Thanksgiving traditions with Patience Brewster
November 06, 2018
Ask Patience Brewster what her favorite holiday is, and there’s no hesitation. It’s Thanksgiving, which isn’t a surprise when you learn more about the heritage of Patience, whose designs are featured in our new Patience Brewster by MacKenzie-Childs collection.
Patience and her five siblings grew up, surrounded by generations of relatives, on a horse farm a few miles from Plymouth, Mass., where the Mayflower landed. She’s also a direct descendant of the spiritual leader of the Pilgrims, Elder William Brewster, who is her 11th great-grandfather. Her family is descended through William’s son, Love Brewster.
In Plymouth, which is about 40 miles south of Boston, Patience and her family often start Thanksgiving Day by attending The Pilgrim Progress. This event, held since 1921, is a re-enactment of the procession made in 1621 by the Pilgrims through Plymouth to First Parish Church. Each marcher, dressed in Pilgrim attire, represents one of the 51 survivors of the first harsh winter of 1620–1621.
After that, the family’s day is centered around giving thanks and enjoying a traditional Thanksgiving meal. At least one very long table, set with polished silverware and napkins, is decorated with pumpkins, nuts, cranberries, and other seasonal offerings. The food, of course, is abundant. Says Patience, “Depending on our gathering, we have two or three enormous turkeys. There are several types of cranberry sauce and relishes, at least two gravies, and ever-changing stuffing. We all particularly love smoked fish and fresh shucked oysters to start.”
The table is bountiful with favorite vegetable dishes as well, and that’s something that Patience, who is a vegetarian, really enjoys. Must-haves are winter squash, mashed and baked potatoes, parsnips, turnips, creamed onions, and lots of colorful root vegetables. After dinner, there is an array of desserts, including homemade pies, cakes, and Indian pudding.
Patience usually prepares a mushroom stuffing using native mushrooms, including chicken of the woods, chanterelle, and oyster (her recipe is below.) Also, because Patience and her family travel to the celebration, they’re usually recruited to bring items that other family members have come to love that are from Central New York, including bread from Patisserie in Skaneateles and cider from Beak & Skiff in LaFayette.
Finally, once the food is on the table and the diners are seated, there’s a moment to reflect before the feasting begins. Says Patience, “There’s always a toast of gratitude and an appreciation of the travelers that brought our family across the ocean in the bitter winter of 1620.”
This year, Patience has another wonderful thing to be thankful for: the arrival of her newest granddaughter, who is due the same week as Thanksgiving. In anticipation of that, Patience and her family won’t be traveling to Plymouth, but they will certainly be there in spirit. Patience plans to eventually have the new granddaughter and her sister, who will be about 20 months older, take part in The Pilgrim Progress like she and her daughter have done, introducing yet another generation to the family and the festivities in Plymouth.
Patience’s Mushroom Stuffing
Patience says this recipe makes a lot of stuffing, and it can easily be cut in half.
2 wide, crusty baguettes (Patience uses bread from Patisserie)
2 large onions
6 stalks celery
1½ cups homemade chicken or vegetable broth (can also use canned)
1 cup chopped parsley
1½ lbs. cut mushrooms (Patience uses what grows in Massachusetts: hen or chicken of the woods, chanterelle, and oyster.)
3 large eggs
Salt and pepper
- The evening before, cut two loaves of crusty, creamy bread into 1-inch cubes and let sit overnight to dry out a bit.
- Generously butter one large or two medium baking dishes.
- Chop onions to mince and sauté in some butter until limp.
- Beat three eggs in a large bowl. Add chopped celery, parsley, and onions.
- Melt at least two sticks of butter and add to the mix.
- Add the broth.
- Add the bread and the mushrooms and toss gently to mix. The mixture should be moist but not wet. Add more broth or extra butter if it is dry.
- Add salt and plenty of ground pepper, plus fresh thyme or lemon thyme to taste.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes until the edges are golden and crispy.