This Thanksgiving, Moving Beyond Gourmet (Magazine)
Here’s a dilemma: How do you have your Thanksgiving and eat it too? For me, the answer is to celebrate early, then head for warmer climes over the holiday itself. Imagine it: all your friends clamoring to join you at a family-style banquet without family-style irritations. There’s no getting stuck at the kids’ table. No Cool Whip. And most definitely no football. It’s Thanksgiving for the Thanksgiving-lover–in a word, bliss.
But that bliss, officially known as Gobble Gobble Night, never would have been achieved without Gourmet magazine. When I started fact-checking there five years ago, I was just another girl who loved to cook and thought she was pretty darn good at it–when she thought about it at all. During my first week, between making phone calls to price-check hotels in Rome and sending e-mails to establish the precise differences in aging techniques between tawny, ruby, and non-Vintage Ports, I wandered the magazine’s mazelike hallways feeling like the youngest ensign assigned to the Starship Enterprise. “Yes, but do you really braise it?” I’d hear a senior food editor ask with the sort of concern I’d always associated with questions along the lines of, “Okay, but was it benign?” I had thought I loved food–thought I knew it–but clearly I didn’t. Not at all.
To say that working at the magazine fed my culinary knowledge is like saying that going to elementary school endows you with a love of literature. In an ideal world, yes; but first you need to learn to read. There are disadvantages to being surrounded by professors when you’re a fumbling fourth grader, but the advantages–like that particular brand of ferocious generosity one only encounters in chefs–more than compensate. And you never know where that generosity might lead you. Back in the fall of 2006, during a discussion of the best turkey roasting methods with my colleague Lillian, I told her about my vision for a best-of-all-possible-worlds Thanksgiving. “Come with me,” she said promptly. “I have something for you.” It turned out there was an extra Bell & Evans bird down in the test kitchen. Did I want it? I did. But that was only the beginning. “You need aromatics,” Lillian announced firmly, passing me several freezer bags packed with vegetable parings. “Wait, where are you going? Don’t forget the turkey stock.” One grocery bag was filled, then another. What ensign wouldn’t seize the helm?
That first Gobble night was too much of everything: food, labor, stress. Everything, that is, except space–my modest dining room couldn’t accommodate fifteen guests. “Could. Not. Eat,” says my brother, Alex, when he remembers that evening, gritting his teeth like a superhero whose powers are being taxed beyond measure. “No. Room. On. Table. For. Plate.” But the food, oh, the food! People still reminisce over the butternut squash and creamed-spinach gratin. It should have taken me 1
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