A Venice consultant’s cookbook helps people become more turkey savvy

By Sara Edwards

Jessica C. Williams’ new book, “Turkey Savvy: How to stuff a bird, feed fortunate guests, and make lifelong memories” offers recipes and checklists, inspirational photos and humorous advice.

Venice consultant Jessica Williams’ idea for creating a Thanksgiving cookbook started off with her writing recipes for her son and his cousins. After she told people what she was doing, they began to ask Williams to write her recipes down for them and what her shopping list looked like for Thanksgiving, which made her realize how much of an interest there was in the subject.

“It then became this idea that maybe people could benefit from this, especially for what I call us hyphenated Americans such as Asian-Americans and Latin-Americans,” Williams said. “We always had the rice on the side, noodles, tamales. We didn’t quite get the concept of ‘what is a pure Thanksgiving dinner?’”

Williams released her Thanksgiving cookbook, “​Turkey Savvy: How to stuff a bird, feed fortunate guests, and make lifelong memories,”​ ​to help take away the mystery and intimidation of cooking a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. In her day job, she takes complex concepts, breaks them down and teaches them to other people.

“It kind of became a logical fit with this subject because there are so many steps and ingredients and so forth,” she says.

Williams’ cookbook is a combination of simple Thanksgiving recipes with a shopping list of what to buy for each recipe, and when items should be cooked or prepared. She also includes a layout of all the kitchen tools and utensils needed for each recipe, and color coordinates the pages by the day that each recipe should be prepared.

Before putting together the cookbook, Williams conducted surveys through social media, asking people what their thoughts were on making a turkey dinner, whether they had tried it before and if not, why they hadn’t. The answers she received were pretty surprising.

“People had a lot of fears,” Williams says. “Even if they could find a recipe, they didn’t know how to follow that recipe and I realized that for a beginner, there were a lot of shortcomings. There’s not enough information for a beginner.”

Williams collaborated with other women across the country to create this simplified turkey day recipe book that not only provides a how-to for cooking, but also a timeline for planning their Thanksgiving dinner, such as buying the turkey on the weekend before or when to make the stuffing ready.

She hired experienced Los Angeles-based collaborators Roseline Seng from Honolulu to design the book, Sofia Monfort from Mexico City to photograph the food, and Nicole Kruzick from Toronto as the food stylist to create the beautiful, simplistic cookbook.

Williams said they wanted to go for a darker theme with flat-lay concepts and photos that really highlighted the recipes, making them look realistically similar to what beginners’ will look like so they know how the final product will appear. Something Williams and her team did in the cookbook was simplify recipes, with some that only require around three or four ingredients.

Williams says people needed that hand-holding aspect when preparing a turkey dinner, something she got from her husband when she was learning. Williams didn’t have her first-ever traditional Thanksgiving until she met him. Having grown up in Hawaii with a Chinese immigrant family, she couldn’t understand why someone would choose turkey, cranberry sauce or green beans when she could choose from her family’s fried oyster rolls, pot stickers or dumplings.

“Some members of my family never fully assimilated, so myself and my son’s generation are the first ones to get that full American experience,” Williams says. “A lot of it was Chinese culture with some stickers on top. It’s a festival so that means pot stickers, rice and noodles.”

But Williams realized Thanksgiving is more about connecting with family and friends than perfecting the food after she met her husband and experienced that traditional American turkey dinner.

“Thanksgiving isn’t just about feeding your body, it’s about feeding your spirit through the whole activity, whether it’s making one recipe from scratch or any aspect,” Williams says. “Many people will be celebrating alone this year, so I’m planning on sending care packages to help feed their body and spirit so they know that someone cares and is thinking about them too.”

“Turkey Savvy” is available at savvyfriendspress.com​. The website includes a sneak peek of the cookbook, testimonials from Williams’ surveys, and a subscription list that can be used every year when preparing for any Thanksgiving dinner.