Copyright Vladimir Kagan 2010
Thanksgiving at the Kagans has become an institution. Some of our guests have been with us for 32 years…. every year!..... They come yearly to fatten up on turkey and guzzle down gallons of wine….. They’re hilarious, they’re dysfunctional, they’re nuts…. but we love them!.... They affectionately call themselves, “We is what we Waz”
Some are the bi-product of our son-in-law, Billy Cushman. These characters share a common denominator; they went to The Berkshire School, a preppy environment for rich kids. The school, over the years, may have spewed out some illustrious grads, but the class of 1971 certainly did not. (It was in the time of the Vietnam War and Hippies and no one paid much attention to studies.) They are all scions of America’s lost industrial grandeur. George Sterling Coyne’s forebears owned textile mills in Philadelphia before they morphed into Coyne Chemicals. The Keeney brother’s, now living in the family’s grand 20 room mansion, built in 1912 in Summersville, Connecticut, now look at the once proud, but abandoned Keeney Textile Mills across their side yard. William Sanderson Cushman is a direct descendant of Samuel Colt, the inventor of the six-shooter (on his paternal side) and the Ford family (of Model T fame) on the other. Karyn Kudra Coyne is from New Jersey, where her family were the proprietors of one of the largest cranberry bogs in the state, (until the industry migrated to Chile) The Kudra family dates back four generations in Vienna where they were furriers to the royal family.
Everyone arrived by ferry on the blustery Wednesday before Thanksgiving. They Brought enough luggage, coolers, and cases of wine to fill up all available space in our Explorer SUV…. (alas, they had to walk to our house in sub-freezing temperature with gusty Nor’easter wind in their faces.) Bill Cushman arrived on his beloved Moto Guzzi bike followed by Jessica and her daughter Mallory, in the family’s pick-up.
This motley group meets once a year in our Nantucket home and collectively bring: 13 lbs of bacon, one 26 lb. Turkey, a Ham, 4 Cases of wine, Cider – 4 gallons, 3 pounds sausage, 6 lbs of Philadelphia Scrapple, 4 gallons cider, 5 pies 4 loaves of home backed bread, 6 qts. of berries, 1 gal. Of heavy cream, 8 lbs of butter, a bushel of vegetables including Brussels Sprouts on a stem, (to taunt me as I hate Brussels sprouts) 20 lbs of potatoes…. Plus much, much more. Add this to what we purchased on island including 3 lbs of freshly shucked Nantucket Bay Scallops for my specialty: seviche…. You get an image of what our weekend will be like!
It is an ongoing cook-fest for four days…. (I abandon the kitchen to my eager imported chefs…. in fact I sneaked up to my studio to write this Blog!)
This is the stil-life photo of the finished product....(I neglected to take photos of the chaotic goings on in the kitchen for most of the day.)
If I make my guests sound like neir-do-wells: they are not! Rob Keeney is president of the Burgundy Tastevin Foundation, and a member of The Yale Russian Chorus, plus other wine societies. He was an officer in The Republic National Bank (as he likes to say, a token “Goy” in a Jewish bank), Tod Keeney ran a successful real estate business in Hawaii, George Coyne is an actor playing amazing character roles (befitting his girth and sense of humor), Karyn Coyne has her own Antique business in Washington Crossing, Pennsylvania. Billy Cushman was a successful builder and contractor until the market crashed…. (He now works with our daughter Jessica, running her growing Jewelry emporium, appropriately called “JKC - Jessica Kagan Cushman” (Note the “Kagan” was inserted to help kick-start her identity using my designer credentials).
This accounts for the ten guests camping in our house. Tonight, the rest of the family will join us: five Diserios (daughter Vanessa and family, who lives five houses away from us) and our son Illya, (a permanent resident of Nantucket) adding four more Kagans. We’ll squeeze 20 cheerful people into our smallish dining room, (designed to comfortably seat eight!)
Our usualThanksgiving "suspects": Rob Keeney, Billy Cushman Chef for the evening, George Coyne our perenial clown, and Karyn, his long suffering wife. (unfortunately Tod Keeney was left out of this photo)
Daughters Jessica and Vanessa with Dad
The weekend is one giddy party after another until the mass exodus on Monday…. leaving us with all the mess and tons of leftovers…. We can’t wait till next year’s reunion.