chocolate cupcakes

Thursday is Thanksgiving — a time to gather with family and friends, a day to indulge and relax. It’s an occasion to count our blessings and to spend time romping in the chilly sunshine and lounging in front of televised parades.

     It’s also the only holiday I can think of that is truly, totally, from its very beginnings, all about food.

     Which makes it one of my favorite holidays, of course.

     I love of the ideals of sharing from the season’s bounty, of extended families coming together around a laden table, of making — and breaking — food traditions, of a meal as the day’s star. I love that where I live in Southwest Virginia, it is entirely possible to eat a traditional Thanksgiving meal: turkey, pumpkin, squash, corn, stuffing, apples and pears (okay, no local cranberries) all grown within an hour’s drive of my house.

     Of course, reality is more complicated than ideals. And my reality is that most years I drive way more than an hour to share my meal with extended family. But we bring a little of our local harvest with us — this year in the form of mountain-harvested Fuji apples and a pumpkin cheesecake stirred up with area-grown pumpkins. I’ll bring some roasted pumpkin seeds as well (if I don’t eat them all first!).

     For my family, Thanksgiving also marks the middle of our Season of Celebrations, a season that we mark from Halloween until Epiphany and includes a slew of birthdays, two of my kids’ and many members’ of our extended family. It is, in short, one big blur of a party that lasts — oh, something like 10 weeks.

     But in the midst of the planning and the shopping and the inviting and the hosting and the traveling and the singing and the photographing, I’ve come to cherish the inordinate amount of time I spend in my kitchen.

     Because maybe more important than any gift I buy or any event I plan is the food I make. This food is always someone’s favorite or is somehow special. The food is what makes us stop for a minute and share something together. The food is how I can bring smiles to faces young and old, often faces that have no need of any more things, but do appreciate a good meal.

     So in honor of Thanksgiving, in honor of this Holiday Season that is galloping along at breakneck speed, in honor of all celebrations big and small, I give you … recipes.

     Click for a how-to on my family’s favorite homemade mac and cheese and here for my most requested cupcake recipe. This is how I make pumpkin scones and roast pumpkin seeds. I hope you enjoy the holiday feastings as much as we do.