When Molly Tolaram decided to host a traditional American Thanksgiving in Bermuda in 2018, she did it with the skill, flair and creativity of a professional designer and event planner. That will come as no surprise to her friends and family, as Tolaram has been a stylist since 1987 and is currently the owner of Paget Park, a special-events and production business she established after she married Bermudian Gregory Tolaram and moved to her new island home.
Born in Minnesota, Tolaram is one of four children, and like all Americans she expects a large family gathering for Thanksgiving dinner. In 2013, the Tolarams decided it was their turn to host the annual feast and invited their Bermuda friends along with family from abroad.
“We wanted my family to meet our Bermudian friends and for the locals to experience a traditional American Thanksgiving, so we decided to host a Thanksgiving dinner,” explains Tolaram. “My mother made the turkey and stuffing and Gregory’s mother made creamed pearl onions. All are from old family recipes. There were 28 adults and 24 children, a total of 52 guests! Luckily for us, it was a beautiful warm evening. All of the children ate outside, and then they played an evening soccer game in the horse paddock behind the house.”
Tolaram enlisted the help of her mother, Barbara Fitzmaurice, whom she credits as her greatest influence in creativity (two paintings over the fireplace mantels are Barbara Fitzmaurice originals), and they set to work creating table and floral designs inspired by the rich colours of the fall season in the U.S.: harvest shades of oranges, golden yellows and greens. Linens and table accessories highlighted Tolaram’s unique style of mixing traditional with modern. The occasion was also a great excuse for Tolaram to use some of her beloved inherited antiques, such as a silver scalloped nut dish, and cherished wedding gifts, such as Hermès china and crystal bowls and Baccarat crystal wine and water glasses.
The hall table fascinates Tolaram’s niece and nephew Ava and Austin, visiting for the holiday from New York. Greeting the guests at the front door is a stunning display of amaryllis, lilies and autumn foliage, including maple and magnolia leaves, tropical cymbidium and vanda orchids, and local Bermuda croton.
Chilled carrot soup combines fall colours with Bermuda’s bounty and is a delicious alternative to pumpkin soup. Served chilled in shot glasses (see recipe).
Bunches of garden roses in traditional fall colours mixed with fall foliage are on the mantle and dotted around the house. Tolaram adds autumn leaves and cleverly lines the vase with a croton leaf.
The beautiful silver scalloped nut dish, nutcracker and pick are antiques inherited from Tolaram’s grandparents.
Complementing the hall table display is a bowl of gourds combined with minipumpkins and cinnamon sticks that give a heavenly holiday scent.
Juxtaposition of earthy with refined characterizes the style of the Thanksgiving table. Tolaram mixes traditional with modern and simple with ornate while including different cultural elements for good measure. Candlelight shines from Indian tea-green-and-gold votives. The linens are a bold, orange Indian block print paired with simple two-tone-green napkins. Fruits, nuts, pumpkins and gourds dot the table. A beautiful centrepiece of Mokara orchids, roses and orange lantern flowers—with the added surprise of pheasant feathers—exemplifies the bounty of the holiday. Yellow sandersonia “lanterns” are in vases at either end of the table, and glass hurricane shades with bittersweet branches entwining pillar candles contribute a soft, overall glow. The Moroccan tea glasses, crystal glasses, china and silver complement this multicultural Thanksgiving table.