By Leah S. Dunaief
Thanksgiving 2019. Always a favorite holiday for me. What could be bad about an eating holiday? Even better, it’s a chance to see my children and grandchildren, because everyone comes to grandma’s house for Thanksgiving.
For this I have to give great thanks not only to my children, coming in from various parts of the country, but especially to my children-in-law. As one of my daughters-in-law said not too long ago, “Thanksgiving belongs to the Dunaiefs.” What she meant by that is her family hasn’t seen her at Thanksgiving since she married into our family. She automatically plans on coming here to Long Island for the holiday, as do my other two daughters-in-law. For that I am hugely grateful.
Of course, for that monopoly I have had to give up other holidays to the other sides of the family, and I have done so cheerfully. We have worked out this arrangement amicably and made it into a rich tradition. What happens at my dining room table on Turkey Day is not just the consumption of the usual Thanksgiving fare but also in turn the sharing of experiences to be thankful for over the past year.
In this way, I get to catch up on what my offspring and their offspring have been up to, and they hear what is important to each of them. Lest it should become too ritualistic and burdensome, I suggested one year that we could skip it, but they wanted to tell their stories. And I certainly wanted to listen.
So how will this year be different from the others?
I eagerly await the individual particulars but, from my perspective, one difference is consideration of the food. There was a time when I just presented the turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes, greens and a salad, and that was dinner — to be followed by ample portions of pumpkin pie. I probably don’t have to tell you that those innocent days are gone forever.
My first clue that the Thanksgiving universe was changing came when my young children took me aside before the holiday one year and begged me to be understanding of what they were about to confess: They didn’t care for turkey.
Wow! That was a shock to me because I prided myself on cooking the perfect turkey each year — roasted to a golden brown, yet not dried out even in the white meat. After the few minutes it took me to recover, I gamely said, “All right, I will make a couple of chickens instead.” That solution was received with enthusiasm.
But that was not the end of that story: I cooked the chickens to a yummy golden brown, but I also made half a small turkey for any of the traditionalists who might be dining with us, and because I adore leftover turkey and stuffing the next day for lunch. Comes Thanksgiving Thursday, the table is set, there is a fire in the fireplace, the fare is served, and at the end of the meal the chickens are barely touched but the only part of the turkey left is the carcass. “Is there any more turkey?” someone asks.
I learned. Now when they tell me that they don’t want to eat a lot of animal protein nor dairy because of lactose intolerance — an inherited gene from my dad — nor carbs, and that I should load up with veggies and salad and certainly barely any pie because they wish to eschew lots of sugary sweets in favor of fruit, I readily agree. There will be a cornucopia of spinach and Brussels sprouts, bok choy, broccoli, cauliflower and bottomless salad and fruit bowls. Those veggies can be delicious steamed or roasted with some nuts and spices. And … there will also be mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, turkey, stuffing and — need I say it? — ample amounts of pumpkin and apple pies.
We shall see what is left over this time.