A very thankful spread
Is there anyone happier than a pregnant lady sidled up to a Thanksgiving spread? Well, sure. A pregnant lady sidling up to three Thanksgiving spreads.
Last Friday was our work potluck. My colleagues challenged each other to macaroni-and-cheese battles and debated traditional sides for the week leading up to the occasion. A sign-up sheet hung in the break room, taunting us and prompting ex- cited conversation — especially when Mike mentioned bringing his homemade fried chicken.
Fried chicken at Thanksgiving? Sure. There are no rules here.
Spencer, Oliver and I attended our first “friendsgiving” — early Thanksgiving with friends — on Saturday, bringing along ham and green bean casserole. Marc and his wife, Jen, shared the invite through Facebook, so I had two weeks of scrolling through posts of the tasty treasures awaiting us.
I like to eat as much as the next person — but being pregnant, eating is practically an Olympic sport. Though I’m doing well with making healthier choices, let’s get serious: Thanksgiving is not the best time to count calories or skip dessert. I’m not saying you should overindulge, but it’s pretty much the American way. On this day, anyway.
We’re also hosting Thanksgiv- ing at our home Thursday — our third year running that delicious show with family. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t note it’s our first time fully in charge, given we’re flying without Spencer’s parents this year.
My mother-in-law is a fantastic cook. She uses full-fat everything, for starters — but more than that, she just loves cooking for loved ones. And it shows. When we visit Western New York, I know we’ll be treated to delicious homecooked meals that require us only to show up with our appetites — with enough leftovers to feed us all again the next day.
I was too sheltered to recognize what a gift it was to have someone make you a nightly dinner until I had to deal with it myself. I lived at home until I was 28, so Dad’s dinners were a given. There were always snacks in the pantry and desserts on the bar. Though I started buying my own simple groceries as I got older, most of my diet still came from what my parents stocked.
Those golden days are over. Three years into marriage and I’m the one who typically coor- dinates, shops for and prepares meals — and I’m already getting bored with it. So my mother-in-law presenting a platter of roast beef or a creamy chicken casserole? Heaven.
With Alex and Lance not making it down for Thanksgiving this year, Spencer and I are on our own to prepare the main course. Alex would traditionally make sausage and sage stuffing, while Lance would help with the turkey. My family will bring side dishes and desserts, of course, so it’s not like we’re totally on our own . . . but I’m still antsy.
Thankfully, Spencer inherited his mom’s love of cooking; we just need the energy to do it. He’ll be preparing the ham and turkey breast, while I’m covering appetizers and a few sides. Oliver will, of course, show up with his appetite.
I love having everyone over — it’s fun and festive and feels very grown-up, hosting Thanksgiving. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t also miss going to my grandpar- ents’ home. Gram would always be hovering over the stove as we entered, ladle in hand, and Grandpa would have the perfect- ly-browned turkey on the counter with the electric knife ready for my dad or uncle to take over.
Gram made it look easy — ef- fortless — when I know it was anything but. My grandparents hosted the traditional meal for, oh . . . 40 years? Maybe 50? So they’ve definitely earned their retirement.
But as a kid, nothing was cozier than showing up to find a platter of cream cheese-stuffed celery dusted with paprika, black olives and baby pickles on Gram’s im- maculate Thanksgiving table. These little snacks kept every- one occupied while the finishing touches were put on dinner, and I would “casually” walk through the dining room to grab a few — or five — celery stalks, chomping down on this treat I could make anytime . . . but I don’t.
That’s part of what keeps the day special, I think: we could make green bean casserole any old time we please, but reserving these dishes for just the big days gives us something to look forward to. It keeps the day sacred.
I’ve been working on our Thanksgiving menu for a few weeks, worried I’m forgetting something. The classics — mashed potatoes and gravy; vegetables; tons of pies — are all accounted for, but something felt off.
And then I thought of Gram’s crystal platter: those olives and baby pickles we all love, but eat only once a year.
I’ll have them ready, carrying the torch. The pickle torch.
Happy Thanksgiving, friends — enjoy the day!