The Morning Call
Taking suggestions for our scaled-down Thanksgiving
If this were any other year, The Hubby and I would be chasing down the essentials for our annual Thanksgiving banquet right about now. But 2020 has been everything but normal, or gracious, or inspiring. The pandemic has transformed my favorite holiday into a potentially dangerous game of droplets-and-aerosol-particles roulette.
Result? We’re not hosting the family. Like many, we’re planning on turkey for two, alone.
My past Thanksgivings have tended to the huge and raucous. Relatives, by blood and by marriage, spill into the backyard, crowd around the TV and settle in the big room off the kitchen. These gatherings have been hours-long celebrations of family. They’re less about food — though we always overeat — and more about connecting across the generations. (Football, too, of course. Let me not forget the importance of sports as a side dish.)
But none of that will transpire this year. In my house, and I suspect in many other homes, “fewer than” will be the new multitude.
This year, my sister’s sweet potato-and-pecan dish won’t make the trip south, and the flan and yuca will be relegated to the bullpen. I remain undecided on the fate of the green bean casserole and my signature corn pudding, namely because I don’t want to spend five days eating the same leftovers. (I am genetically incapable of throwing away food.)
However, I stand firm on black beans and rice, a Cuban staple of our traditionally multicultural table. Also, I insist on pie. Cherry or apple, maybe both. The Hubby has voted for pecan.
Some are calling this guestand-menu reduction “podsgiving” — as if a clever turn of phrase could erase our collective unease. I, on the other hand, hope the abbreviated event will slip into the ether without any label to ground it. Just the same,
I’m determined to go through the motions. I’ll be damned if I give in or back down.
Retailers have noticed. Ads for Thanksgiving takeout tout smaller portions. And media outlets, including the venerable NewYork Times, have published Thanksgiving recipes for two. Maple-roasted squash. Herby bread-and-butter stuffing. Pumpkin sticky toffee pudding. Scaling down, food writers claim, can be just as festive as building up.
Some of us have adjusted to the concept better than others. One friend plans to celebrate with neighbors outside; another has asked each of her two kids’ families to supply their own dishes and stay in their socially distanced stations. My siblings have made their individual holiday arrangements, as have my four sons.
One will host his in-laws from Tennessee, another has rented a North Carolina cabin, effectively cocooning his wife and three kids for the week. The youngest of the boys who had planned to cross state lines to join his eldest broth
er’s family, is now staying home but negotiating for a Friendsgiving. I listen to their plans with a growing sense of alarm. I call around with warnings of doom. Don’t congregate. Be careful. Stay safe. Keep your distance. Wear a mask. But I also envy their projected reunions.
No matter how I try to fake it until I make it, I find that two is the loneliest number I’ll ever do — cue Three Dog Night, please — yet because of this surreal year it happens to be the quantity I feel most comfortable with.
In reality, this day of gratitude would’ve been different and difficult even without a pandemic. I don’t feel particularly festive. Or thankful. Or energetic. I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve become a fun sponge. The deaths of my father and daughter earlier this year have scraped my heart raw. At times I find myself staring listlessly at my computer screen, lost in thought but unable to recall what precisely that thought was.
Still, I’m thinking that the Thanksgiving 2020 table deserves to be radically different. As an aberration in a long line of large feasts, this year’s meal calls for disruption, innovation, creativity. But what exactly? I’m looking for fresh ideas and new opportunities. Something to keep me busy during the week traditionally reserved for holiday prep.
Any and all ideas welcomed.