The Morning Call

Tak­ing sug­ges­tions for our scaled-down Thanks­giv­ing

- By Ana Ve­ciana Suarez Ana Ve­ciana-Suarez writes about fam­ily and so­cial is­sues. Email her at ave­ciana­suarez@ or visit her web­site anave­ciana­ Fol­low @AnaVe­ciana. Celebrations · Thanksgiving Day · Turkey · Tennessee · North Carolina · Three Dog Night

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.

 ?? DREAMSTIME/TNS ?? As the COVID-19 pan­demic rages on, many peo­ple have made al­ter­nate plans for Thanks­giv­ing.
DREAMSTIME/TNS As the COVID-19 pan­demic rages on, many peo­ple have made al­ter­nate plans for Thanks­giv­ing.

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