The Isacs have always treasured the Thanksgiving holiday season as an important time to reflect on all things they are grateful for. Their appreciation has only increased after the untimely passing of Peter Isacs, a loving husband and father, in August 2020, due to an aneurysm.
After Peter passed away, the family were bracing themselves for a difficult Thanksgiving. But Nadine and her two sons, PK and Christopher, decided to channel their grief into something positive. “Historically, in our family, when one of us has a good idea, we all tend to remember it as our own. We have since joked about which one of us actually initiated the idea for this book, but we now know in our hearts it was Peter,” they wrote in their new book, “Gobble,” scheduled for release in October. “We’re very grateful for the inspiration that we had to write this book,” said Nadine in a recent interview.
“Gobble: The Quintessential Thanksgiving Playbook” serves as a guide on how to organize the perfect family Thanksgiving. It covers everything from festive games and activities to laying out a beautiful table for the occasion. The book also discusses the importance of setting family traditions for the holiday season, from taking a short stroll between dinner and dessert, to starting a “gratitude” tablecloth and getting everyone to write one thing they are thankful for every year.
Embracing Family Traditions
For example, the Isacs put up their Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving in their Litchfield Hills, Connecticut, home. They say they do this for several reasons: the first is to be able to enjoy the tree for as long as possible; the second is to enlist the help of guests to put up Christmas ornaments. “It’s a great way to kick off the Christmas season,” they stated in their book.
For both PK and Christopher, Thanksgiving has always been a favorite holiday, as it is a time to focus on family. “Traditions are a really effective way to share that love,” said PK. Christopher believes that traditions serve as a way to bond and for family members to express gratitude for each other. “Living in gratitude helps one appreciate the good times and get through the bad. Gratitude can be very similar to empathy in a lot of ways, especially when you’re with family and you’re sharing in the gratitude for the opportunity to be there together, grateful for everything you’ve done for each other, and grateful for everything that you’ve gotten out of the past year,” said Christopher.
Treasuring the Final Moments
Nadine remembers the days leading up to her husband’s passing as a particularly special time for the whole family. “We were in the middle of a pandemic, and had we not been, the boys would probably not have been home.” She is grateful for this time, as it allowed the family to be in each other’s company. “We had some incredible family time leading up to this death,” she recounted. The evening that Peter passed away was the most poignant day to her. “It was a gorgeous August day. If you could design a day for your last day, it would have been designed the way he lived it,” she said. He started the day by reading the newspaper and then riding on his tractor—something he loved to do.
“In the evening, we went to our meadow and had a beautiful summer dinner all together. And then, ironically, he came up and watched his favorite movie with the boys, which was ‘Star Wars,’” Nadine chuckled. After that, he told his family he loved them and got into bed. An hour later, he was gone.
The family shared many warm memories about Peter and his love for food, family, and tradition. Chris said, “My first memory of helping out in the kitchen was doing the onions, carrots, and celery and chopping them up for my dad, who was making stuffing for Thanksgiving.”
Fostering a Love for Thanksgiving
The boys’ father was influential in fostering a love for Thanksgiving. “He was the one who taught us about food, about wine. That all comes from him,” added PK. Every Thanksgiving, each member of the family would assume different roles to help prepare for the occasion. Chris would help with cooking, while his brother PK displayed a keen interest in wine and bartending. Nadine said, “As soon as he was of legal age, and maybe even a little bit before, PK started studying wines. My husband really knew wine, and he also instilled in them an interest in history and geography.” PK spent many hours in the family library, sifting through books about wine regions, varietals, and vinification techniques, while his younger brother Chris studied cookbooks.
Nadine was renowned for creating beautiful table arrangements for the festive season. During holidays, it was common for friends and family to use Nadine’s decorations as inspiration for their own table settings at home. Peter’s mother and grandmother served as influential figures for Nadine, who considered them incredible entertainers and hosts. “I always admired them for the tables they set,” she said.
The Isacs’ appreciation for food and wine has been passed down through the generations. PK and Chris’ grandfather (Peter’s father) kept many books about wine and was awarded the title of Chevalier du Tastevin, a French award given to top wine enthusiasts. While attending Tulane University, both boys hosted elaborate dinner parties for friends, using their cooking and bartending experience from helping out at Thanksgiving.
Gratitude remains a big part of the family, even outside of Thanksgiving. Living through the pandemic and losing a family member has provided the Isacs with a new perspective and a heightened appreciation for each other. “It’s been such an incredible experience,” said Nadine. It has allowed the family to spend more time together while prioritizing good health and maintaining personal connections. “We’ve always taken for granted being in the same room or, you know, giving a hug to someone or just getting together. And I think all of us right now are appreciating that like we’ve never done before,” said Nadine.