visit The Recipe Club.

From our friends at CrafterNews:

Author of Your Baby in Pictures

I remember the first Thanksgiving after Brian and I were married. Even though it isn’t true, you assume that everyone celebrates holidays the same way. Brian was in for a big surprise when he walked into my parent’s dining room and saw half a dozen bowls of kimchee and a big bowl of rice. Mashed potatoes were nowhere to be found! We all started laughing because the Koreans in our family pick rice over mashed potatoes any day, Thanksgiving or not. Well for the last 15 years, you can guess what Brian volunteers to bring.

Author of BurdaStyle Sewing Vintage Modern

During my college and grad school days as a student living in New York, being a West Coaster usually meant staying behind in the big city for Thanksgiving and volunteering for Meals-on-Wheels, or banning together with other holiday orphans to cook a nice meal together. I’ve always been more of a dessert person and back then, I didn’t feel confident enough yet to prepare meat (let alone a whole turkey!!!). One year when divvying up potluck responsibilities, pie was already taken so I was forced to whip up a savory dish. I found a great Caribbean rice and beans recipe on Epicurious (untraditional, I know) that used bay leaves. I had never cooked with that ingredient before, but I made a big batch and it turned out to be a huge flavorful success. It was especially a hit for the vegetarians, who enjoyed it as their main dish, and also became a food staple for me since it was so easy to make.

Author of Wendy Knits Lace

I did not have many traditional Thanksgivings as a child. My dad was in the military, so most of my childhood was spent in Europe. When we lived in London, the U.S. military arranged for inexpensive charter flights so we always went on a trip over Thanksgiving break. My favorite memory was of a traditional turkey dinner at the American Embassy in Paris, followed by a visit to the Louvre with my dad.

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