JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Today I'm packing, picking up the rental minivan, taking the dog to the kennel and girding my loins for the eleven-hour drive to Alexandria, VA. (That's eleven hours with stops but without traffic jams. It has been known to take up to 14 hours.) We're going to be sharing Thanksgiving with my sister and brother and their families and dogs. (We are all dog people, averaging 2 per household.)
We try to keep the holiday in Washington every third year or so. We love our visits. Ross and the kids and I stay in a suite hotel so everyone can retreat into their corners after a long, active day together, and we always do fun things in DC. There's a huge age spread among the cousins - from 26 to 2 - and one of the aspects of our visit Ross and I love is what we call "fake grandparent outing." That's when we take Max and Xavier, or baby Robbie (all of whom are young enough to easily be our grandkids instead of our nephews) to the zoo or the Air and Space Museum. Since we'll probably be in our seventies before we have actual grandchildren capable of enjoying tapas followed by a tour of the National Geographic headquarters, we're getting our time in now.
There's always a football game at Uncle Pat and Aunt Julia's, the highlight of which is their dog, Dakota, who gives double high fives when anyone says, "Touchdown!" Truly amazing. We all eat at my sister's, where she never ceases to amaze everyone with her ability to pull a full-sized Thanksgiving Day feast out of a kitchen the size of a queen bed. The meal is always excellent, as is the one the next day we'll have at my brother's (he and his wife are gourmet cooks) but the food is never really the point. Instead, it's reconnecting with our far-flung family, giving the cousins time to know each other, and cracking jokes about events that happened in 1975.
How about you, Reds? What's the recipe for your Thanksgiving?
HALLIE EPHRON: That sounds like so much fun, Julia – it would almost get me in a car for an 11-hour drive.
Usually we have Thanksgiving here with family and friends, but this year we’re going to our kids in NY rather than everyone coming here. Daughter #1 has the top floor of a brownstone in Brooklyn, Daughter #2 has the floor below her with her husband and adorable daughter. We’re getting there a day early so I can cook. With another grandbaby on the way, we’re looking to forge new traditions.
The food: Butternut squash soup, roast turkey, gravy, stuffing (Pepperidge Farm with celery and onions added), cranberry sauce (canned, whole berry, please), mashed potatoes, green beans, apple pie, and pumpkin pie. Champagne and sparkling cider. As a treat I’m making ahead and bringing frozen, ready to bake Regina’s Butter Biscuits.
LUCY BURDETTE: All those celebrations sound wonderful, especially Hallie's menu:). But travel on Thanksgiving weekend is so agonizing, we've kind of given up trying to force the family to meet up. (Many are coming to Key West for Christmas instead!) My mother and her sisters shared all the holidays, rotating who would host. But in those days, everyone lived within an hour of each other. Harder now with the family spread across the country. This year we will probably join a gang of John's tennis-playing friends for a potluck at the courts. It may sound odd, but it's very festive and the food is delicious!
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Thanksgiving was a command performance for my family every year--with two kinds of stuffing, and black cherry jello , and champagne and Oysters Rockefeller. Now we've dispersed across the country, but some things will never change. There are certain must-haves that--no matter where we are--make it be the real holiday. And now I just email my brother Chip and tease him about black cherry jello.
This year , we may be going to a friend's house for the actual day. But leftovers are so key, I'll make the whole spread myself, just for Jonathan and me. A turkey, because it smells SO good, with the butter-in-cheesecloth method. Pepperidge Farm stuffing with celery and onions. Cranberry sauce, with orange peel and real cranberries, easy and SO tart and wonderful! Mashed potatoes, my one time of eating them per year. Champagne and Oysters Rockefeller, toasting my mom for beginning the tradition.
and then--leftovers! And I can make my special secret Turkey Tetrazzini. Turkey white meat, sauteed-in-buttery-garlic mushrooms, all in white sauce. Put in casserole with pasta. Bake, topped with toasted golden parmesan. Oh, my gosh. DEE-licious.
RHYS BOWEN: Every other year we have the big Thanksgiving in Arizona and the whole family comes. This year it will just be daughter Clare's family, maybe our daughter Anne from LA and us, along with our son-in-law's mother and sister. Clare always makes the most amazing stuffing, roasting french bread and vegetables then combining it with good stock. I have to make my mother's recipe apple crumble. We buy pumpkin pie (because I'm not keen on it so won't make it from scratch). We usually play bocce ball on the lawn, corn hole toss and ping pong before sitting down to dinner. In Arizona we can pretty much guarantee fine weather.
I suppose because I didn't grow up with Thanksgiving it doesn't mean as much to me as Christmas. I would hate it if the family couldn't all get together for the Christmas holiday.
SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: Love, love, love Thanksgiving, which we'll be celebrating this year with a gaggle of puppeteers, a few odd Brits (in both senses of the word), an author, an actress, maybe a ballet dancer, and really anyone else who wants a place at the table (Hallie? Want to swing by for dessert?). We're in NYC for it, as Hubby is usually on the Sesame Street float for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade as one of the muppets. This year he's going to be Big Bird.
The Sesame float is always one of the first out, so he's up by 4 a.m. and off to Macy's. Meanwhile, we've both prepped food the day before, so my job is basically to get everything in the oven at the right time. The menu includes turkey and gravy, homemade cranberry orange sauce, homemade cranberry-apple chutney, collard greens, corn soufflé, biscuits, sweet potatoes, and Pinot Noir (I like it with turkey). For dessert, we let guests bring things — true fact, Broadway actors/actresses always bring Junior's Cheesecake — there's one in Times Square. So we tape the parade, puppeteers come over, lots of them have been up since four, so they nap where they can.... Then we watch the parade, and then there's dinner! Much to be thankful for....
DEBORAH CROMBIE: Oh, what fun, Julia! And Susan, how cool is it that Noel is in the Macy's parade. I'll be watching this year for sure. All this makes ours sound a bit dull, but still we are really looking forward to it. Many years we've done Thanksgiving at my aunt and uncle's, but my uncle passed away last year and the crowd is getting smaller. Things are changing in our family, too. With the grandbaby on the way, my daughter is wanting to establish her own traditions. So we're having Thanksgiving at my daughter and son-in-law's this year, just the four of us and our friend and neighbor. (Although I suspect that there will be open-door at their house after the meal with their crowd coming and going.)
We're having honey-glazed ham and have ordered a smoked turkey from our local (terrific) barbecue place. I'm in charge of the dressing (Texas is the South in that regard, and it must be cornbread) and gravy. We're still planning the rest but there will be sweet potatoes, potatoes, broccoli/cheese casserole (from scratch), and my cranberry orange relish. And pies! As Susan says, much to be thankful for this year.
JULIA: When we watch the Macy's parade on Thanksgiving morning, we'll all be looking out for Noel! I may get extra cred with my young nephews when I tell them I know Big Bird's wife!
How about you, dear readers? Friends? Family? A restful day at home eating turkey breast and watching the National Dog show?