A Down-Home Thanksgiving on the Kimball Farm Chris Kimball, host of the TV show America's Test Kitchen, shares an old-fashioned Thanksgiving from his family farm in rural Vermont. He grew up nearby, where he learned to cook and do almost everything needed for this country feast.
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A Down-Home Thanksgiving on the Kimball Farm

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A Down-Home Thanksgiving on the Kimball Farm

A Down-Home Thanksgiving on the Kimball Farm

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Good morning. You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

(Soundbite of music)

MONTAGNE: And we're celebrating Thanksgiving the old-fashioned way today, down-home on the farm.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. CHRIS KIMBALL (Cooks Illustrated): Hey, how are you?

MONTAGNE: Hi. Yee, look at all of this.

Mr. KIMBALL: Nice to see you made it.

MONTAGNE: Hey. Fine, thank you.

I've come along away for all of this holiday hugging and kissing, from L.A. to rural Vermont and the Kimball family farm.

Chris Kimball hosts the public television show "America's Test Kitchen" and he founded Cooks Illustrated magazine.

Spending Thanksgiving with him has become a tradition for all us here at MORNING EDITION, but being with his family is a first.

Ms. ADRIENNE KIMBALL: Hi, I'm Adrienne. Nice to meet you.

MONTAGNE: You're Adrienne - nice to meet you finally.

Ms. KIMBALL: You too.

MONTAGNE: Chris, his wife, Adrienne, their three daughters and son, live in Boston, but they drive out to their Vermont farmhouse as much as they can. At the moment Chris is leading us by the thump, thump, thump of his riding boots to where the holiday begins.

MONTAGNE: This is the farmhouse kitchen.

Mr. KIMBALL: Yeah, this is the wood stove farmhouse kitchen.

MONTAGNE: Wow. (Unintelligible)

Mr. KIMBALL: Yeah, and we had it - I bought it from a guy in Massachusetts who reconditions old stoves and, you know, it's a wood stove, and I'll put the turkey in there in a couple of hours. So it's good for a nice, you know, consistent heat. And you can - you have a lot of ways of controlling it; you have a two dampers here.

MONTAGNE: Which (unintelligible)

Mr. KIMBALL: And then has a nice foot thing for the oven, which is to open it.

MONTAGNE: So you can pretty much just kick it.

Ms. KIMBALL: Yeah, you just...

MONTAGNE: Can I kick the door closed?

Mr. KIMBALL: Yeah. Nicely done.


(Soundbite of music)

MONTAGNE: Well, what do you need to do at this point - we're sort of midday. You're not putting in the turkey for just a little bit. Shall we move on to ice cream?

(Soundbite of music)

MONTAGNE: This is the kind of Thanksgiving we're having at the Kimball farm. Even the vanilla ice cream to accompany our homemade apple pie is made the old-fashioned way. Chris pours rock salt around a mixture inside a big cedar bucket set down on the porch.

Mr. KIMBALL: And it makes an ungodly noise, and it takes about 25 minutes or half an hour, and you know it's done because the motor starts to walk and make horrible noises and smoke.

(Soundbite of ice cream machine)

Ms. KIMBALL: Charlie, you want some ice cream?

CHARLIE: I want...

Mr. KIMBALL: Hey, buddy...

Ms. KIMBALL: Come over here.

Mr. KIMBALL: Okay.

MONTAGNE: Well, that's wonderful. That's a success. First success for the day.

Mr. KIMBALL: That worked out. Yeah. We can forget the turkey. Here, you hold it.


Mr. KIMBALL: Here.

MONTAGNE: Don't lose it. Okay. Do you need to baste this turkey before we go?

Mr. KIMBALL: No. No, I don't do anything.

MONTAGNE: Go, while the turkey cooks in that wood stove, down the hill to the Kimball barn - crisp whitewood siding below a black roof right out of Norman Rockwell.

(Soundbite of music)

MONTAGNE: Here on the farm our host has swapped his signature bow tie - that's city stuff - for red suspenders and a flannel shirt. This is the Chris Kimball who grew up nearby working on a farm. That's where he learned to cook and to do just about everything else we're doing for our Thanksgiving in the country.

This two-horse team might have been clearing a field; instead these big horses are pulling us in a metal buggy.

Rhoda Wells(ph) takes care of the horses on the farm and she gave me a lesson on how to drive the team.

Ms. RHODA WELLS: You need to take a deep breath and let it out and now really relax.


Ms. WELLS: Let it out. Now, get your hands even.


Ms. WELLS: Ho.


Ms. WELLS: And then the slack - there you go. Say step up.

MONTAGNE: Step up.

Ms. WELLS: Don't tell...

