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Counting Her Blessings

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Dinnertime conversation at the Vieira home was long and lively, about politics and her physician father's work. "My favorite thing was when my father was asked to testify in court on a murder case. ‘If you came across a body like that, what would you think was the cause of death?' he'd ask me."

Although Vieira acknowledges that the holidays are stressful ("I'm always trying to outdo myself"), you feel her sincerity when she talks about how she considers Thanksgiving special. "There's a purity to it," she says. "It's only about gathering." That word, "gathering," comes up again when she talks about the Quaker girls' school she attended from the age of 2. (She's still friends with the same gang, and they get together once a year.) "Philosophically, I loved that idea of gathering together in silence, and then standing up and expressing your thoughts."

Vieira and her family spend the holiday with Richard's side of the family one year, hers the next. "We don't say any special grace; we talk about what we're thankful for," she says. Richard is Jewish, "though he doesn't follow any religion per se." He and the kids light the menorah at Hanukkah, and say the Hebrew candle-lighting blessings together. "I believe in God," says Meredith, "but I have spirituality, not a religion."

This year, Thanksgiving dinner is due to be at her house, the menu pretty much what it was when she was a girl. "My mom was a great cook. She believed in different china for every occasion. She'd be up really early preparing, with Daddy helping out, then we kids would get up around 8 and help. My dad's family would come, there was always touch football, and we'd watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade." (Vieira is expecting to host that very parade, for the second time, with Matt Lauer and Al Roker. "It's not mandatory," she says, "but I had such a great time last year!")

Turkey was the headliner at a Vieira Thanksgiving, of course. "My mom made a great stuffing and her gravy was the best. There were mashed potatoes and squash and cranberry sauce, the jellied and the other kind. We had yams, sometimes string beans, sometimes fresh peas. She made Portuguese sweet bread, which takes lots of time and which I never get exactly right, and she made a kale soup I don't even attempt. Rolls. Pumpkin and apple pie." One of Vieira's biggest regrets, she says, is that her mom's apple pie recipe got wet. "Now I can't read it — and she never measured anything. Gabe is the cook in our house. He always makes pumpkin pie."

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