The most valuable collection of the Thanksgiving table “is the collection of guests, family and friends around the table,” believes tastemaker, North Carolina interior designer and author of The Collected Tabletop, Kathryn Greeley.
Kathryn’s Thanksgiving table at her Chestnut Cottage near Asheville, North Carolina, shown above in the opening photo, usually has up to 24 or 30 guests. “We invite a wide variety of old and new friends, and especially want to include those who have no family nearby or anywhere to go on Thanksgiving,” said the principal of Kathryn Greeley Designs. “It makes for a fun and interesting group.”
Kathryn gets creative each year with her invitations for Thanksgiving. In a past year, she dropped off a jar of home-canned pickles, along with an antique pickle fork, to everyone she invited.
“There are all kinds of creative gifts you could include as part of your invitations,” she said. “You could share the bounty of your summer canning, or some pepper jelly or dried beans from the farmer’s market.”
Kathryn uses Flow Blue china, mismatched bread and butter dishes and crisp white table linens and napkins to set her Thanksgiving table, being sure to reveal the wood tones of both of her dining tables. “I love the combination of the blue and white of the Flow Blue with the crisp white linens and the fall colors of the floral arrangement.”
Kathryn’s Thanksgiving Day memories from her childhood are happy and rich. “I’m an only child, but each of my parents had six siblings. Our Thanksgiving feasts included much extended family–aunts, uncles, cousins –up to 40 people. My Grandmother Crisp was a wonderful cook, and she served huge feasts with every dish in multiples. For example, she didn’t just have one dessert; she had five or six.”
Kathryn’s favorite dessert was her Grandmother Crisp’s Caramel Cake.
“To this day, Grandmother Crisp’s Caramel Cake Recipe is by far and away the most popular recipe from my book; we receive inquiries about it every week,” Kathryn said.
Kathryn herself serves three different desserts on Thanksgiving: pumpkin pies, pecan tarts and Grandmother Crisp’s Caramel Cake.
Known as a national expert in gracious entertaining, Kathryn has several “tips” for preparing for a memorable, enjoyable Thanksgiving Day meal and celebration.
“One of my tips is: Use your collections,” she said. “Collections don’t come into existence just to display or hang on the wall; they come into existence to be used and enjoyed.
For example, one of Kathryn’s prized collectibles is a large turkey platter “with an attitude.”
She fell in love with the platter at a New York antiques market, but thought the price was tag was a bit steep. She was thrilled, however, when her husband, knowing how much she liked it, purchased it as a surprise for her. The turkey platter hangs proudly on the wall in her kitchen with other collectibles, but the platter is in the thick of the action every Thanksgiving.
In addition to the traditional turkey and dressing, Kathryn always serves a ham purchased from Cade’s Cove in Tennessee. Another Thanksgiving tip: “I soak my ham in a cooler of Coke for two days. Cover the ham in the Coke, and use the real thing, not Diet Coke. It makes that ham so very delicious!”
Another tip that makes the celebration even more memorable: “It is so much fun to have some type of favor each year. Often I give a Christmas CD or a Christmas ornament to get everyone in the spirit, and one year I purchased chocolate turkeys in Asheville for each of my guests.”
In the spirit of her Grandmother Crisp, Kathryn serves a bounty of food each Thanksgiving, meaning that “Guests have come to expect leftovers and take-outs, which I do have each year. I find it fun to used attractive containers for sending takeout boxes home with them. You can purchase very nice takeout containers at Mr. Takeout.com.
Kathryn’s most important tip, however, is planning ahead. Since she does all the Thanksgiving cooking herself, she takes off the entire week before Thanksgiving from her design business. “I have a schedule and I stick to it.
I order my Thanksgiving turkey on the first day of November without fail from Whole Foods. I have a wholesale account with the florist and have a certain day that I order my flowers and purchase my groceries. I have a daily schedule beginning the Saturday before Thanksgiving and organize what I will prepare and cook each day. This way, I can be relaxed and enjoy my guests on Thanksgiving.”
What is your number one key for enjoying entertaining your own family and friends at Thanksgiving? Let us know in the comments!
Kim Darden Shaver
Leslie Hendrix Wood
Founder, Editor In Chief
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