MONTAGNE: Mercifully, the horses know their way back to the barn. There, Chris's youngest, Emily, meets us with a newly laid egg.

Ms. WELLS: Here we go.

EMILY: It's warm.

MONTAGNE: Hot almost.

Ms. EMILY KIMBALL: (Unintelligible).

MONTAGNE: Which brings us back to the topic of cooking.

Are people afraid to invite you over to dinner?

Mr. KIMBALL: Oh yeah, because they try to impress you, and so they end up cooking 15 things, and they take a day a half, and there's this huge smorgasbord of things. And you know, all you really wanted was a bowl of soup. But you know, people out in here are just as happy to do crock pot spaghetti sauce, and it's delicious, even the time that it was made with red squirrel.

MONTAGNE: Was that a surprise?

Mr. KIMBALL: We did have a neighbor come. He used to life down the road. They skinned them and it was actually good. We've had woodchuck stew. We've had lots of things - bear meat. Actually, of all the meals we've had, I would enjoy the most. People just invite you over and they're cooking something that they shot or raised. You know, it's not an adventure, and it's not gourmet, and its not - it doesn't have to be perfect. It's just dinner, which I think is the point.

(Soundbite of music)

MONTAGNE: No squirrel for us in this Thanksgiving feast. Chris Kimball has dreamed up a simple country menu - the turkey raised nearby, of course; potatoes grown on the farm, kept in the cellar; they'll be mashed and topped with onions, butter, and a secret ingredient.

Mr. KIMBALL: A few anchovy fillets.

MONTAGNE: Kids think yuck.

Mr. KIMBALL: Kids think yuck.

(Soundbite of frying)

Mr. KIMBALL: See, they're already starting to fall apart.

MONTAGNE: That smell from the splattering skillet quickly takes over the kitchen as Chris tries to put homegrown turnips through a ricer - another ingredient for the mashed potatoes.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MONTAGNE: You're getting it all over yourself.

Mr. KIMBALL: (Unintelligible) a lot of work.

MONTAGNE: This is better for your...

Mr. KIMBALL: Whose stupid idea of a recipe was this?

MONTAGNE: There's also pan-baked soda bread, which behaves, stuffing with sausage, apples and toasted pecans - cooked in an antique wooden stove, but timed with the latest in digital equipment.

(Soundbite of alarm)

Mr. KIMBALL: It's not mine. Make a great emergency room doctor. It's not mine.

MONTAGNE: The Kimballs even down home on the farm can sound like the rest of us - doing their best to wrangle a Thanksgiving meal.

(Soundbite of music)

EMILY: Oh, my feet are cold now.

Ms. KIMBALL: Well, Emily, you could put shoes on.

MONTAGNE: There's one final ingredient needed for our dinner.

Mr. KIMBALL: Here's the pail.

Ms. KIMBALL: I'm hunched over a pail full of icy, icy water and four kinds of apples - scrubbing them. We clean them up even though they don't need too much scrubbing because there are no pesticides because they're organic. You put them into the apple cider maker - the press.

Unidentified Woman #1: Right this way, Candy(ph).

MONTAGNE: The whole family's bundled up in the Kimball's gravel driveway, pressing cider for Chris' cider gravy.

Ms. KIMBALL: ...there's one stuck in here.

Mr. KIMBALL: Well, I need a lace to cut(ph).

MONTAGNE: And it's not as easy as you might think.

Ms. KIMBALL: It's, like, now you take your seven seconds and, you know, let your muscle rest.

Mr. KIMBALL: It's like cappuccino.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. KIMBALL: This is the last batch.

Unidentified Woman #2: Half a bucket's full.

Mr. KIMBALL: It's okay, everybody take nap.

MONTAGNE: I'd like to see the...

Mr. KIMBALL: We worked for 20 minutes.

Ms. KIMBALL: This is to fresh cider and Thanksgiving.


Mr. KIMBALL: Hear, hear.

MONTAGNE: Hear, hear is right.

(Soundbite of glass clinking)

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man: Ah.

MONTAGNE: It must be said that Chris and his family thought the cider was a little too sweet, I thought it was divine.

Chris Kimball's delightful menu is at npr.org.

Ms. KIMBALL: For someone who lives in an apartment in Atlanta, Chicago, you can't have this kind of a traditional fantasy, really, for a lot of people.

MONTAGNE: What would be the...

Mr. KIMBALL: Let me give you...

MONTAGNE: ...next best thing?

Mr. KIMBALL: It doesn't have to these recipes; you can skip the team of horses and the cider-pressing if you want. It's just doing the same thing - it's the one day in the entire year when families do the same thing every year; that's it - that's Thanksgiving. It doesn't matter what it is, it's just the same thing.

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