by Jon Cotner


“My elves make goose liver with Tokaji — sweet Hungarian wine. It complements the liver’s saltiness.”

To celebrate Thanksgiving, I walked around Brooklyn and asked people to discuss family recipes.

Jaime & Chad

Jaime: “Each year my cousins and I had a contest to see who could eat the most potato soufflé. It’s a popular southern dish. The first time I prepared Thanksgiving, my aunt gave me this recipe.”

Richard & Todd

Richard: “I’ve got an apple pie recipe that nobody knows. Frank Sinatra used to eat my pies.”


“In Bhutan we fix dried beef with red chilies. You hang the beef strips outdoors. After one month, you cook them. My family adds spring onion and radish.”


“Our turkey is messed up because we have an electric stove. Gas works better.”

Colleen & Dwight

Colleen: “Dwight bakes Norwegian bread called lefse. We put cinnamon sugar on top. It’s like tortillas.”

Sarah & Wilson

Sarah: “My dad moved to Australia, so I associate holidays with summer. He makes a meringue pie called pavlova in honor of the Russian ballerina. Australians and New Zealanders still argue about who invented it.”

Jenelle & Langston

Jenelle: “Before turning vegetarian, I fixed chicken casseroles known as Doris. An old woman named Doris created the recipe.”


“Friends and I change apples into turkeys. The apple is the body. Marshmallows and cranberries are the tail. An olive’s the head.”

Jordan & BK

BK: “I don’t go by books. I cook from the heart. If it tastes good, serve it. If not, toss it.”

Daniel & Caitlin

Caitlin: “We have no traditions.”

Daniel: “We’re gypsies.”


“Americans disrespect tradition. I make 100-year-old margherita pizzas named after Queen Margherita. I’ll never put sugar in sauce or use cheap ingredients. This parmesan costs $900.”

Michael & Bubba

“My wife does a sweet potato with maple syrup and pineapple. Her matzah ball is another secret, though I hear she substitutes seltzer for water so they’re light.”


“My wife’s borscht makes the whole house smell like borscht.”


“My dad’s fruit bread is legendary.”


“Each Thanksgiving someone brings old-fashioned coconut cake. You chop real coconuts; you add butter. Since I was four I’ve sampled the batter.”


“Panama makes the best tamales. My great-grandmother boiled them in plantain leaves. She’d grind her own corn.”

Marc & Sophie

Marc: “Grandma baked rolls — crust on the outside, soft inside. My mom makes them now.”


“Just this week I started assembling family recipes, none of which had been written down. My absolute favorite is aunt Connie’s coleslaw. She shreds cabbage on cheese graters. It’s dusted with paprika. It’s delicious confetti.”

Previously: Jokes.

Jon Cotner has made other holiday-themed slideshows with Claire Hamilton. He’s coauthor of Ten Walks/Two Talks, and can be found here.