This Thanksgiving, Just Eat, OK?
So many articles on what you should do for Thanksgiving. And what you should not do. So far this season, I have read articles on why I should not eat butter, turkey, apple pie, pumpkin pie, any sort of pie, cranberry sauce, stuffing or green bean casserole. I have been told that I am "doing it wrong" or "missing out" by preparing the traditional staples of my family's table, such as orange-cranberry sauce, white-bread-based stuffing, plain mashed potatoes, or a stuffed and roasted turkey. I have read articles on how to avoid overeating by using small plates and locating the high-calorie sides on a separate table or, better yet, in a locked safe in the kitchen.
It's time for a counterintuitive "smart take": Eat what you like on Thanksgiving, with a due emphasis on the foods that are traditional to your family and your region. And eat as much as you want of them, without overloading your stomach to the point of illness.
Personally, I find green bean casserole completely disgusting, so much so that I have never eaten it. That's OK! It's also OK if you love green bean casserole and wait all year to dig into its creamy depths. Pecan pie makes my teeth ache with its sweetness, but if you love it, tee up the Karo corn syrup and go to town. I think lots of spicy food on Thanksgiving is a mistake: It's mean to older relatives whose stomachs aren't so hardy, and when paired with overeating, it may result in some digestive disasters even for the younger folks at the table -- but I recognize that some people think it really wouldn't be Thanksgiving without Aunt Myrna's extra-hot Szechuan noodles. I view garlic, sour cream and other Johnny-come-lately additions to mashed potatoes as fundamentally missing the point of Thanksgiving potatoes, which is to serve as a vehicle for more gravy. But if you want your potatoes swimming in wasabi and chantarelles, or whatever crazy combination you've come up with, bon appetit. And if you want to skip the turkey in favor of barbecued pork or planked salmon, well, all I can say is: Happy Thanksgiving.
Just agree to keep your hands off my pumpkin pie, m'kay? I love pumpkin pie. Not pumpkin-and-chocolate pie, or hot and spicy pumpkin pie, or honey-glazed pumpkin pie, but just a simple pumpkin two-egg custard, baked in a homemade pie crust. I love a simple two-crust apple pie, without the addition of crumb topping, cheddar cheese, caramel sauce, exotic new spices or your snotty opinions about my love of such a banal and uninspiring dessert. I love my family's white-bread stuffing, heavy with turkey stock, sausage, apples and ginger, and I love it especially when fresh, hot gravy is poured over a gently steaming pile of the stuff. I want my mother's green beans, my sister's fresh rolls and my own cranberry sauce, just like we have every year. I don't want to change up the entree or any of the sides for something more current and now. I want to feel like I'm having Thanksgiving, not a lavish dinner party of the sort that I could give on any of the other 364 days of the year.
Nor do I want your obesity expert tut-tutting about how the average American consumes too many calories on Thanksgiving -- 4,500 or 7,000 or whatever absurd made-up number they pulled from a tiny, unrepresentative survey of people who responded to some university's research study or newspaper poll. I do not want tips for nannying my guests into foregoing delicious Thanksgiving foods in favor of nibbling on a raw carrot while thinking healthy thoughts. Let me let you in on a little math: Even if you actually did eat 7,000 calories on Thanksgiving, this would result in a net weight gain of less than a pound and a half. The problem is not Thanksgiving; the problem is what you are doing on all the other days that aren't Thanksgiving. If you don't want to gain weight at Thanksgiving, eat lightly for a couple of days before and a couple of days after, and voila -- problem solved.
There is only one way to do Thanksgiving "wrong," and that is to fail to be grateful for the people you are eating it with, and the many other good people of this great nation who are sitting down at other tables. The rest is a sideshow. And don't be afraid to have another helping of that sideshow, with extra gravy on top.
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