The regular: Thanksgiving edition
Thu Nov 22 2007
Photograph: Meghan Petersen
The Central Park Boathouse (Central Park Lake, park entrance on Fifth Ave at 72nd St; 212-517-2233)
The Moss and Sher families, most of them native New Yorkers (with the exception of Uzbekistan-raised Laura, 72, the Moss matriarch, and her South African son-in-law, Phil Sher). The Mosses have a long history of public service in New York City—Laura’s husband, Alan, 75, spent 22 years serving the Parks Department under Mayors Lindsay, Koch and Giuliani, eight of them as first deputy commissioner. Their daughter Anita works for the Office of Emergency Management, and their son, Jeremy, who now toils in commercial real estate, spent his summers home from college painting lampposts for the Central Park Conservancy. “We’re a very civic-minded family,” explains Alan. Not pictured is the Newman family (“The Cambridge Contingent” in Moss parlance): Alan and Laura’s daughter Elisabeth, a child-psychologist, her husband, Aron, and their three-year-old daughter, Hannah.
Alan and Laura Moss have gathered the 10 members of their extended family (including two sons-in-law and three grandchildren) at the Boathouse each Thanksgiving for the past decade. “I feel at home when I enter a park facility; it’s very comfortable and warm,” says Alan.
Their holiday starts at about 8:30am, when the family takes to the bleachers at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (they are among the few to have reserved seats). “Whether it snowed, rained or shone, we were at that parade,” says Laura, who has been bringing her children to the spectacle since 1967. They arrive at the Boathouse by noon and dispatch the grandkids (Ian, 8, Megan, 6, and Hannah) to feed bread to the snapping turtles in the lake. The Mosses, along with the estimated 1,300 other Thanksgiving guests at the restaurant, feast on four courses (for as many hours) before rolling home.
The classic $65-per-person Thanksgiving prix fixe features sliced local turkey marinated in garlic, parsley and thyme, sweet-potato puree with toasted marshmallows, and cranberry relish with oranges and crushed pineapple. Each year, Jeremy looks forward to the first course—a lobster bisque or a mushroom velouté—but Laura’s focus is the fowl: “It’s Thanksgiving!” Only Phil opts out of the traditional meal in favor of salmon with artichokes, pearl onions and butter lettuce. “If you didn’t grow up [in this country], you don’t develop a taste for turkey,” he says in his South African lilt. He succumbs to the American agenda when it comes to the pies: This year it’s pumpkin.
“Our mother cooked dinner the one time we did stay home,” recalls Anita, the oldest of the Moss children. “She didn’t grow up in this country so she wasn’t as familiar with the traditions. We came to the table and what did we find? Turkey burgers!” Laura, who had her first Thanksgiving in 1955 as part of a foreign-studies program at New York University, counters that “in Uzbekistan, we were so happy to have anything that was put on our plate. I’m a Holocaust survivor; every day is a gift. You’re talking to someone who is overwhelmed by the fact that I am here and that I have a family.” True to the under-ten set, Ian has a more whimsical take, “I’m three-quarters thankful for [my sister].”
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