My few words of wisdom around Thanksgiving follow. Frankly, the holiday takes on a whole different flavor when you've lived on a farm and had to help wack the bird first. It changes your appetite a smidge. But here's my strategy:
Skip the Veggies
You’re planning to be calorically irresponsible. Don’t try to maintain a facade by eating the dinner salad. Don’t even try to pull it off. You’ll only look all the more ridiculous in an hour when you’re pinned to the chair by your bloated belly and you’ve got gravy on your shirt. It is what it is. You’re the drunken single 30-something bridesmaid pretending you don’t know why all the men want to dance with you. Just eat the things you really want and don’t try justify it by eating all the ‘good’ food, too. Sometimes it’s just extra and, if you didn’t prepare the food, you don’t know how much extra (think puddle 'o butter).
Salad Bar Paradox
Some things just don’t belong together. On a Saturday night, the single people are at home nodding vigorously as they read this with one lonely spoon in the ice cream. Inevitably they’ve brushed up against this truism in horrifying ways – driving them knee-deep into the pint. Truly sharp lines of reason can only be blurred with alcohol which will make mismatches tolerable or, later, forgettable. This applies also to all buffets and salad bars. Just because you like strawberries and canned tuna does not mean they should be nestled next to each other under a blanket of blue cheese. Have a strategy folks. Bite o’ this and a bite o’ that never turns out quite the way you thought it would. My friend Taha never got this and he would do things at buffets that were clearly an insult to the palate though it fascinated him from a purely scientific perspective. Unless you’re eating off a Petri dish, even ancient scripture will tell you that eating some things on the same plate simply aren’t kosher. It’s not heartbreak if dishes go untasted and frankly all the sampling will lead to an unexpected amount of food. Stick with reasonable helpings of favorites.
Dead Man Waddling
This is by no means your last meal unless you intent to make it toxic or eat enough to blow a stomach staple. Consider that there will be leftovers. Instead of seconds, squirrel some away for tomorrow when you could actually savor it rather than forget to taste it because you’re so busy strategizing how to tuck it into the last empty space to the left of your liver. If you’re visiting, be presumptuous enough to bring your own Tupperware. You’re hostess will appreciate that. I’ve given away so many meals that I’m down to one kitchen plate and I’ve designed elaborate rescue missions to liberate the others from the captivity of bachelor kitchens all over Seattle. Warning to my bachelor friends: until you all get better at returning my plates, I’m scooping food into your pockets.
Eat In Intervals
Put all the food you intend to eat on the one plate, consume a third, and then stop to chat with the folks at the table. For starters, it’s infuriating for the cook when the clean up and the prep takes four times longer than the meal. And it's uncultured to Hoover you're food, even if it's just family. Eat another third and then make an effort to be witty. Once you've managed to offend at least one person or divulged a family secret, bury your head and chew the last third of your food slowly.
Culinary Beer Goggles
You decided Green Bean Casserole was good at a time when you were willing to eat play dough or just about anything when dared. This is not a refined palate. You’ve grown up and things are different now. If you’re not wearing Toughskins, you’re not putting bows around your pigtails and you don’t think things look better with stickers, you can probably skip side dishes that don’t hold up to your memory or are now considered a carcinogen. Let it go. And fruit cocktail suspended in lime Jell-O is just weird.
Plan a Do-Over
No food served at Thanksgiving is the ‘Brigadoon’ of food (interestingly, ‘Brigadoon’ is the only DVD I own). Stuffing does not go away for 100 years and something far less mundane then the purity of your love can bring it back. If you consider that most of these foods do actually exist and can sometimes be ordered in restaurants, it will be far less tragic if somebody beats you to the last of it. Consider picking a day for a do-over. Figure out where your strategy went south and reformulate your meal with only the crucial dishes, prepare and forage then invite a friend to join you. Disco-diva Linda Ronstadt may have lamented that someone left her cake out in the rain and that she’d never have the recipe again but there’s really no need for that kind of drama. After all, won’t your family provide more drama than you need?
All desert is good, don’t be a whore
Don’t act surprised. There will be more than one type of pie and they all taste good. Pie is like that. Inevitably the best desert is the one you didn’t chose. Try not to lose sleep over that, though the sugar and the overworked innards will probably cause a little of that anyway. Stop acting like this is the last time you’ll ever eat pie. In my neighborhood, you can walk into B&O Espresso at 2am in your pjs and have damn good pie any night of the week. Not that I’d know anything about that. Have some if you want, know that it’s not necessary and understand that you’ll regret it in all the same ways you did last year when you did the same thing.
Eat clean for a few days before. Eat even cleaner a few days after but for God sakes don’t skip breakfast because that just won’t cut it. Don’t show up at your workout and give yourself a good beat down in order to bank the calories. It’s fun to watch but it doesn’t help. Take responsibility for the choice you made and have a plan. Don’t over eat like it was a surprise and then come to me because you feel guilty and you need to be punished which, you’ll note, is not my job. Please look behind you and see the creepy line you just stepped over.