Jessica Mischner joined the editorial staff of Garden and Gun as senior editor after stints at Food & Wine, Metropolitan Home, and Travel + Leisure. Jessica has appeared on The TODAY Show, Fox & Friends, CBS’s The Early Show, and Planet Green to discuss issues ranging from food to sustainable style and travel. A native of South Carolina, Jessica spent eight years in New York before moving to Charleston with her husband, Will, in 2011.
Long after the pies and sides have come and gone, the memories of Thanksgiving — family bonding in the kitchen, wine-fueled stories around the table, last-minute guests, and the inevitable flight delay — remain. It’s the sense of occasion and the experience of sharing the holiday together that make it such an enduring and beloved tradition.
Which is why it’s so important to carry out the whole thing in style. Down south, that means pulling out the good china, pressing the linens, and dusting off the silver. That’s not to say it has to be a stuffy affair. The trick is to make it look effortless, which is why a bit of patina and a few rustic elements aren’t just allowed — they’re essential. Like the holiday itself, you want your table to be a mix of the old, the new, and the unexpected.
[Clockwise from top left: Pheasant salt and pepper shakers from criminytriplet; Tri-compartment serving tray from goodsfromtheattic; Pie plate from Pickerchicks; Sterling Duchin Candelabra from TrunkGypsies; Wm. Rogers Flatware for 8 from MoseleyAndStokes; Vintage cranberry server from AJewelsQuest.]
No Southern table is complete without some shine, but silver doesn’t have to be scary. In fact, Thanksgiving is the perfect time to free this metal from its gone-era fussiness once and for all. A few key pieces are all you need for maximum effect, and limiting your numbers ensures you won’t be polishing the stuff for days before and after. Candlelight makes everyone look better, and a well-loved candelabrum with an air of faded-grandeur about it enhances the Southern gothic effect. Pheasant salt and pepper shakers are a substantial way to bring the outdoors inside (and besides, there’s always room for another bird on the table!). Accompanied by mismatched china and earthy florals, these pieces will elevate the everyday into something special, without rendering the whole arrangement too rarefied for comfort.
[Clockwise from top left: Vintage Limoges serving trays from myplace4tea; Gold leaf crystal wine glasses from 22BayRoad; Olive tray from joysofolduk; Fleur de Lis coasters from OlsenVintageMarket; Mother of pearl pickle fork from MamaBois; Orange square bowl from TheOtherLifeVintage.]
Another way to add luster to the table? Gold! Each of these pieces is holiday-worthy without feeling overly precious. A dash of mother of pearl on a pickle fork (a must for the pickle plate that will accompany any Southern buffet) here, a splash of gold leaf around the rim of a wine glass there and you’ve set a new standard for easy elegance. Throw in a hunt-inspired olive dish, a bold orange platter, and a fleur de lis motif, and you’ve got a city house/country house blend that’s equal parts understated yet refined. Now, in your most convincing voice, repeat after me, “What — this old thing?”
[Clockwise from top left: Rustic round cutting board from stilllifestyle; French linen tablecloth from FrenchCountryLiving; White soup tureen from PeriodElegance; Cotton stems from TALLCOTTONnPEAS; French oyster plate from RueDesLouves; Vintage cocktail napkins from SweetHistory; Duck casserole dish from VintageCleveland.]
At its core, Thanksgiving is a rustic, organic holiday in which nature is the centerpiece, which is why farmhouse elements that let the food stand out are as important as any silver or stemware. Whether you’re making roast duck or pumpkin soup, classic white dishes make any recipe look better. Sage and parsley brighten up a rugged round cutting board, and cotton stems situate the field feast vibe squarely in the South. Throw in a French linen tablecloth and a must-have oyster plate (bivalves are a Southern staple come fall), and you could be eating with sticks and still have one seriously stylish set-up. Dig in, pilgrims!