It’s the week before my favorite holiday, and I’ve got my final number: 30 people for Thanksgiving dinner. Fewer than in years past, so easier than ever. Unlike many who find entertaining stressful, I’m much happier and more relaxed throwing a party for 30 than facing the challenge of, well, writing about it. And I love the tradition my husband, Greg, and I began as young marrieds in Boston, inviting just about everyone we knew for Thanksgiving dinner. We’ve been home-away-from-home for many, and each year’s crowd, a diverse mix of personalities, ages, and backgrounds, has its own beautiful, eclectic energy.
Greg, an amazing cook, runs the kitchen. He roasts a turkey low and slow, and makes oyster stuffing, a seasonal soup, and cranberry sauce. We also provide a great mix of hot and cold beverages. We ask guests to bring a dish they love to cook, and somehow it all goes well together. And me? I’m all about the aesthetics of the table. I give most thought to the menu, which can be up to 12 pages long, and reflects the theme for that year’s celebration. This year, the theme is love; I think we could all use more love in our lives, especially this year. I print one for each guest, with their name on it, to act as a place card. I may include a poem on one, a short note on another; it’s a personal way to connect with my guests.
The dining area set up usually begins two days before Thanksgiving, when we put out up to six white Costco tables, depending on crowd size, and arrange them to form a perfect angle from one end to the other of the living room. Next, the most important design element: I’ve been collecting yards and yards of Marimekko fabric from Ikea for years, and spreading the graphically dynamic material across the tables creates a unified, dramatic image. Gorgeous! Add white plates, silverware, and napkins in a variety of solid colors, and the image is almost complete. In my mind at least, it’s worthy of a Martha Stewart photoshoot. Finishing touches include fresh flowers and apples, pears, and grapes, along with scatterings of cranberries and walnuts, and a nutcracker every so often. Guests mingle for an hour or so on the patio before the meal, enjoying cocktails, and right before we sit down, candles of different heights all along the length of the unified tables are lit. Dinner is served buffet-style, with a table for each category of food. It’s a good thing we have a large living room!
And speaking of Martha Stewart, my inspiration for table decoration came from her first book, Entertaining (1982). I picked it up at the Rose Bowl Flea Market about 25 years ago, and it’s been my visual inspiration ever since. The imagery in that book, with its glorious expansive platters of food and well-heeled guests, never gets old. An updated version came out a few years, but I’m sticking with my original. I love welcoming people to my home, making them comfortable, and feeding them great food, and this book has helped me achieve the vibe I want. I hope you and yours have a great vibe, and a great time, over this Thanksgiving holiday.
Julie Markfield, CEO & Creative Director