The first time we saw our future home in Sicily, we fell completely in love with the gigantic farmhouse table and benches in the dining room. The landlords told us that the table came with the house, and I immediately began to dream of filling the table with friends and family. I love to put people around that table!
We’ve made some new friends recently, and I thought they might be feeling far from family for their first big holiday in Sicily. We sent out an email, arranged a potluck, and all converged in our home on Thanksgiving. Alyssa brought spinach and artichoke dip, an apple pie, salted caramel brownies, and hot rolls; Laura made her mom’s famous broccoli and sweet potato casseroles; and Brigitta brought cider and mulling spices, two pumpkin pies, and the Charlie Brown Christmas DVD for Lena to borrow! I took care of the turkey, cranberry sauce, gravy, and mashed potatoes, and also made a new favorite for us: pear and ginger bruschetta with goat cheese. Everyone contributed wine. And we feasted!
One thing I love about hosting is the chance to bring out all the dishes that otherwise only see occasional use in our house, like our beautiful glass wine decanter and the Polish pottery my mom gave us as a wedding gift. I also lit four colorful Shabbat candles that Elliott and I bought in Israel; we visited there during Elliott’s yearlong assignment in Egypt soon after we got married. It felt extravagant and joyful to burn four of them at once in a candelabra in the middle of our Thanksgiving feast.
Before the meal, between dinner and dessert, and after we were too stuffed to eat one more bite, we gathered around our fireplace with glasses of wine or mugs of mulled cider. Gil and Lena played relatively happily around us, and we carried on adult conversation over their little blond heads. I felt relaxed as a hostess because of the many hands there that were so eager to help with everything: serving, clearing, packing up leftovers, playing with children, and even washing the dishes. (Thank you, Laura, for spearheading that… I wanted to kiss your feet later when I realized how tired I was and how much you’d helped me!)
The highlight of the evening came when everyone was talking in the kitchen, and suddenly someone said, “Oh wow… Etna’s erupting!” We all looked out the window and were treated to the best eruption so far this fall. (In the photo below, you can just see the glow of the eruption above the clouds.) She erupted for hours, and we were treated to a spectacular view out of our kitchen window. Quite a fun dollop of whipped cream on the proverbial pumpkin pie!
Thank you, friends, for braving the tiny Italian streets to share Thanksgiving with us. We’re so thankful for these growing friendships with you! Can’t wait for many games of Settlers of Catan and hikes up Etna in the future.
As we head into the holidays, I want to continue to “make room” in our home, lives, and hearts for others, to be attuned to their needs just as much as my own. I read this quote again from one of my favorite books, and I hope that such simplicity of focus and love is evident in my heart throughout this Christmas season:
[S]implification is not just about taking things away.
It is about making room, creating space in your life, your intentions, and your heart.
For those of you who might be interested, here’s the recipe for the pear and ginger bruschetta. It was a hit, and I’ll be making it again soon!
Pear-Ginger-Goat Cheese Bruschetta
adapted from Style Me Pretty’s Thanksgiving 2012 Guide
- 1 long French baguette
- 4 large pears
- 2 tsp freshly grated ginger
- 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1/3 cup chopped raisins
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 10 oz goat cheese
- Preheat the oven to 350* F (180* C). Slice the baguette in 1/2″-thick slices. Toast in the oven for 10 minutes, 5 minutes per side, or until crisp and slightly brown around the edges. Remove and place on a wire rack to cool.
- Core and peel the pears and then cut them into a 1/2″ dice.
- Put the pears, ginger, vinegar, brown sugar, raisins, and salt into a medium non-stick pan. Cook for 25-30 min, stirring occasionally. Stir frequently in the last 10 minutes as the sugar caramelizes and the mixture begins to darken and thicken.
- Spread a tsp of goat cheese on each slice of baguette. Spoon the pear chutney on top of each slice. Top with a parsley garnish if desired.