This year, I relived the real magic of a traditional Thanksgiving with some dear friends of mine. I traveled all of the way out to sunny California to cook a full Turkey Day meal for about eight people. Crazy? Maybe. At least that is what my friend who I visited told me, but I disagree. You see, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Filled to the brim with eating, laughing, digesting, turkey comas, a parade, afternoon football….the list goes on. Not to mention, any meal that features mashed potatoes with 8,000 pounds of butter swimming in gravy isn’t too shabby a meal in my book.

It was such a joy and pleasure to cook for my dear friends Kris and Abi, and to make their children the first traditional Thanksgiving meal for their children, Will and Henry. What an absolute honor!

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My good friend Kris, and her first-born Willy-bean.

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Feed me Seymour!!!

Although I have cooked for Thanksgiving many a time, and have cooked the whole shebang for myself before, this feat was a whole different story…but one I was fully looking forward to, nonetheless. My friends hadn’t had the traditional spread in some time, due to living across the country from family, and most of their friends traveling home for the holidays. Plus, add in two little ones, and traveling becomes near impossible. So, with that said, it seemed like the perfect opportunity. I grabbed a plane ticket, packed up the old suitcases and headed west to make the quintessential roast beast.

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A snapshot of said “quintessential roast beast” in all it’s sage-buttered glory.

This trip was exciting on many fronts. It has been ages since I busted loose from the East Coast and ventured out of my normal life patterns. This is such an essential need that we so often overlook. It was so refreshing to step off that plane in a whole new atmosphere, and reminded me how very much I love to travel. Secondly, I hadn’t seen my good friends since their wedding in 2007, nor had I ever had the privilege of meeting their kiddies, or their glorious black lab, Finny. I was bursting at the seams to see them all.

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This is Finnegan the Wonder Dog in his “wheels-up” pose. Quite the ham. And yes, he actually sleeps like that, silly puppy.

Lastly, and as lame as it sounds, I had yet to ever fly Virgin America, and I was really excited to see what all of the hullabaloo was about. I admit, it was quite snazzy, and I loved the small touches, such as Method soap in the bathroom, actual CLEAN bathrooms, in seat entertainment, and possibly my favorite, you could order right from your seat screen, eliminating the need to yell out to your cabin host each time you wanted a glass of water. It’s the little things, right?

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I made like a “Virgin virgin”, flying the airline for the very first time. Although, I do think I have that belt somewhere in the back of my closet at home.

The only part that was slightly disturbing was the garb of some of the stewardesses. Had I been a 12 year old boy, I may have enjoyed the six-inch spikes that were being strut about the cabin, but it was all sort of odd and impractical to me. I guess that is the price of fashion. Or perhaps I was just rethinking my pajama-esque outfit, but that is the price of comfort while sitting still for six hours, I suppose. Hey, at least I was serendipitously sat next to a cute fella and landed the only aisle in the plane that was missing a passenger in the middle seat, so I was able to sprawl out a bit.

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A hybrid lemon-lime tree located adjacent to my guest cottage. Doesn’t that sound fancy? It was. But then again, nothing is out of the ordinary when you sleep in a place dubbed ‘Serenity Cove.’ This made me unreasonably giddy when I spotted it.

Anyhow, once in California, arriving at the house, I promptly made a new best friend in my little buddy Will. I couldn’t get enough of their amazing children and their cute personalities. So interesting to meet your friends’ children for the first time and see what type of people they created. You see, Kris and I go way back, as former roomies in NYC back in 2002, so this was quite the trip to meet her little ones!

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My ho from a different area code. We go way back…homies for life!

Soon after all of the introductions had been made, and I had been thoroughly educated on the whole of of Will’s toy collection, including the intricate inner-workings of such classics as Candyland and Memory, we headed out to go grocery shopping and prepare for the big feast. It turned out pretty well if I do say so myself. I had to wing a few things, but all-in-all, a success!

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Look at all of those beautiful, bold antioxidants just glistening in the pan. Yum. A mixture of granny smith apples, yellow onions, whole cranberry, chopped celery, and pomegranate seeds, topped with fresh sage and rosemary.

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Fresh from the oven! Homemade stuffing and green bean casserole (my favorite dish, aside from the taters).

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“Um. Hey. I know I am way down here, so….I just wanted to stare at you…make sure you know I am still here. Just chillin’…waiting…ever-so-patiently. Oh, did I mention how nice you look today, with that flour caked to the side of your face. Brilliant! Just freaking adorable. Seriously.” (sniff sniff)

And after the toils in the kitchen had come to a close, and after sitting down to eat, it turns out that watching friends around the table, chatting, and enjoying one-another’s company made the whole two-day, ‘balls-to-the-wall’ cooking bonanza worthwhile. My favorite part? It had to be that I was present to see a child experience the first of a long-standing, lifetime tradition…watching him take it all in with giddy pleasure, perched at the table with the rest of us “big kids.” And when asked what he was thankful for, the answer was instant and priceless. “I’m thankful for Lollipops….Strawberries….and CHICKEN!”

My kinda kid.

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One, big, happy family!!

 

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