Thursday, December 04, 2008

Thanksgiving recap

So yes, I promise weekly postings, but but I get a bye over holiday weekends, like Thanksgiving. This is our two-year anniversary of moving here, the weekend before Thanksgiving.

We celebrated the holiday, as usual, with Dave's family on Long Island. that was one of those couple negotiations we settled when we first got together. The question was, where do we go for Thanksgiving and Christmas? I realized early on that it's more fun to spend Christmas with people, who, if they aren't exactly Christians, at least grew up with the holiday and don't think of it as a time to have Chinese food and go to the movies. Not that Dave's family did that. But I like hearing the carols and seeing the tree, and Jews, naturally, aren't really about that.

Plus, it was clear that Thanksgiving was Dave's family's holiday, because that's when his parents got married and celebrated their anniversary, and that's also his aunt's birthday weekend. So once we settled that, after a couple of years, things were much easier. Now I'm confused again about both holidays because a friend suggested Dave and I should have our own tradition and not fall into those of our families. But that's a bigger question and not one we're changing right now.

At any rate, this year I was feeling exhausted and was all set for the meal to be catered, or take-out, or anything but Dave doing it and me helping him. But then Brian, our nephew, stepped up to the roasting pan and said he really wanted to cook. It was lots of fun, actually, to my great surprise. Brian and I organized it, set the menu, with Judy's help, as she had already purchased a few things. First we sat down with her and drew up a shopping list. She told us what she had -- brussel sprouts, broccoli, sweet potatoes -- and then we filled in with the rest of the menu. Then Brian and Sarah and Randy did the shopping at Fairway (!!) and we split the cost with the others. They bought desserts knowing that Delia would bring her amazing chestnut dessert (she's Romanian so she calls it Romanian but I'm Hungarian and we make it too, so it shall remain nation-less).

Everyone made a dish, their dish. I am particular about gravy--I prefer WASP gravy to what is apparently Jewish gravy (I know several Jewish cooks, including a national food writer, who says to put the meat drippings in the blender! sacrilege!) -- and I also brought two butternut squashes, so I made those two dishes. Sarah and I double-teamed the stuffing and Dave prepared the turkey. Brian made some great mashed potatoes with bacon and cheese, Dave did brussel sprouts, I guess I just cleaned and steamed the broccoli, you get the idea. Lots of food but not too much. When Judy suggested spinach or Dave suggested peas, we said, no! we have enough food! And there was just enough to eat, with a few leftovers.

The guests brought other food of course and Brian also made the spinach dip you put into a loaf of bread that tasted very retro-eighties. It was fun. It felt like no one did too much. The table didn't look quite as gorgeous as when Josh did it, but as Gary Smith, the scenic artist I worked with at the Center Stage Theater in Baltimore and later in New York City, used to say, "Anyone can decorate, it takes a queen to make it art."Josh's tables were definitely art. Our table was barely decorated. And Lisa and Wes did most of the dishes afterwards.

And that was our second Thanksgiving of the weekend -- My sister's husband's brother let us invite ourselves to his Thanksgiving on the actual day (the LI one was on Saturday) and that was really fun. That's my brother-in-law's brother, aka Cate's brother-in-law, aka Jim's twin brother, aka our friends Eliot and Madge. The food was outstanding -- we just brought shrimp cocktail and ice cream, something simple -- and there was tons and tons of it. My sister Cate is the person to invite to your big party. She thinks of everything, works like a dog, everything tastes awesome, and she's cheerful and fun in the process. What more could you ask for!

We rolled out of there and headed down to LI that night, and traffic was a breeze. Alas, not so on Sunday. We left LI on Sunday a little before 2pm and got home after 7 . . . what with the rain and the bad driving and the very heavy traffic, it was a terrible trip. We can't complain, though, Sarah and Randy took something like 14 hours to go what should have been 10 to 12, and that was even though they left at 2 am Sunday morning. And a colleague at work drove back to Northampton from South Carolina and got in at 2am Monday morning and then she had to come in to work. Took 20 hours for what should have been 15. She said it was traffic and rain through10 states . . . so I can't complain one bit.

The question is, what do you next year? Sarah's thinking they'll just stay longer. I don't have the vacation time, and that's usually a closing week so I couldn't take it anyway. They say that the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is the worst travel day of the year, and the Sunday after is the second worst. I wish we could just stay home and let everyone come to us, but that's not an option at this time. Maybe some year.

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