Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.
Our season of gratitude began with a stop in Nashville. We ordered Thai food and sat around a table full of friends who daily strive to make the world and themselves better. Jules, K. C., Keith, Tommy and Scott we love you and so grateful to call each of your family. Thai food is plastic is a great option when all you want to do is eat good food and be in the moment with your chosen family. If you’re ever in Nashville/Goodletsville…Thai Phooket II.
My gratitude goes way deep. The top of the list will never change. My parent’s are always with me and my gratitude for who they were and what they gave me has to always be mentioned first. Then, sharing the same emotional value are the two men seen with me in the photo above. I met Bucky Farnor in in 1991 and Brandt Edwards in 1997. I honestly don’t want to know what life would be without them by my side. I look forward to the years to come as we continue our voyage on the journey of life. I could go on about how much I love them but some of you have already nagged me about what we ate for Thanksgiving.
Bucky was our host at Little Downton and did not disappoint. We were thrilled to meet new friends Phil and McCay…and a good time was had by all!!!
We arrived Wednesday afternoon. It felt like we should eat immediately but we did wait just a bit. Phil hosted us for cocktails before we went to dinner. Should you find yourself in FAR East Tennessee make sure to put Gourmet and Co., Johnson City, TN on your culinary map. Don’t let the strip mall location throw you off. It’s warm and inviting.
And the food….Divine.
Baby Beet Compressed Apple Salad
Butter Lettuce, Shaved and Roasted Beets, Buttermilk Blue, Candied Pecans, House Apple Butter, Pickled Mustard Seeds
Wild Mushroom Porridge
Carolina Gold Rice Middlins, Meyer Lemon, Parmesan Reggiano, Local Watercress, Poached Farm Egg
Goat Cheese Salad
Arugula, Candied Pecans, Tomato, Fried Citrus Panko Chevre, Verjus Vinaigrette
The Main Event…
Waygu Top Sirloin Cap, Fried Oysters, Roasted Brussel Sprouts Fingerling Potatoes…and OMG Sauce (I don’t remember what they called it but it was flawless)
Slow Roasted Pasture Raised Chicken n’ Dumplings
Wood Roasted Wild Mushrooms, Baby Kale, Cippolini Onion, Bacon, Brussels Sprouts, Chicken Veloute, Shaved Black Truffle
All Natural Angus Filet of Beef, House Cut Truffle Fries, Local Watercress Salad, Smoked Bacon, Buttermilk Blue Cheese, Marinated Red Onion, House Steak Sauce
Since I don’t eat dessert my brain clicked out when desserts came out…no photos. I know; I’m not a devoted blogger. Brandt had Buttermilk Pie akin to cheesecake, Phil had a really creative Carrot Cake baked in a ramekin and Bucky had a beautiful Ginger Cookie. They were all stunningly beautiful and by all reports; Delicious.
Thanksgiving at Little Downton
Our Thanksgiving Meal was an emotional trip through the cook books of our mother’s. Bucky did all the work. Brandt and I contributed but it was mostly an Appalachian Thanksgiving Feast.
The table was perfectly set with porcelain, sterling, cut crystal and linen. Each place setting and serving piece had stories to tell of the many, many tables they’ve graced, the continents they’ve explored and the hearts they’ve blessed. Of note, is the sunlight which danced off the window valence of prisms and washed the room with a light of gratitude.
Roast Turkey and Cornbread Dressing
I’ll start with the Main Event…Turkey and Dressing. We were introduced to Appalachian cooking when we visited Blackberry Farm, Walland, TN. While “regional cooking” is a trend in the world of fine dining Appalachian cooking has been practicing Farm to Table since Native Americans discovered maize. Bucky didn’t prepare Soup Beans and Cornbread, a “mess of greens”, a “bait of fried potatoes and ramps” or a Dried Apple Stack Cake. However, the menu he did create had several decidedly Appalachian offerings reminiscent of childhood at his ancestral table. Unique to the dressing my mother did was his addition of chestnuts to the dressing…and the texture. His family dressing was served cut into squares where my mother’s was spooned from the dish. This dressing is moist and rich with layers of flavors. While cornbread is obviously the base the overall texture is more like bread pudding…and, oh my…different is GOOD!!!
