Posted by: Catherine | November 29, 2009

An Untraditional Thanksgiving and Double-Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie

In my mind’s eye that paints a Norman Rockwell picture of everyone else’s Thanksgiving, I see generations of family joined around a giant table year after year with new additions that include more spouses (from more happy marriages) and more children (from more happy marriages). Everyone adores everyone else. Platters are piled high and no matter how much stuffing and gravy and pies are downed, everyone is thinthinthin.

There is no Norman Rockwell painting of our  Thanksgivings and the only tradition that has been retained is good food. Our family didn’t keep growing; everyone scattered; and, yes, sometimes some of us were mad at one another.

When we were growing up in New York we had Thanksgiving dinner with distant cousins (everyone else in both our parents’ families was in Chicago)–it was always boring (who were these people we only saw once a year?) and it didn’t last long because eventually the mom-cousin was sent to live in a “funny farm,” according to my mother.  After that tradition died, it was just  the four of us–we’d drive to Connecticut where we had a summer place and where the days were pretty grim…fall leaves gone, snow still weeks away. When we moved to Chicago (I was in eighth grade), we had Thanksgiving with one or the other of our parents’ extended families. That didn’t last long either: Is it an oxymoron to say people are nice…and racist? Soon enough, it was back to the four of us again.

My single days in New York were marked by Thanksgivings with various boyfriends and friends’ families–but eventually I chose to stay home…alone. I would go for a long run in Central Park, then curl up with a carefully prepared selection of books and movies, and have something very good to eat, carefully prepared by Dean and Delucca.

When Bruce, and then Emma, came along, I thought tradition was a done deal–and, in one way, it was: I was completely happy being with them though it was not the large clan gathering Rockwell might have envisioned. Thanksgiving is Bruce’s favorite holiday; he loves turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes and apple pie. It was sweet and cozy, but as Emma grew I started to worry that there needed to be lots of people around. We have no family in Los Angeles so we started doing “Practice Thanksgivings” on the Sunday night before the actual day, inviting all our friends who would be with their own families on Thursday. Everyone really seemed to enjoy it, and would insist we do it again the following year. On Thanksgiving Day the three of us would go to the beach during the day (and every year Bruce would say, “You can’t do this in New York, can you?”), then we’d  have a dinner composed of our favorite foods. We’d each choose one dish. Sometimes it was three desserts and sometimes it was mac ‘n cheese, steak and chocolate cake (need to ask who chose what in that happy mix?). It was always wonderful, and we always ate it in bed together watching a family movie.

Over the years we had some Thanksgivings with other families who have kids Emma’s age, and this year we were going to go away with a couple of other families until one of Bruce’s clients announced he was coming to town (and this was not the year to miss a good client). So…we stayed home and did what we do best: We got up and Emma and I played tennis; afterwards we picked up Bruce and went to the beach; then Emma and I had a spa afternoon. We started with showers and used Emma’s Eucalyptus Body Scrub. Next, we slathered ourselves with body butter cream and sat with mud masks while we watched the Food Network (no kidding, Ina was on). Moisturizer and self manicures made us both gorgeous–at least according to Bruce. We had each picked something to have for dinner, and there was no fooling around with anything healthy. Emma chose garlic mashed potatoes; Bruce chose turkey and stuffing (not my favorite and, yes, I did try to count that as two to no avail); and I chose Double- Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie. Oh, and it was a double feature: The Way We Were (I love you, Hubble Gardner) and When Harry Met Sally. A perfect untraditional Thanksgiving.



  1. That’s the kind of non fussy Thanksgiving I would love. It sounds like a perfect evening and menu.

  2. It actually sounds like a totally special Thanksgiving and Im sure Emma will always remember them that way. That pie looks to die for.

  3. That pie is nothing short of a slice of heaven! Thanks for sharing your Thanksgiving stories. Your single tradition (going for a long run then staying in) is how I like to celebrate most holidays.

  4. Sounds like you had a very nice Thanksgiving! We like occasions that we can celebrate with just the three of us in our own special way. The pie looks incredible!

  5. What a wonderful way to spend Thanksgiving. Finding your own happy tradition is so much better than forcing a Norman Rockwell version! I am drooling over that gorgeous pie. Wow!

  6. Your Thanksgiving sounds like a dream! I think non-Traditional Thanksgivings are a lot more fun, anyways!

    And that pie is a stunner!

  7. Sounds like a good way to spend it to me! That pie looks awesome.

  8. Great post, Catherine. Sounds like a terrific Thanksgiving–esp the film selections! Chocolate, Peanut Butter and cream cheese? :::swoon::: Peanut Butter pie is my all time fav. Yours looks fantastic! The recipe I use is almost identical to yours (from a 1996 Bon Appetit). On a sep note, I guess Cave Creek is “the” place for Chicken in PHX. Was in Scottsdale all last week and went to Cave Creek one day. We ended up at El Encanto for lunch—which was the best chicken chimicanga “Pollo Fundido” (with jalepeno cream cheese sauce–another swoon) I’ve ever had. Will try the Horny Toad when I go back this winter. Cheers from NY and apologies for the lengthy comment! 🙂

  9. Untraditional or not it all sounds delicious to me. Love that pie-WOW!

  10. Traditional or untraditional…it seems that you had lot of fun…and let me tell you the close look of the pie is to die for 🙂 YUMMIE!

  11. OMG Catherine this look heavenly!!! look amazing and delicious, gloria

  12. I think your traditions are perfect especially with that pie, OMG!!

  13. Actually Catherine, that sounds wonderful to me!

    This year was the first Thanksgiving it was just me, my hubby and 3 kids at home! And, only the 2nd time I made a turkey.

    We had a great dinner, and afterwards played games with NO TV! We played Yahtzee, 10,000 and some math game my son plays at school with a deck of cards. It was the best Thanksgiving I’ve had in a long time, and NO STRESS!

  14. I got the magazine, it is a wonderful publication. I wish you the best. My children and students loved seeing my name in “lights” they think I am famous now. Hehe. Thank you!

  15. I think all holidays evolve according to where we are in life. My booming Italian family was replaced by a different familyand over the years as a single – I was hither and yon. I think it is helpful if we are where we want to be.

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