A very thank­ful spread

Maryland Independent - - Classified -

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!

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