"Eddie, I need y'all's help!"
That's the call I got on Friday from Elizabeth Blitzer, one of Jaithan's and my closest friends and a native of Baton Rouge, New Orleans. Her accent is sharp, sweet and unmistakably Elizabeth. She then went on to tell me about what began as an intimate Thanksgiving at her place in the Village is now an all-out event for twenty. "I just need more stuff!" she declared. Now I've been over to her place for dinner a number of times, so I know the "stuff" she already has. It's a charming mix of new and old, classic and modern with that great southern style that's so Elizabeth. I would definitely imagine she needs more china to add to the collection of antique ironstone she already has, plus a few new serving pieces, utensils and perhaps even some linens for a look that's season-appropriate, personal and very pulled together. So when Sunday morning came, coffee in hand, off we went to the flea market in Hell's Kitchen and the hunt for the perfect Thanksgiving table!
There's one booth I especially love for lots of good antique tabletop. My friend Rich scours estate sales during the week and is always finding the best stuff. I wish I had his job!
I don't know if it was the time change or what, but suddenly the Easter Bunny was totally playing tricks! Check out this old cake mold in the form of three—count 'em, three!—oversized eggs. Ever since I was in culinary school, I've loved baking with vintage molds and tins. This one's especially good because you can really make a lot at one time. How fun is this going to be around Easter for all my friends with children? I'd decorate them very simply, just with a piping bag, in all the pretty colors of the season. It just goes to show that even if you have lots of specifics in mind, you can still go to the flea market and find something totally unrelated but still just as great. Timing is everything! You never know what you'll find—or when.
Take these old wooden candlesticks, for example. I already have a few in my collection, but I'm always looking for more, especially around this time of year. I love the warmth that wooden candlesticks bring to a Thanksgiving table, especially the darker ones turned on a lathe. Love too the ones I found on ebay!
Another great way to add warmth to the table is with antique wooden cutting boards. Now that mine have all been conditioned with mineral oil, they're going to be perfect either as trivets or for serving cheeses and breads. Oooooo, I can see the warm corn bread now…
And for a little bit of height on the table, how perfect is this glass compote for serving cranberry relish? Stay tuned for how I doctor up a store-bought version, then serve it as though it's the most special dish around. Presentation is everything!
Whole nuts in the shell, for example, suddenly become something special when you serve them alongside a vintage bowl with the nut cracker built in. The shells just fall right into the bowl. Talk about a pretty mess! And if you like this one, check out ebay for more!
Here's the pile of stuff we set aside, while Elizabeth and I scoured the rest of the flea market.
But first, check out this little video!
And off we went on our search for even more great stuff for Elizabeth. Thanksgiving's just around the corner and I really wanted to help her create a look that's sophisticated and pulled together.
I think antique linens are such a great start to a table full of character. Even if you find something that's a little soiled, Lestoil works wonders!
Check out this piece of vintage fabric Elizabeth spotted. Even though it's a remnant, it would still make such a pretty runner going down a table, especially paired with the wooden candlesticks and glass compote we just found. What a beautiful start to a Thanksgiving buffet!
Whenever I'm entertaining this time of year and it comes time to choosing a color palette, especially for a big Thanksgiving meal, I like to think about the color of leaves throughout the season. It's all the reds and golds, the burnt oranges and browns and that beautiful green tone just before they turn that I think inspire the most beautiful tables. Elizabeth was definitely looking for more serving ware for her party and this large transferware platter would be perfect. The green has a wonderful earthy tone, don't you think? This platter would be great not only for turkey but also for one of my favorite (and super easy!) Thanksgiving sides, roasted acorn squash. Pair it with a runner made from that brown fabric remnant we found, and it's just plain beautiful!
Two other ways to add warmth to a Thanksgiving table, still inspired by the colors of the season, are with touches of timeworn copper and brass. Check out this old copper saucepan I found! I wouldn't serve food in it as it's no longer tinned, but how pretty (and unexpected) would it be for a flower arrangement on a buffet? I'm thinking of dahlias and fall leaves. What about you?
And for a touch of brass, how pretty are these vintage soup ladles? Ebay has pretty ones too. In fact, I think they might have already inspired Elizabeth's first course—Cauliflower and Roasted Garlic Soup. I served it last year and loved it!
Yellow ware is another great way to bring in the spirit of the season. It's pretty widely available at flea markets too. Even if you don't use a bowl like this for presentation, it's perfect for, say, mixing a batter of cornbread. So we may have found a few good serving pieces and utensils for Elizabeth, together with the fabric for the runner, but we were still on the look out for china she could easily mix with her collection of white antique ironstone.
And as luck would have it, there it was—a beautiful set of ironstone transferware. Look how junky the table was too. Love that!
I think the pattern is quite pretty—it's a fall harvest basket filled with seasonal fruits and nuts. And best of all, Elizabeth loved it! I suggested she mix in plates from this set with the white ironstone she already owns. One setting would have a white dinner plate, then a transferware salad plate on top of that. The next setting would simply be the reverse. The look is cool and eclectic but in a consistent and pulled together way, don't you think?
Now that that was done (whew!), we decided to head back to Rich's booth to pick up all our other stuff before heading out.
But first, check out this sideboard we spotted on the way back. I like its shape, and it's definitely in good condition, but I just want to lighten it up a bit. If it were up to me, I'd paint the whole thing a warm mushroom color, lay burlap over the top, then paint it the same color again. The texture would be so pretty and the perfect backdrop to a sophisticated Thanksgiving buffet, don't you think?
But sometimes, sophisticated only goes so far before you just want to have fun, right? And for Elizabeth's Thanksgiving party, full of all her friends and family from the south, I think this old vintage Dolly Parton album would be perfect!
All in all, I'd say Elizabeth and I did pretty well, wouldn't you? She scored a lot of great "stuff" that's going to mix in perfectly with what she already owns. So even if you think you have everything you need for Thanksgiving this year, why not take a trip to the flea market, your local Goodwill or even check out ebay for that little something more? Creating a Thanksgiving table that's pulled together and beautiful is all in the details, and in the coming weeks, I'll show you how!