Has this year just flown by as quickly for you as it has for me? Sitting down to write our November issue is just baffling to me. It feels as though the year just started and now we’re rounding the bend to the end. But regardless, November always has a warm spot in my heart as Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday and this year should, I hope, be no exception. The food, the family, the cozy, homey aspect of having everyone around. The aroma of turkey roasting in the oven, a midmorning hike with my boys followed by a lazy afternoon watching football, taking a nap and staying out of my wife’s way in the kitchen.
Growing up, my family always hosted and my mother set the bar extremely high. The side eyeroll she’d slyly give if a guest contributed something that didn’t pass muster. Perhaps a store-bought pie or deli counter side. And G-forbid you were tasked with appetizers but wandered in late. This was basically an unforgivable sin that would be talked about the rest of the holiday season and beyond. She wasn’t usually super snobbish but if she had spent the better part of a week shopping, preparing and making everything from scratch, the last thing she wanted was to muck up the offerings with something that didn’t live up to her nearly impossible standards. So, if someone insisted on bringing something and it didn’t meet or exceed expectations, it might be relegated to the buffet background (no man’s land) or ‘accidentally’ forgotten in the kitchen with profuse apologies if that person happened to notice its absence. The following year that same guest may arrive with flowers or wine but certainly not trusted with anything crucial to the menu. You basically had one chance to get it right and it was a pass/fail test.
Just imagine the pressure my wife and I faced when we took over the Thanksgiving hosting duties 12 or so years ago. On the one hand, my mom was extremely grateful we were willing to take the reins since her health had made it impossible for her to do it anymore; but after decades of making the meal a certain way, there were many questions that had to be answered correctly. Was the turkey fresh not frozen? Check. Was every relative, friend and stray expecting an invite included? Yes.
Of course, the first year we hosted also included my wife’s family, too, so their needs also had to be satisfied. Green bean casserole with crunchy onions on top? Check. Two different sweet potatoes because some like nuts and others prefer marshmallows? Yes.
Then, there was the balancing of everyone else’s tastes and expectations. Luckily only two out of our three boys crave the drumsticks but in order to get them, they basically had to sneak those enormous turkey legs off the platter mid-carve and eat them clean before anyone else who might have wanted one noticed. When it comes to pies, there’s just no excuse for the overabundance other than it’s imperative we offer what everyone has dreamt about and probably deprived themselves all year long. Pumpkin, obviously. But I, for one, need pecan. My mom always had a cranberry tart that is iconic to the celebrations of my youth so we make at least one or two of those. And my eldest loves apple so we definitely need that kind, too. I think last year, when the pandemic made it unsafe to gather in large numbers, there were eight people in attendance and we had five pies. No one judged each other negatively or saw anything wrong with that over-the-top level of gluttony. It just is what it is when it comes to this holiday.
This year I’m hoping to see our living and dining room filled with as hearty and bountiful a crowd as we’ve had in the before times. We’ll gather and recall the year before when it was so small and while fun, not nearly as loud and festive. Maybe we’ll chat about who’s had their third booster or how we managed to get all the ingredients to make everyone’s favorite dishes despite hiccups in the supply chain. And if that jagged supply chain really does mean we can’t have all the usual foods we’ve come to want and expect, maybe we’ll say that the food matters less than family togetherness and canned cranberry sauce is just as delicious as fresh. Or, who REALLY cares about creamed corn and turkey and mashed potatoes and gravy and three different kinds of stuffing and grandma’s famous jello-mold? And then we’ll watch as everyone here revolts and leaves in a huff if the one food item he was looking forward to all year didn’t get made. Not proud to say, I may be the one leading the revolt!
OK, yes, it’s still my favorite holiday but it’s also freaking exhausting keeping everyone happy, myself included. I know I’m supposed to say that the only thing that really matters is our health and being together and all of that and while it’s true, but I unabashedly love the food, too. We’ve all sacrificed and put up with a lot over the last few years, I have no guilt in saying that I love my family and am so happy we will be spending Thanksgiving together but I also really, truly want pecan pie, too.
I’m grateful for every person working overtime to make all of our holidays as happy and joyous as can be. I’m also thankful for you, my neighbors, for reading this newsletter every month and for using me for your real estate needs. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones- may your tables be full of laughter and delicious foods that please everyone in your house. Keep your eye out for those rascally turkey drumstick smugglers, though. They’re the sneaky ones!