For most people, the new year dawns on January 1. For me it begins with Thanksgiving. I think of it as the start of my emotional year, because I begin to look ahead to the next year, even as I reflect on where I've been. And, of course, I also spend the day enjoying the feast. I love that on Thanksgiving the focus is on the food. While turkey—carved the day of or in sandwiches the week following—is great, changing up the drinks, sides, and desserts is the most fun of all.
I often begin the meal with a fizzy cranberry-plum sangria. Why plums, you might ask? One year they were on sale and I gave them a whirl in my wine. Yum! A few years later, another sale—this time on apples—inspired a great side. I sautéed them with potatoes, rosemary, and garlic, and the result was tart and tasty. The next Thanksgiving, I replaced the apples with sweet pears—even better. I always rely on a few go-to sides (my spicy mac and cheese is a staple) and audition new ones each year. That's how I invented my Brussels sprouts salad, a substitute for the usual roasted vegetables. For dessert I come up with twists on old classics, like I did with my cream-cheese-swirled pumpkin cake, a moist, nutty alternative to pie.
We typically think of this holiday as a time to be at home with family, and I've enjoyed plenty of feasts with mine—including the one when my dad burned a huge hole in my uncle's lawn with a pot of hot oil. (The deep-fried turkey was worth it.) But I've also invited over coworkers and friends, and one year I took an impromptu trip to Philadelphia. (I was dying for a cheesesteak.) I've even rung in a few Thanksgivings alone. (I make the same generous portions, because leftovers are important.) But however I enjoy the day, I'm always grateful. And on Thanksgiving—with its spread of favorites new and old—there's a lot to be grateful for.