Liz Smith: Park Avenue Potluck and Simple Thanksgiving Tradition


Susan Burke, Leslie Perkin, and myself chime in on the little things that make this family holiday so special

“THANKGIVING IS the greatest holiday. No gift buying – only food giving.” So said my all-American grandma Sally Ball McCall.


AT SCULLY and Scully in NYC, they just celebrated publication of the Park Avenue Potluck Celebrations:  Entertaining at Home with New York’s Savviest Hostesses.

This second edition in a popular series benefits the Society of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. The NY Times great food and financial writer Florence Fabricant has edited. (She has personally authored nine cookbooks!)

This good deed in a naughty world includes a few pages on Thanksgiving, which I feel they won’t mind my “stealing” for you.


SO HERE goes: “A True Potluck Tradition Thanksgiving:”

“Without question, Thanksgiving is the ultimate family occasion and an ideal time to welcome others to the table. Tradition remains strong. Those who try to vary the menu – what, no marshmallows on the sweet potatoes? – usually find themselves returning to the classics.

“Decorations are simply achieved. An abundance of food, including the turkey that is always the piece de resistance, means there has to be a lot of space left at the table. The season, with its glowing orange and bronze palette, takes command. Gourds, squashes, pumpkins, leaves, and chrysanthemums provide easy and earthy décor. Miniature wrapped chocolate turkeys and festive candles are all it takes to complete the look.”



Ebba’s Swedish Apple Cider Punch

Harvest Dinner Salad

Ilana’s Pumpkin Muffins

The Turkey (as you like it)

Cornbread-Pecan Stuffing with Dried Fruit

Green Beans that Cooked “All Night”

Favorite Apple Pie

Praline Pumpkin Pie

“Thanksgiving is an occasion for potluck. Everyone who comes wants to bring something. And like members of the Massachusetts Bay colony in the 17 century, such contributions have to be accepted. Wine, a side dish, and pie are easiest to suggest, especially for those living in the city.”


FROM LESLIE Perkin comes this holiday memory: “For years, we went to a large family feast in the country during the day and then come back to the city to do it all over again at home, for friends themselves here without much to do. There might be visitors from abroad with no concept of Thanksgiving, or those stranded here for work or with mixed-up travel plans. They would always make it a true celebration of Thanksgiving.”

And from Susan Burke: “As for the Burke family’s favorite celebration, Thanksgiving wins with no contest! We have a wonderful two hundred year-old farmhouse where four generations of our family gather, rain or shine. Behind the barn, we split wood for the fireplace. Brussels sprouts are carved off their stalks on the porch. And then everyone takes turns in the kitchen, chopping, pureeing, and preparing the feast. We begin the dinner by saying ‘We Gather Together’, followed by American caviar and crème fraiche on corn blinis. Then comes the main event, with all the trimmings.”


SPEAKING FOR myself, I have plenty to be thankful for! So many good friends, all of whom have bent over backward to make my recent “incident” less traumatic.

I will be out of the hospital momentarily and can’t help but think of all those whose injuries or illnesses prevent them from being at home, feeling safe and warm. A hospital holiday cannot be very cheerful, even if everybody determines to make it that.

So I wish you all a happy Thanksgiving and the best part of the turkey. (I love The Pope’s Nose – the tail – myself.) The writer Bryan Miller has declared that the turkey deserves “respect for tradition’s sake … more than any other food, it embodies the early American spirit, tireless effort against depressing odds, spiritual sustenance, season renewal.” And, it’s good for you. Chow down, food purists!

Thank heaven Ben Franklin didn’t get his wish of making the turkey the national bird.

We’d be eating eagle.

2 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Barbara H. says:

    Get well Liz! I hope you are out of the hospital and will be enjoying this wonderful holiday with good friends and good food. I know that wherever you are, the conversation will be as festive and satisfying as the menu. Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. avatar Rho says:

    Happy Thanksgiving, get well Liz.