A Toast To All by Kelly Sears

At this hectic holiday time of the year, we all tend to keep our heads down, focused on the task at hand and the next task on our list. Is the turkey thawed, the gravy silky, the mashed potatoes lump free, the linens pressed, and the table set? But, if you’ve taken a class with me before, or you know me well, you know my thought is, it’s not what’s on your table, it’s who’s around it that should keep our focus.

But what about those not around your table? How do we keep them present this holiday?

Perhaps the hole in your heart is fresh, maybe still aching, or now a brief tug, but the absence is present, the chair once filled, empty. We can choose to be sad or we can choose to celebrate, in some way, somehow, what they would have shared at the table.

For the nine that gather around our table this Thanksgiving, more than half that number that don’t.

Bud, Dan’s dad, creator of “Bud’s secret spice” seasons our bird. We still have a jar with his special label and handwriting. He preached the importance of great stock as the foundation to any great gravy; ours is silky smooth for this reason. The apple trees on the Northern Michigan property where he chose to retire, still bear fruits and fills our apple pies.

It’s Eileen’s (Dan’s mom) stuffing that fills the big bird’s cavity. We always laugh that ours doesn’t taste quite the same. We’re convinced her secret ingredient was the ash that fell from her cigarette while she chain smoked her prep! The kid’s split up her dishes so we would all have a few. Our table-setting is mismatched to include some of hers and some of Grandma Wilma’s.

Yep. Grandma Wilma, not the least bit warm and fuzzy, but she brought the shrimp each year, and we shared a slice of mincemeat pie since we were the only two that liked it. We keep the coffee hot since she wouldn’t have it any other way.

Aunt Helen didn’t make it often but when she did, we would always play cards after dinner. She taught us a game called hand and foot and we usually played while eating dessert. I laminated the rules she wrote out to make sure her instructions never faded away.  Aunt Helen was the most giving person I have ever known. When I shop for our meal, I shop for someone else’s too.

Barton, my mom’s husband, Warren’s brother, was an artist in New York. His art fills our walls. It’s edgy, thought provoking, and opinionated. It makes for great conversation.

Warren’s mom Marie, was a woman of modest means with a rich heart. She was a linen maker in her younger years. We try and keep the cranberry sauce from spilling and the gravy from dribbling on her work, but the stains just end up being covered with filled dishes instead. We fill our plates with her serving spoons and our pie with her servers.

And he hasn’t been seated at my table in over 35 years, but I mentally set a chair for him. My dad used to tilt his head back and laugh deep from his belly. Every time I set the table, I set it for people who gather around it to do the very same. My dad was a lover of bread. Rolls are never missing from the table.

Set the table for those who can come, toast those who can’t make it, honor those missing from yours by folding them into the day.

Happy Thanksgiving to all~

Here’s a little something to toast those, no matter how they are present.

Pomegranate Sparklers
  1. 1 ounce vodka
  2. 1 ounce house-made pomegranate grenadine (equal parts sugar to pomegranate juice)
  3. 1 ounce fresh orange juice
  4. Splash of lemon juice
  5. 4 ounces Prosecco
  6. Pomegranate arils and lemon zest for garnish
  1. In a mixing glass, add vodka, pomegranate grenadine, orange juice, and splash of lemon juice. Add ice and shake. Strain into a glass over ice and top with prosecco. Garnish with some fresh arils and lemon zest.
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/


  1. Linda Clark says

    This is a beautiful essay, and thank you so much for sharing.

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