Thanksgiving is almost here, and ETonline is getting holiday tips from The Amazing Race and The Fabulous Beekman Boys stars Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge. Read on for the guys' advice on everything from what to serve, how to avoid travel frustration and how to go local with your Christmas shopping.
ETonline: For our readers who might be familiar with you from The Amazing Race, and the Cooking Channel, but who might not know more about you, can you tell us a little bit about yourselves, and your life on the farm?
Josh: Yeah. We were two city guys, who had great jobs in New York City. Brent worked for Martha Stewart, and I worked in advertising. And we bought a farm in upstate New York. Sort of just on a whim as a weekend place. And then in 2008, like a lot of Americans, we lost our jobs. We realized that we had to make this farm pay for itself. And so we took in a neighboring farmer, who needed a place for his goats, and we became overnight accidental goat farmers.
ETonline: What's the biggest way your life has changed since moving from New York City to the farm?
Josh: I mean one of the biggest ways is we've really rediscovered what community is. [From living in] New York City with 11 million people and you don't know 10 of 'em [to] moving to a town of 540 people and we know every single one of them. And we depend on every single one of 'em.
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ETonline: The holidays are right around the corner, and everyone is preparing for visitors and planning menus and trying to manage all the chaos around the holidays while balancing their other responsibilities. What time-saving tip could you offer?
Josh: Okay, this is an easy one. Everybody always thinks mashed potatoes are gonna be the easiest part of dinner. Then they sit down and they start to peel, a big ten pound bag of potatoes and realize that it can take over two hours. It's so easy, you can literally just peel the potatoes the day before or two days before, and put them in your refrigerator in a bowl of water. And then they're ready to go on Thanksgiving day.
ETonline: Good idea.
Josh: Or even better yet, leave the peels on, mash em after you boil them and call them rustic potatoes.
ETonline: That is a good idea, I might do that.
ETonline: So every year, you see all these new Thanksgiving side dish trends. But what is one traditional side dish that you think belongs on every family's Thanksgiving table?
Josh: That's easy. Stuffing is of course the most traditional side dish for Thanksgiving. And we were honored -- Country Living [magazine] just gave us the Best Stuffing Recipe, in their magazine [in] Thanksgiving history ever, 'cause we make a great cornbread sausage stuffing. But Brent grew up with Stove Top stuffing.
ETonline: Which is awesome. It tastes really good.
Josh: Yep. And we believe that Thanksgiving is as much about family memories as it is about food. So we have our own stuffing and then we have a pot of Stove Top stuffing on the table along with it.
ETonline: I love that. Stove Top stuffing just tastes so good, it really does.
Josh: Oh, I lived on it in college.
ETonline: You could live on it! I mean that's dinner. Just one box of that.
Josh: I know. Salt and bread! What could be wrong?
ETonline: What is your favorite way to decorate a holiday table?
Josh: We do a couple of things. One of the things that we love to do, is we collect sort-of random, stray candlesticks from flea markets and vintage plates. And what we've learned is that you can [put] the vintage plates on top of the candlesticks, and then you have these great pedestal presentation dishes. For like two dollars. And it also helps on a Thanksgiving table which is always so full, that you have these elevated platters. ... Another thing we like to do is ... special name cards at the Thanksgiving table -- 'cause it's all about family, and it's all about food -- we take recipe index cards, and we take the recipe that we're gonna have for Thanksgiving dinner and then [put that] on the back of the name card. It's a great thing to do. Especially if you have family traditions, you know you put the same thing on the table every year, you wanna make sure that the next generation has those recipes. SO making name card recipe cards, with the family traditional heirloom recipes, it's just fun.
ETonline: That's a great idea. Because I have all of my grandmother's recipe boxes, but I can't make sense of them. Because there's no specific instructions. It's like, "Okay, take this you know, throw some of this in here with some of this."
Josh: Exactly. Exactly. 'Cause she's got it committed to memory. It's also good to talk about food when the family is together, in case it starts veering into politics, or other fighting.
ETonline: That is a very good piece of advice. So kind of segue-ing into the next question. What is your favorite Thanksgiving tradition in your home?
Brent: Well, besides eating...
Josh: Yes, 'cause eating is a big tradition. Well, since we've moved to the farm, we actually have sort of a community Thanksgiving. Which is really wonderful, so all our neighbors get together in one house in this potluck Thanksgiving. And one of the traditions we started was, you can dress as formally as you want from the waist up, but from the waist down, you have to wear pajamas or snowpants.
Brent: With [an] elastic waist.
Josh: Because the day is all about eating. It is not about fashion.
ETonline: That's awesome. Yeah, you can eat as much as you want without having to worry about fitting into your clothes.
Brent: That's right. And then you're already in your pajamas, so you'll feel sleepy and go back to sleep.
