Good Taste: Thanksgiving with Lady Ottoline Morrell


It’s one thing to be in England while the gastropub movement is in full swing. It’s another to be both a Sapphic sister and a former English literature major, in a Bloomsbury pub called The Lady Ottoline.

And it’s even more wonderful to be there on a Sunday evening, the last night of our honeymoon, and to accidentally order a very Thanksgiving-y dinner, when our wedding reception dinner had the theme of Thanksgiving. As I overheard in London, “It really ticked my box.”

Lady Ottoline Violet Anne Morrell was part of the literary Bloomsbury clique, along with Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West, Lytton Strachey, Clive and Vanessa Bell, E.M. Forster and more. Writers, artists, philosophers, aesthetes—they rejected Victorian values along with heterosexuality. Although this pub is not the former Morrell residence, it’s right around the corner from the home where Morrell hosted an ongoing salon.

The interior really does feel genteel/girly enough to be believable as the pub named after a Lady. The polished wood’s luster gleams warmly, under a pale blue ceiling adorned with creamy white molding. Black and white checkered tile skirts the floor around the bar. Walking downstairs to the restroom, an experience so usually dull, was also memorable. As the narrow, winding steps brought one down, a series of tasteful vintage female black and white nude photos made it seem like a journey down to an earlier age, and perhaps to some naughty goings-on.

Sunday is roast day in British pubs, and Laura was thinking about getting a mix of different roasts. “They’re out of the duck, and are substituting a whole roast chicken,” she said. “Let’s share that,” I said, thinking it would be less expensive.

Well. What a good idea that turned out to be.

We enjoyed mellow house ales as we waited, appreciating their mild carbonation, lack of icy temperature, and lower alcohol content. Then, our barkeep walked out with a cutting board in front of him—bearing a perfectly browned, food magazine-gorgeous chicken. “Dunno if one of you want to play mum and carve it, or if I should bring it back to the kitchen,” he said. We agreed that it would be best to leave that task to the professionals. When he came back, he had yet another cutting board crowded with treats that came with the chicken—and they were a total surprise, as I hadn’t noticed them on the menu. And here’s where it ties into Thanksgiving…

It held small bowls of the following: cauliflower cheese (think macaroni and cheese, but with cauliflower instead); apple cider-y red cabbage; a savory leek crumble; sautéed chard and broccoli; Yorkshire pudding, sturdy duck fat roasted potato wedges, and gravy.

As an American, I always assumed Yorkshire pudding was — a gooey mixture? Maybe sweet? I was so happy to find out that it’s more like a giant savory profiterole, without the filling.

The roasted chicken was very juicy, and had a perfectly crisped skin. That, along with such a wealth of sides, reminded us of our favorite holiday.

As per usual, I’ll be hosting a big Thanksgiving day feast, and am going to repeat the turkey recipe that brought down the house last year, Crisp Apple-Scented Roast Turkey with Cider Calvados Gravy from Saveur magazine. Not only does it involve apples, and ancho chile powder, and French apple brandy, but also, 39 cloves of garlic. If you decide to take this sexy beast on, it will be a multi-day endeavor, but will be worth every bit of effort.

Accompanying it: Yorkshire pudding, cauliflower cheese, cider-y cabbage, and that subtle knockout of a savory crumble. We wanted our wedding reception dinner to remind us of how much we love and celebrate Thanksgiving, and now Thanksgiving will remind us of both our wedding and our honeymoon.

Here are promising links to recipes for some of these dishes. I’ll be experimenting with them in the coming weeks. Share your recipes for these dishes if you feel so inclined!

Cauliflower cheese from

Braised red cabbage with apples

Leek crumble

p.s. My new book, Licking the Spoon: A Memoir of Food, Family, and Identity (Seal Press), was just released 2 weeks early from and You can buy it here, like it on Facebook, or .

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