Dad: In all things, Dad is incredibly (annoyingly?) measured. Dad eats very lightly the day of Thanksgiving—maybe a little yogurt for breakfast, a small salad at the lunch hour. And when the big meal finally rolls around, he can serve himself a little bit of everything and simply stop eating when he begins to feel like he might be approaching the possibility of fullness. What a strange and novel concept!?! Dad is famous for leaving about three little bites of food on his plate. Normal people would just say, “Screw it!” and clean their plate—not Dad. He will slowly savor his little portions of food, making sure to leave room for pie, and then eat light meals for three days after. (This is why Dad is now and ever shall be straight-up thin.)
Mom: What you need to know about Mom for this little Turkey Day exercise is that she loves the Vegetable Plate at Cracker Barrel. (We only go there on car trips! Because they have books on tape! And rocking chairs!) Sure, Mom could order chicken, or biscuits, or something totally fatty and delicious, but no…she goes or the Vegetable Plate. Every. Time. So, you can imagine what her Thanksgiving plate looks like: Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, a dollop of mashed potatoes, green beans, and any other vegetable side that graces our table. Sure, she’ll have a little turkey or stuffing, but Mom has gotten good at watching her food intake, too. So, she loads up on veggies and nibbles on the rest.
Maggy: My older sister is our family’s cruise director. Always with an enormous smile and a cheery note of unflagging excitement in her voice, Maggy likes to start talking about the holidays in August. Maggy may be cheerful, but she is also firm and focused. If our conversation gets sidetracked, Mags is always there to shepherd us back to the important issues at hand: The Holidays!! What will we eat, drink, do, watch?? Maggy has always loved Thanksgiving because a. it’s a gateway to an even better holiday and b. she loves our family and being together more than any normal person should. In keeping with her joyful and inclusive personality, Maggy will excitedly dish out portions of everything—making sure to grab a hefty spoonful of anything our guests have brought. Ooh-ing and ahh-ing the whole way around her plate, she tries to make everyone feel special. But, when push comes to shove, Maggy is a sucker for Mom’s candied yams. Creamy, twice-baked, and topped with mini marshmallows, these potatoes always find their way to the center of Maggy’s Thanksgiving plate.
Me: And finally, we come to me. If Mom and Maggy have shamed me into wearing something other than black stretchy pants, I am probably wearing a dress—not to look nice, but because I can’t be bothered with waistbands on Thanksgiving. My plate is simple: embarrassingly large pile of stuffing drizzled with gravy. Making small cameo appearances in the foothills of this mountain may be a few Brussels sprouts and two tablespoons of mashed potatoes. But that’s pretty much it. Don’t talk to me about sweet potatoes or cranberry sauce or vegetable casseroles—I just want to fill my belly with bread cubes. Period. And for me, the only real purpose the turkey serves is making a messy roasting pan so that Mom can turn that into gravy. I am happy to have old and new faces around the table, but I must admit, part of me is sizing up the company and watching their stuffing intake. At this point, Mom has learned to make two pans of stuffing—that way I don’t end up like Golum from Lord of the Rings, crouched in the corner hoarding the stuffing and whispering something about “My Precccious.”
Needless to say, we usually have a lot of one thing leftover: turkey. Mom, who is the queen of giving uneaten food four or five lives, hates tepid Thanksgiving leftovers. So, we don’t do a lot of re-heating and re-eating of the turkey. If we didn’t want it when it was warm and fresh, why would we want it three days later?
Perhaps, we should just stop having a turkey. Although we love the holidays, we’re not a family that lives and dies by tradition. We might all be ready to give up the bird, until we remember all the things Mom does with the turkey, since she’s loathe to eat it cold. She makes turkey noodle soup, turkey and caramelized onion pizza with goat cheese, turkey gyros, turkey cacciatore, turkey lasagna, and turkey stir fries. You name it, she does it.
As we get older, Maggy and I are trying to help Mom shoulder more and more of the holiday responsibilities. So, this year, I’ve whipped up my own quick and tasty recipe for using up leftover poultry—a turkey, sweet potato, and broccoli curry with coconut milk. It’s an easy but exotic vacation for tastebuds tired of American food extraordinaire.
Enjoy the curry! Just don’t touch my stuffing.