Eats goes to New England
We came from San Francisco to Brunswick, Maine. Folks assembled came from Monroe, Maine; Providence, Rhode Island; Seattle, Washington; Beacon, New York; Bar Harbor, Maine; Columbus, Ohio; Portland, Maine, Brookline, Massachusetts, London, England; and Grundisburgh Woodbridge Suffolk England. All are connected to our hosts, Katy and Bill, and have been part of this gathering over the years. Katy was our neighbor on Harrison Street in Newton for many years.
“Marc, Carol, Brian, Eric and Alison,” Katy said, “meet Ethan and Sally, Chloe, Kareim, and Suha, Michael and Felicity, Conner, Elisa, and William, Dan and Jill, Susan and Andy, Peggy and Marie, Donna and finally, Phoebe.” Eric and Alison live nearby in Monroe, Maine and attend this Thanksgiving celebration annually, so they know folks, the rest of us haven’t been for years so we’ll get to know them over the afternoon and evening.
It all began on Madison Avenue in Newton Massachusetts somewhere in the early 1990’s and continued when Katy moved to Maine in the mid ‘90s.
As with all good gatherings, the kitchen is the hub. Everybody is involved at one time or another, cooking, assembling, serving, carving and of course, eating. A spread of appetizers occupies the breakfast area: cheeses, liver pate, dilly beans, bread and butter pickles, breads and crackers. Grazing was happening.
Walks were taken by groups of two, three or four over the rolling, rural Maine roads, largely uninhabited on this day.
Eric buttered two Bourbon Bronze turkeys that he had raised for this occasion, one nearly 12 pounds, the other nearly eight pounds. Babies were entertained and entertaining, a football game was on the TV in a remote corner of the dining room. Old friends and new friends grouped in knots about the house, but the focus always returned to the kitchen where pies, and finally turkeys rotated through the oven.
Marie started with the first sauté pan in the process of preparing an amazing amount of collard greens, sautéed with olive oil and garlic. The aromas mingled with those of the crackling turkeys as serious dinner prep began.
All this was new to me although I had been to a few Katy Thanksgiving dinners in Newton, small affairs with friends and neighbors. This one is the biggest ever. People settled into their roles. Furniture was moved out of the dining/sitting room to make way for two large round tables in addition to the long table already in place. The football game, a blow out in any case, went away.
Soon Jill took a place at the stove to start onions sizzling in olive oil for a second batch of collard greens braised in chicken stock.
Another event, elsewhere in the kitchen grabbed our attention; two boxes were opened to reveal bags of Dungeness crabs, flown in from Seattle for a first course. Connor and Bill began the cleaning and portioning in the sink.
Jill and Dan (glass artists) had crafted place names and Susan, Chloe and Pheobe made a seating chart using playing cards in some sort of lottery affair to assign seats. Tables of six, seven and ten assembled for the crab course. Soon the sounds of cracking crab shells were more pronounced than the light conversation. Dungeness crabs at a New England Thanksgiving? Katy’s husband, Bill is from Seattle, and his daughter there sends the crab each year. Yum.
I was enlisted to help carve the turkey alongside Bill. The dark meat was very dark and the white moist and tasty.
And so the dinner began, elegant in its simplicity, the room steeped in conviviality.
squash, sausage and fruit stuffing in bird
sautéed collard greens
braised collard greens
One Pie pumpkin pie
Carol’s pumpkin pie
Jill’s apple pie
chocolate ice box cake
During the dessert course, Bill whipped up a train of Irish Coffee for all those interested.
“Only Irish coffee provides in a single glass all four essential food groups: alcohol, caffeine, sugar and fat.” – Alex Levine
It started raining during dinner. Who knew? Who cared? In the end, everyone was smiling.