A few months ago I showed you a glimpse into our wedding day, compiled from cell phone photos we’d managed to gather from friends and family. Then on Christmas Eve we received a package from our photographers with all of our photos. It was quite the early Christmas present, and I’d be remiss in letting 2014 come to a quiet close without sharing them with you. Looking back at these photos, what really strikes me are all of the moments that I simply don’t remember — or, frankly, wasn’t there for. It looks like quite a party! As with many weddings, I suppose, we were pulled aside for photos every now and again and were trying to make sure to talk to each of our guests, many who’d traveled quite a long ways to come to Whidbey Island to help us celebrate. So there were dance-offs, cocktail circles and polaroid sessions that we just never saw … until these photos. I’ve loved flipping through and looking at that golden September sunshine, all of our friends and family eating cake, dancing, meeting one another, drinking cocktails. Yes, there’s a cocktail we must discuss here, too.
So first, the ceremony: There was a big, beautiful tree in the backyard of the main house where we decided to hold the ceremony. We set up vintage slatted chairs all along the grass, and printed programs that looked like old Southern fans.
The main house at Jenne Farm is really what sold us on the venue in the first place. While it’s firmly planted in the Pacific Northwest, it has a real Southern charm with its wrap around porch and beautiful old staircase, moldings and lace curtains.
Despite the busy gathering outside, I’m so grateful that there were quiet moments for us to steal, too.
Instead of a guestbook, we had Sam’s old typewriters and asked people to type a little something on notepapers. I found these sweet, small Polaroid cameras and we left them around so our guests could take photos of themselves or the surroundings. We were so, so grateful to have them after the wedding as we waited for the more official photos from the wedding photographers.
The table! We’d both thought so long and hard about the table — I wanted one very long farm table on the side of the main house, and I felt pretty particular about the flowers (lots of wild white flowers mixed in with loose, romantic peach roses and local greenery).
The venue had an old lace runner and beautiful white milk glass vases for the flowers. Sam designed our menus, and I found really beautiful vintage china. I want to rewind and have another meal here.
Once everyone was seated, mingling, snacking and drinking I kept looking down the long table and telling myself to remember this. I’d get goosebumps realizing this was the only time all of these people would be seated at a big table in the Pacific Northwest eating fried green tomatoes, creamy polenta and fall-off-the-bone pork together. The only time.
Choosing the food, cocktails and cake was one of the most exciting parts of wedding planning for me. We both love Southern food and felt like it was in keeping with the feel of the house and the barn. One of our favorite cafes in town makes a mean Southern layer cake, so instead of a more traditional wedding cake we opted for coconut cake, lemon cake and a chocolatey caramel cake. I have a few regrets from our wedding day and one was not eating enough cake. We’ve frozen a small version of the coconut cake to eat on our one year anniversary and it takes all of the willpower I have not to sneak it out on occasion and cut off a small slice.
In addition to the food and cake, the cocktails played a big role in the pre-ceremony and dance party. Sam and I both really love good, strong cocktails and do a lot of experimenting at home. We’d visited our friend Niah at Essex about a month before the wedding to brainstorm ideas and he helped us come up with this one, a really special bright, slightly citrusy rye-based cocktail. Niah pre-mixed these a few days before the wedding so the bartender would just have to pour them in cups with ice and … BOY were they strong. I recall expressing deep concern for the older folks, wondering if they’d make it to cake cutting. Perhaps this explains the memorable dance party. Maybe you can create one (the cocktail and the dance party) in your own living room?
In case you’re curious as to who helped us pull this off:
Venue & Coordination: Jenne Farm // Food: Ciao Thyme Catering // Photography: One Love Photo // Cakes: The Wandering Goose // Vintage Dish Rental: Seattle Farm Tables // Flowers: Jenne Farm // Signage, Menus, Favors, Design: Neversink
This cocktail is named after a beautiful lake in Seattle with a 3-mile (or so) walking path. In the fall, it’s the best for spotting changing leaves; in the summer, the whole city comes to linger, read, sunbathe, and swim. When we were first dating, Sam lived in a bungalow a block from the lake and we walked many a lake lap through all of the various seasons.
Place a few ice cubes in a cocktail shaker, and add all cocktail ingredients. Shake well. Serve over ice.
The Thanksgiving Table
Today is a different kind of day. Usually posts on this blog come about with the narrative and I manage to squeeze in a recipe. But sometimes when you really stumble upon a winning recipe, it speaks for itself. We'll likely make these beans for Thanksgiving this year. They're one of those simple stunners that you initially think couldn't be much of a thing. And then they come out of the oven all sweet and withered and flecked with herbs. You try one and you realize they are, in fact, a pretty big thing.
I always force myself to wait until after Halloween to start thinking much about holiday pies or, really, future holidays in general. But this year I cheated a bit, tempted heavily by the lure of a warmly-spiced sweet potato pie that I used to make back when I baked pies for a living in the Bay Area (way back when). We seem to always have sweet potatoes around as they're one of Oliver's favorite foods, and when I roast them for his lunch I've been wishing I could turn them into a silky pie instead. So the other day I reserved part of the sweet potatoes for me. For a pie that I've made hundreds of times in the past, this time reimagined with fragrant brown butter, sweetened solely with maple syrup, and baked into a flaky kamut crust. We haven't started talking about the Thanksgiving menu yet this year, but I know one thing for sure: this sweet potato pie will make an appearance.
It has begun. Talk of who is bringing what, where we'll buy the turkey, what kind of pies I'll make, early morning texts concerning brussels sprouts. There's no getting around it: Thanksgiving is on its way. And with it comes the inevitable reflecting back and thinking about what we're thankful for. And about traditions. The funny thing about traditions is that they exist because they've been around for a long time. Year after year after year. But then, one Thanksgiving maybe there's something new at the table.
I didn't expect green beans to bring up such a great discussion on traditions, sharing of poems and how a piece of writing can linger with you. So thank you for that. Your comments pointed out how important people and place are and how food takes the back seat when it comes right down to it. Even if you feel quite warm towards Thanksgiving and are looking forward to next week, reading about recipe suggestions and meal planning online and in magazines can start to feel tiresome right about now. Why? Because I suppose when it all comes down to it, in the big picture it doesn't matter what we all serve anyway. Next year, you likely won't remember one year's vegetable side dish from another. What you'll remember are the markers that dotted the year for you: whom you sat next to at the table, a toast or grace, and the sense of gratitude you felt for something -- large or small.
I got a text from my mom the other day that read: demerara sugar? I responded back with a question mark, not sure what she was referencing. It turns out she was experimenting with a new pie recipe that called for the natural sugar and wasn't sure why she couldn't just use white sugar as that's what she's always done in the past. A few days later we talked on the phone and she mentioned she'd let me take charge of the salad for Thanksgiving this year as long as there was no kale. No kale! And I wanted to do the mashed potatoes? Would they still be made with butter and milk? In short, we're always willing to mix things up in the Gordon household. Whether it's inspiration from a food magazine, friend or coworker, either my mom or one of my sisters will often have an idea for something new to try at the holiday table. But what I've slowly learned is that it can't really be that different: there must be pumpkin pie, the can of cranberry sauce is necessary even though not many people actually eat it, the onion casserole is non-negotiable, the salad can't be too out there, and the potatoes must be made with ample butter and milk. And while I was really scheming up an epic kale salad to make this year, there's a big part of me that gets it, too: if we change things too much we won't recognize the part of the day that comes to mean so much: the pure recognition. We take comfort in traditions because we recognize them -- because they're always there, year after year. And so today I present to you (mom, are you reading?): this year's Gordon family Thanksgiving salad.