Let food unite us

November 8, 2020

There’s always one thing that brings everyone to the table, and that’s food. And November is the month to celebrate the bounty that befalls us. Maybe your table won’t be as crowded as usual, so why not indulge in a few alternative dishes?

You don’t have to serve turkey. As a newlywed on my first Thanksgiving, we were minus the turkey. The entire family arrived to find the big frozen bird nestled in the kitchen sink. I was running hot water over the beast and crying onto the dish towel.

My mother shook her head and asked, “When did you take it out of the freezer?”

“Last night,” I wailed as my father knocked on the breast.

My sweet hubby left to buy Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Colonel Sanders saved the day.

Turkey might be incidental, but I am a traditionalist when it comes to the side dishes. I want homemade mashed potatoes and gravy, savory stuffing (without fruit or oysters, please) buttery rolls, cranberry relish the way Nana made it, broccoli casserole without Ritz crackers, any roasted vegetable without cream of mushroom soup, and homemade applesauce. Pumpkin and apple pie, please. My mother always insisted on one mincemeat, but she was the only one who ate it.

Our family has serving pieces and cutlery assigned to each of these dishes as well. And two of every dish should be placed on the table, at opposite ends, so the gravy and the mashed potatoes don’t get cold by the time they arrive at your seat.

This year, as attendance is low, my husband suggested that we could just order everything from the supermarket. My response: Over my dead body! If both arms were in a sling, I would just stand there and tell him what to do. After 41 years, he is used to that by now anyway.

I think he’d rather have Kentucky Fried Chicken and no dishes to wash. Who can blame him? But I explain to him that the best part about hosting Thanksgiving is the aroma on the day of and the leftovers on the day after! Right?

Give me a table with extensions, and I will extend the invites. One year I found out that the young man who was bagging my groceries didn’t have a place to go, so I invited him. He was a no-show, though.

Another year, my mother-in-law invited her friend Jill from Brazil. Her contribution to the big event was a small bag of sand in a plastic baggy from the beach where she was living out her midlife crisis. Years later, her sofa ended up in my basement because Jill never went back to Cincinnati, Ohio, to claim it. Can you blame her?

Thanksgiving 2020 can be the year you decide to make your first batch of mashed potatoes. All you need is the potatoes, milk and butter. Oops. One more thing.

Last year my doorbell rang on Thanksgiving, and it was our new neighbor Bob from across the street. Since they had just moved in, I had told him to call me if he needed anything.

“Can I borrow a potato masher?” he asked.

“Sure,” I said.

Last week, Bob’s wife Andrea gave me some cabbage, and the week before that I gave her some kale. My neighbor Barbara gave me plums last week. And I brought cookies to Glyn, who believes you don’t return a container empty, so he gave me two slices of banana bread when he brought the container back. Most of us were taught to avoid wasting food and to share it when at all possible.

No matter who sits at your table on any evening or on the holiday itself, may you enjoy their company and the wealth of food choices, and feel grateful.

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