Point of View: On the Tred Avon

A Thanksgiving dinner on the Eastern Shore

We’ve returned from a Thanksgiving dinner on the Eastern Shore that would have made even Ina Garten envious. And the house, whose core dates to 1876 or so, was beautiful, the most beautiful one I’ve ever been in.  

Fearing that we might wear thin — I mean, our repertoire is not endless — we stayed the first two nights at the Tidewater Inn in Easton, about 20 minutes from my cousin’s house, and while the room was a bit cramped (people must have been smaller and/or less demanding in the 1940s), we stuck it out. And I’m glad we did, for Frederick Douglass, as we learned from flags at every street corner, was a native son. As was Harriet Tubman, the bartender at the Pub told us.

“Of course, he couldn’t wait to get out of Easton,” Mary said, but still it was interesting to know he was from there, and to know that there is a well-reviewed biography of him that has just come out.

Driving around there isn’t the easiest thing: There are deep ditches alongside the roads, bordered by dark, tall pines. Several times in those dark pines we had to back up nervously, trying to find our way to the tree in whose thick bark was implanted their tiny house number.

Mike, my cousin Margot said, rather liked it that way. It reminded me of my late Uncle Louis, who lived up on Waterworks Road, in Sewickley, Pa., and insisted that the rutted dirt road remain untended. Still, everyone descended, or ascended.

Uncle Louis and Aunt Gwenny’s was a gathering place, much like my cousin Margot’s. She welcomes you with open arms as you stare, mouths agape, not knowing that people still ive like this. Many bedrooms, many living rooms, many fireplaces, and many dogs — five black Labs by actual count, all as welcoming as she.

While the setting is rarefied, on the banks of the Tred Avon River, with Oxford just across the way, one feels, once having been given the grand tour, at home.

And, man, can Margot cook, a fact hitherto largely unknown to me. Mary, who’s used to playing hostess to two score on Thanksgiving, wanted — wanted very much — to help, but everything was in order, everything taken care of. She was utterly delighted when told she could wash the dishes. And I, wanting to be useful too, made margaritas — the recipe for which, vouchsafed by East Hampton’s own Alex Silva, you can find in one of Ina Garten’s early cookbooks.

There were 11 of us at dinner, the youngest being 3, and there was affection all around, everyone having a chance to talk, everyone having a chance to listen, and everyone having a chance simply to reflect in silence. It was an exceedingly pleasant feeling, one that I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced in quite the same way before. 

It brought to mind the general’s toast in “Babette’s Feast,” one of my favorites, and its lines from Psalm 85: “Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.”