The first snow is always sacred. This year it fell steadily and softly, without any wind, just in time for Thanksgiving. I’m sitting at home with a cup of tea, marveling at the silent white landscape.
A few weeks ago I went into the pantry where my mom keeps her cookbook collection and pulled down her red recipe folder, a crumbling mass of newspaper clippings and handwritten note cards in her loopy, scrawling script.
You could really write a biography based on a person’s chosen recipes. I found a five page section of the 2006 New York Times devoted entirely to pancakes, terrifying instructions for a cake involving both apple juice and tofu, and a dog-eared dissertation on how to make the perfect turkey from Waldy Malouf, whose very name implies the wizardry of his herb-butter-and-brine techniques.
Perhaps the greatest gem, however, was a stained index card written in my grandma’s tall, cramped script: a grocery list including such items as milk, cream, ginger ale, and…diapers.
This Thanksgiving snow reminds me of her. She used to call me from her little house in Stockbridge where she sat looking out at the white sweep of her backyard, flecked with cardinals that flew like little pilgrims to the feeder outside her window. I can hear her sharp intake of breath as she marveled at the snow, her exclamations of joy as at last the fall turned into winter. She never took a snowfall for granted.
Amid the chaos of our current world, it’s hard not to feel grateful on those rare still days where no snow has been shaken or stirred. The trees show themselves gracefully, every detail outlined in white. The pines bend humbly toward the earth.
Few things embody the present moment like a snow-covered tree—that fleeting instant when everything is exposed, beautiful, and endlessly giving. When the wind blows at last, enchanted outlines give way to a wintery Seurat—a pointillist masterpiece of white and gray. And the light! Heavy skies hover above the glowing horizon and the clouds are as dazzling as the snow.
In honor of my grandma, whose love of salt I wholeheartedly inherited, I chose another recipe from my mom’s collection to make for this year’s Thanksgiving feast: Mark Bittman’s French walnut tart, a.k.a pecan pie’s sophisticated cousin.
Walnuts, so often confined to an oatmeal topping, are a revelation in this sultry dessert. The salted caramel adds an unexpected edge, perfectly balanced by a classic buttery short crust. Get the tart recipe here.*
*Please note: it calls for two tablespoons of water to melt the sugar, but I found more water was necessary. I used just enough water to cover the sugar and it worked perfectly.
You can buy a pre-made crust (trust me, the filling will take center stage), but if you want to make your own, use this super simple recipe.
Little Sister Links:
- Do you ever daydream about kitchens in Paris? I certainly do… This one belonged to Patricia Wells!
- Give yourself a break from your political newsfeed for this amazing portrait of Thanksgiving in America.
- Little Sister Kitchen is old enough to have an archive! Here’s what I was up to last Thanksgiving.
- Feeling stressed about the big day? Here are some pre-turkey day relaxation tips (hint: the list includes reading Keats’ “Ode to Autumn” out loud)
- And if all else fails, you can always depend on the unflappable Lynn Rossetto Kasper, whose calming voice and wealth of cooking knowledge will be at your fingertips on the big day.