The View From Up Above: A Truly Trivial Thanksgiving Memory

By now everyone in the food-obsessed world knows who Thomas Keller is. He’s the owner of The French Laundry in California, and Per Se in New York City. He’s the dude whose ratatouille recipe Pixar used in the eponymous movie.

Here’s something I’ve not told many folks: My in-laws “discovered” Tom at some remote outpost in upstate New York while on a road trip. After eating one of his intricately-prepared meals, they convinced him to dream bigger. He was too good, they said, to be hidden away. They introduced him to important restaurant people in the city, and helped secure him a stage (internship) in France.

When he returned to the states he opened his first restaurant. The rest is culinary history.

He was always grateful to my in-laws. He mentioned them in one of his books. He offered to host our wedding dinner at The French Laundry (we ended up having to say no because he insisted on limiting the guest number to 32). He spoiled them rotten whenever they ate at his restaurants. And, he always invited them to his private Thanksgiving Day Brunch, an elaborate party he threw for a few hundred of his most devoted patrons.

My in-laws went a few times, always bringing along whichever one of their four children happened to be in town. One Thanksgiving, so long ago I don’t remember which year, we flew in from California for a visit and got to attend the coveted affair.

And oh what an affair it was. There was an orgy of small bites spread out everywhere. The kitchen was open to the public; the one and only time one could see what was behind the curtain. Drinks flowed. People schmoozed.

But what made it so extra extra special was that the restaurant looked out over the Macy’s Day Parade route. Which meant that every single window was packed with people watching the floats going by many stories below. I remember getting giddy when I spied Liev Schreiber and Naomi Watts and their young kids ooh-ing and aah-ing through one of the windows. Seeing them was far more exciting than seeing the ginormous Kermit float by.

There were other big names and faces, but one, in particular, caused me such embarrassment that I suspect it’s the reason I’ve blocked most of the details of that day from my memories.

I’d been standing in line to grab some caviar? Lobster? Something decadent enough for there to be a long line—that’s all I remember. Anyway, I turned around to the person standing behind me and when I saw who it was, my heart thumped. I said, “OMG, Mario Batali! I love you!”

Mario offered me a weak smile, but then suddenly I was next in line to take the food so before either of us could say anything more, we both filled our plates and went our separate ways.

A few seconds later I ran into my husband. With a mouth full of whatever deliciousness I’d just stuffed into it, I garbled, “I just saw Mario Batali. Look, there he is!” I pointed over at the famous chef.

“You doof,” my husband replied. “That’s not Mario. That’s Emeril Lagasse.”

I felt so humiliated by my faux pas, I immediately grabbed a Bloody Mary off a passing tray, made my way over to one of the windows and gazed down at the swarm of parade-goers below. I was thankful there was a space for me.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends and family. May your day be filled with yummy food, easy laughter and people whose names you know. 

10 thoughts on “The View From Up Above: A Truly Trivial Thanksgiving Memory

  1. Thanks for sharing your unique and totally human Thanksgiving memory, Lisa… always the best kind! I’m reminded of the story my mother loved to tell about the time she dropped the turkey on the kitchen floor, re-panned it, used her spatula to “scrape up all the good stuff for gravy” and then, “put the bird right back into the oven… No one was the worse for wear”… She got a laugh every year 🙂

    Hope you had a great one! xoe

    Liked by 1 person

What Are You Thinking Right Now?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s