By The Word Mavens
We’re in the midst of the “fall holiday season,” the time of year when we’re stashing away the plastic skeleton that was taped to our light post and trying to avoid the glittery Santa Land display at Target. We’re focused now on the holiday in between. We’re talking turkey.
We’ve been married long enough that we no longer have to argue over going to his parent’s house or ours. Now we are the parents. We’re the sandwich generation and many of our parents are living the good life at Leisure World. Their downsized digs don’t include a dining room, or a table that expands to seat 24.
When our mothers gifted us their Irish linen banquet tablecloths and their sets of “good china,” they were passing the baton. We have been elected to host all future family feasts. And we do enjoy it. We’re grateful that our guests are mostly our kids – and we love to have them home for a visit.
We’re seasoned enough to know that we’ll end up buying a new tablecloth at the last minute because the old one was put away wrinkled and with a big red wine stain only partially washed out. We know that when someone asks what to bring, we’ll say, “whatever you want,” but we really don’t want their special green bean and mushroom soup casserole. And when our husbands ask if we are hosting the next event, that means, make them a list of things to do and they will carry up the extra folding chairs from the basement.
But if you’re hosting, there are other pressing dilemmas:
How much do you have to channel Martha Stewart? The diva of domesticity has an entire website devoted to Thanksgiving, from how to scoop out a squash to how to turn your leftover turkey into Vietnamese Banh Mi sandwiches. She advises that “fabric glue, glitter, and masking tape are all you need to add understated glamour to your Thanksgiving table runner.” The last time we tried one of her projects we ended up with glitter in the mashed potatoes.
If you are sick of serving the exact same menu every year, how many substitutions can you put on the table before people notice and start to yell? We remember the time we substituted roasted kale for creamed spinach or butter
nut squash gratin instead of mashed sweet potatoes topped with mini marshmallows. The kids never got over it, either.
Can the local supermarket’s advertised $79.99 take-out dinner for 10 possibly taste as good as it looks on the poster? If you go upscale and read the advertising circular from the organic specialty market, you’ll see that for lots more moola ($20 per person) you can get an all-natural turkey with cider-pomegranate glaze — traditional side dishes included. For just one-cent less ($19.99) you can select a vegan main dish. We love our vegetarians, but no one wants a platter of Tofurkey, tofu shaped like a turkey and colored brown with soy sauce, instead of the real thing.
Which brings us to the question of how many side dishes can you purchase and dump into your own china bowl, yet still claim you made the whole meal? What if you made all the sides but bought the turkey pre-roasted from the rotisserie at the market. What do you take credit for? The problem becomes obvious when a guest raves about the not-from-scratch dish and asks for the recipe. “Oh, it’s not hard, you just chop the onions first,” you say, modestly glancing down. “ I forget what comes next. I’ll email you the recipe.”
Every year we’re tempted –just a little — by those ads for restaurants that promise to welcome (all the members) of the family on the big day. What if there were no dishes, no clean up, and a waiter to serve us?
But our families are too noisy to be in a restaurant; we don’t want to disturb the other diners. We will be quizzing the college kids about roommate troubles, listening patiently to our sister’s travel plans and telling our mother-in-law for the third time that no, Michelle is not engaged yet, just living with him. In a restaurant, we couldn’t leave the room to check the football scores on TV, and our kids wouldn’t be able to play “Thanksgiving Tango” on the piano for their cousins. Most important, there would be no leftovers. We would miss eating pecan pie and cranberry sauce for breakfast on Friday morning.
When our kids phone home from college and faraway places and want to bring friends home to share our celebration, and when our sisters ask a month ahead what to make for Thanksgiving, our resolve to try something new this year will undoubtedly falter. Yep, it looks like we’re hosting again.
And we’ll be thankful, that we can all be together.