This time of year, I always see at least one newspaper article or TV story telling you how to have a great time at Thanksgiving without eating too much.
Oh, brother. Please. Cut it out. When I hear advice like that, I want to retire immediately to my couch with a pint of Haagen-Dazs (dulce de leche, most days) and the biggest spoon in our kitchen.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it involves no presents and little responsibility. All you have to do is cook, eat, clean up and repeat. You are supposed to eat too much; I believe this is in the Constitution somewhere.
“I don’t miss Thanksgiving too much,” my sister Ellen said over the phone from Poland. “I never did like turkey.”
When she said that, I realized she’d lived abroad way too long and might possibly be permanently damaged.
“The turkey,” I reminded her, “doesn’t matter. It exists as a container for the dressing.”
The dressing! It’s what Thanksgiving is all about. Creamy, rich, decadent dressing under a liberal dousing of dark gravy (you can keep the giblets). First helpings, second helpings, dressing leftovers that taste even better than the original.
It’s my idea of heaven — an all-carbohydrate, all-American meal. Dressing and mashed potatoes, both smothered in gravy. I ignore the vegetables (you don’t need vegetables on Thanksgiving) and the cranberries; their color is nice, but who needs color? Carbohydrates don’t have much color, which is exactly the point.
I move directly from the dressing and mashed potatoes to dessert (ignoring the usual nay-sayer who opines something about “waiting for dessert” since she/he’s “so full.”) I don’t like to wait for dessert, ever. I am never too full for dessert. I never like to, say, take a walk to build up an appetite. My appetite is pre-built on Thanksgiving.
To be fair, I always try every one of the desserts — unless they’re pies involving sweet potatoes or rhubarb; this violates my Thanksgiving no-vegetables rule and I won’t go there. To be at their best, the desserts require either ice cream or whipped cream or both. You don’t want to get a small piece, either. If you’re going to taste it correctly, you’ll need what might politely be called a big slab.
Oh, sure. There will be detractors all around — the kind of nutrition junkies who loudly notice that you don’t have one vegetable on your plate. And my! Aren’t those overly-large helpings of dressing and mashed potatoes and an ocean of gravy that cover every inch of your plate? And don’t your pants seem to be fitting a little tight today? (The look of early pregnancy is particularly surprising in a woman your age who’s presumably passed menopause. Tsk-tsk.)
Ignore these people, these Thanksgiving killjoys. They don’t understand that this holiday is devoted to gluttony. In fact, it glorifies gluttony. Ignore them and ignore all the earnest “you don’t have to make a pig of yourself to enjoy Thanksgiving” pleas from the food-disciplinarians of the world.
Thanksgiving isn’t about discipline or diets or moderation or normal life. If I get any exercise at all that day, it will be racing back to the buffet for seconds and thirds. I can really move quickly when I’m motivated.
(Copyright 2007 by Ruth Pennebaker)