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A no-calamity Thanksgiving

Photo by Ava Barlow. Crook’s Corner’s Bill SmithMargot Carmichael Lester

It may seem natural for a chef to adore Thanksgiving, but for Bill Smith, chef of Crook’s Corner, his love for the holiday isn’t really about the food. “Thanksgiving’s my favorite holiday because it’s based around a dinner party and you don’t have to worry about gifts,” he laughs. “The pressure of gift shopping is an enormous hassle that spoils Christmas, if you ask me.”

Thanksgiving for Smith, author of Seasoned in the South: Recipes from Crook’s Corner and from Home, is spent down on the coast in New Bern with 45 or 50 family members convening at his parent’s home.

And, surprisingly enough, Smith is not in charge of the victuals. Instead, his people divvy up the duties, which keeps any one person from getting stressed out and lessens the opportunity for those pesky chain-reaction culinary catastrophes.

“My father’s a great cook. He does a ham or turkey and he likes to make the collards,” Smith says. “If

I don’t make the mashed potatoes, they’ll make instant, so I took that over a few years ago. And I’m the only one who’s not scared to make gravy. Oh, and I bring a case of beer. That’s about it.”
His mother gets the premises ready to receive the guests, and brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles bring sides. “Everyone has their thing they bring every year, which is what you want at Thanksgiving,” he adds.

And here’s the real genius behind a Smith family Thanksgiving: People trickle in all afternoon. “It’s not a formal thing where people sit down at a particular time and say grace,” Smith says. “So it works out good.” He thinks on that for a minute and adds, “Maybe that’s why we’ve never had any real calamities.”

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