When I joined Bon Appétit many years ago as a contributing editor, my first “Entertaining with Style” Thanksgiving feature was a friend of a friend’s family on Nantucket. It is still one of my favorite stories, not just because living on an island I feel a kinship with another popular island so close to us. This particular menu says New England so well — the curried squash soup, sausage and herb stuffing and minted sugar snap peas and pearl onions — served in a home that was built in 1695 (see drawing above.)
Thanksgiving gives us all the opportunity to share and appreciate the regional cultures of our great country. Here’s hoping these Nantucket dishes might inspire an addition to your traditional menu.
Trips in the woody aside, for younger members of the family, bicycling is the preferred mode of transportation on Nantucket. “I can drive, but I’d much rather ride my bike,” says granddaughter Abby (front), pedaling down Liberty Street with her sisters.
The built-in-cabinet houses a collection of nineteenth-century Nanking China and blue and white Chinese export porcelain. Its Asian motifs were quite different from the European ones of the day. “There’s no doubt that much of it came through the ports of Nantucket and Providence,” Charles says.
The heirloom silver has been in the family for generations. The Kilverts’ ancestors were Yankee traders, diplomats and philanthropists. John Brown Francis, Charles’s great-great-grandfather, was a governor of Rhode Island; Brown University in Providence is one of the family’s legacies.
Granddaughters Cedar and Abby take a look out the front door. Old Glory flying above is the “Betsy Ross” design. “It was one of the first flags to represent the United States,” Charles says. “We think it’s the design that suits the house.”
The family serves the curried squash soup from an heirloom Nankin china tureen. The colorful, lightly spiced starter was created many years ago by Mary McDerrig, the Kilverts’ housekeeper.
Charles takes his place of honor between two of his granddaughters, Emily and Abby. “Thanksgiving is our big family celebration for the year — even more so than Christmas,” says their mother, Bay.
“This is your quintessential Nantucket Thanksgiving house,” says Bay, seated next to Jacqueline. “It’s pretty special to sit down to dinner and to realize that our colonial ancestors once sat here, too.”
Charles’s apple pie is his granddaughters’ favorite. “I look forward to dessert the most,” says Abby. The “1988” box was painted by a family member and given to Charles and Jacqueline as a gift.
Wishing you and your family a tasty and memorable Thanksgiving!