The gravy is a project for me. I have work to do as Brandt was totally enamored with the Giblet Gravy. And, yes, it was the real thing…lots of giblets (yep, those giblets) and eggs from the chickens in Bucky’s backyard. I think I’m just gonna have Bucky make it and freeze it. When I need it I’ll call in an order. Fedex is a lot easier than trying to figure this one out.
I’m not sure this is Appalachian. Actually, I’m fairly certain it’s not. Drunken Cranberry…this is signature Bucky Fanor. Cranberries, fresh pineapple, white grapes, mandarin oranges, A LOT of chopped pecans, sugar and a gracious plenty of RUM!!! I actually like cranberry sauce…congealed canned, fresh cooked or fresh not cooked…I like them all. He had me taste it on our Wednesday arrival and it was one step away from a Caribbean Cocktail. Yet, by meal time Thursday it had mellowed to the perfect sweet accompaniment for the savory turkey and dressing. The gratitude was amped up with this one!!!
I could have a contest with this one. I don’t think anyone could ever guess…unless you maybe grew up in East Tennessee or knew the Farnors. This is Sweet Potato Casserole. The sweet potatoes are shredded and the flavor profile is highlighted by Mace and Ginger. We had it when we spent Christmas with Bucky a while back. I had forgotten about it until I saw him pull it out of the oven. For those who say “I don’t like Sweet Potato Casserole” I can’t help but think you would like this. The texture isn’t like anything I’ve ever had and the flavor is really sophisticated. It’s the perfect side dish when everything else is competing for centerstage.
I don’t think Green Bean Casserole was a Farnor thing and certainly not on the Appalachian Culinary Spectrum but he was sweet to do it. He knows Brandt and I like it once a year. Somehow Bucky put his touch on it. It didn’t feel like the recipe off the back of the soup can but still had the homey Thanksgiving touch which brings a flood of memories to surface.
You’ve seen me post these dishes many times…Stella’s (Brandt’s Grandmother) Pea Salad and Fay’s (my mom) Ambrosia. If you Google Pea Salad you’ll find a few versions but they aren’t vastly different. Brandt’s grandmother, mother and aunts used Miracle Whip, pickle relish and vinegar for the dressing. There are several versions of that but the ingredients are much the same. Not so much for Ambrosia. Mom’s was fresh orange segments, fresh grated coconut, chopped pecans and a skosh of sugar. That’s it. Don’t tell me what you do because I will not call that Ambrosia. When you add cherries or fruit cocktail…that’s fruit salad. When you add whipped cream, sour cream or god forbid marshmallows…that’s five cup salad, heavenly fruit…or come other “salad” concoction…far from Ambrosia. My dear friend Teresa and I had round after round after round about this. I do miss her…but she’s still wrong. As stated earlier, a Google will give you hundreds of versions. This was mom’s and will always be Ambrosia to me. I just never knew how laborious it is to segment enough oranges for a family gathering. Additionally, I didn’t know she ironed my underwear…until she was gone.
Again, gratitude…be grateful for what you have today…there is no promise of tomorrow.
I told him not to. I told him I wouldn’t eat one. He made homemade rolls, anyway. And yes, I ate one…with butter. They were delicious!!! Brandt brought the leftovers home. We are a MESS!!!
To Finish….dessert in the Bucky style!!!
Pumpkin Pie, Grand Marnier Whipped Cream, Candied Citrus Peel… and a Chocolate Turkey
Back to the top of the gratitude list. These two people were really unbelievable. Dad didn’t finish the ninth grade and mom made it through the sixth. Yet, they were the best teachers I’ve ever known. They taught unconditional love, gracious kindness, abundant generosity and genteel grace. Often I see posts with images of two little boys…best friends. They don’t know or care that their skin is different or that one might “have more”, might eventually like other boys or even identify as a girl.
Why did the Pilgrims eat with Native Americans, then take their land? Why do parents teach their children greed and prejudice? Why does a country transfixed on cures for every ill not find AIDS just as important as any other? In my effort to be truly grateful I had to reflect on parents who lived an exemplary life. I haven’t followed all of their examples and I have a vastly different spiritual core than they. However, I’m grateful they taught me to love, be kind, give as I’ve been given and to say please and thank you.
I’m grateful for each of you. I hope this holiday season finds your house lovely and a good time is had by all.