ETonline: That sounds great. So, you are goat farmers. So how does goat's milk and cheese make it into your Thanksgiving recipes?
Josh: Well we have, we make a great Brussels sprout gratin and our blaak cheese, B-L-A-A-K, that's the cheese we make with our goat's milk. It's great eating plain, but it's also great melting cheese. So we have Brussel sprouts gratin.
Brent: We make an apple pie. We pour some of our goat milk caramel over it.
Josh: I don't know if we're gonna make it this year, but we made it last year, the goat milk pumpkin cheese cake. Everyone sort of gets tired of the same pies. So every once in a while we switch it up.
ETonline: That sounds delicious.
Josh: It's really good.
ETonline: With so many people that are going to be traveling for the holidays, what's your favorite tip for reducing holiday travel stress?
Josh: We're sort of experts on travel stress. This is weird, but ... if you're staying in a hotel ... there's a lot of things on your room service tray that you can use as sort of mini spa treatments. So, if you get oatmeal in the morning, and you can't finish it all, you can use it as a facial scrub. You give yourself little mini hotel room spa things. You know, cucumber salad for your eyes. What other travel stress things? Any advice we have?
Brent: I think if you're traveling, particularly through the airport, the most important thing is to start thinking of the airport as part of the vacation. So instead of just being stressed out, getting through security and whatnot, think, "Oh I'm gonna get to the airport, and I'm gonna make budget, get my tavel budget out in the nicest restaurant in the airport. Have a glass of wine." Or, "I'm gonna give myself an allotment of $100, $200 to spend in some of the shops at the airport." 'Cause now, most of the major city airports have amazing shops. So instead of being stressed out about the airport, or dreading the airport, make that the beginning part of your vacation, how can you really start the vacation at the airport. A lot of them have the spas now, you can get a massage. Just make that part of the vacation, just take that element of stress out of it.
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ETonline: That's great advice. ... [Can you talk about your town's] Victorian Celebration and also how people who aren't gonna be in the area can work local shops into their holiday shopping?
Brent: Well, I'll tell you about the Victorian celebration first. This is our third annual Victorian celebration. And we really started it as a way to remind people, particularly local people, that they could go to the shops in our village, and do Christmas shopping, rather than going to the mall. That was really the impetus of the celebration. We just tried to make it as fun as possible, to try to get people excited about coming to the village. So what we created was this, almost like a Mardi Gras atmosphere, because we encourage everybody who comes to the festival to somehow dress up Victorian. So whether that means just putting on a lacy blouse, or a bow tie, just to get into the spirit of the thing. And people really love that. Because our village is so, you know the architecture is so Victorian, last year when we had about a thousand people who dressed up, it really did look like how the village would've looked back in the turn of the century. So it was just a really fun thing.
Josh: Another fun thing we did last year was we had all the local business owners, we did short little one minute videos of them, just with a flip-cam. We had each of the local store owners give their favorite Christmas recipe. And we turned it into a video advent calendar. So each day in December up until Christmas, we posted a local merchant talking about their family, you know Brandy-cake recipe, and then it lit on fire. You know other fun stories and all of that. What a great way to remind, in terms, the whole town would wake up every morning and go watch the video. And it reminded people of the different people in their town.
Brent: And I think that, to be realistic, most main streets are not going to be able to have the wide selection of products that you're going to be able to find online, or find at the mall. So we don't expect everybody to do all of their Christmas shopping on their local Main Street. But maybe if they each just made a commitment to themselves that they're going to buy all the stocking stuffers off of Main Street. Or they're going to spend $20for each person on their list on Main Street. You know just make some small commitment to help support your local main street. That makes a huge difference in the local economy.
ETonline: Definitely, and especially with everybody struggling so much still, I think that would really help turn things around all over the country.
Brent: That's right.
ETonline: Do you have any other holiday advice that you'd like to share?
Josh: I think one of the big things we always say is just try to keep your heirloom traditions. Get them down and record them. You know, because it's so special to carry on these traditions throughout the years. And keep the recipes, and keep the stories going. So anyway you can record your traditions for the holidays it's priceless later on.
Brent: Because honestly, I know it sounds kind of blase, [but] we always get so stressed out trying to find what is the perfect gift for people. But if you really, if everybody really stepped back and said, "What is my favorite memory of the holidays I experienced so far in my life?" That memory is almost never focused on a gift. And if people just take a moment and step back and think about that, even if they're in the midst of shopping for a gift, getting stressed out about shopping, it'll put everything in perspective.
Click here for photos of Josh and Brent on the farm, and their holiday tips come to life. For more about Josh and Brent visit www.Beekman1802.com. You can catch the Beekman boys on The Amazing Race on Sunday nights at 8/7 c on CBS, and on The Fabulous Beekman Boys on Thursday nights at 10 ET on the Cooking Channel.