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November 18, 2011
Thanksgiving: Celebrating the comfort of traditions
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. There are no gifts, no expectations—and I feel so lucky to be with people I love and who love me. We have a Thanksgiving tree, and everyone writes down something they’re thankful for and hangs it on a branch. Before dinner, we all read them—and then we take a moment to honor our ancestors, to think about who used to be at this table and who isn’t now, and to remember them.
In light of these traditions, the food on Thanksgiving may seem secondary—but it’s really a special tradition in itself. The whole family ends up in the kitchen together. I don’t eat meat, so I make about a thousand vegetables—and, most important, my great-grandmother’s New England bread stuffing. One year, I made sausage stuffing instead, and it practically caused a family riot—which was a not-so-gentle reminder of the sanctity of our traditions. There is a special comfort in the foods we grew up with. The smells and the tastes are such powerful drivers of memories.
The same holds true for the flavors we experience in our travels. Not only does the smell of freshly baked pizza bring me right back to Italy, but it also brings back beautiful memories of the people I enjoyed it with—in particular, the landlady of the house Alan and I rented in Sicily, who shared with me the precious secrets of her kitchen.
Because I know we’re all thankful for the ability to travel and the joy of discovering new places and people—and, let’s face it, who doesn’t think about food on Thanksgiving?—I decided that this was a perfect time to revisit some of the culinary traditions we’ve explored this year in Global Kitchen. I’m especially partial to the ones we’ve featured from Italy—because they’re both delicious and vegetarian! But if I had to pick one menu, I’d be happy with anything served by Sally Schwab, an 8-time traveler from San Antonio, Texas, who re-creates meals from her travels for her family and friends. You can read Sally’s mouthwatering story here.
We’ll be featuring some of our favorite traveler stories next month in Harriet’s Corner. What are your favorite memories from your travels—culinary or otherwise? Please email me with them. I look forward to hearing from you, and hope you have a lovely Thanksgiving.