Tell the truth. Right now, you’re up to your elbows in candy wrappers and are wondering if there are enough vegetables in the universe to counteract all of the sugar your family will ingest over the next 72 hours. But do not despair. The next holiday on the horizon is a veritable vegetable-palooza.
Oh sure, Norman Rockwell put the Thanksgiving turkey front and center, but you and I both know that the stars of the feast are the sides. Thanksgiving is the time when meat and three becomes meat and four or five or six, a harvest of greens and oranges and golds all on the table at the same time, all officially good for you.
Or, good-ish. I mean, when you smother green beans in rich cream soup and top them with French-fried onions, the vitamins might technically be outnumbered, but I prefer to think not. It’s my position that even when you slather yams with marshmallows, the beta carotene still shines through. Let’s go with that.
Side dishes are family-specific, part of your feasting folklore passed down through generations, even if they come from a box. Sara Lee had a family, I’m guessing. Pepperidge Farm was probably a tree-lined homestead. I’m just claiming my right as one of their semi-homemade cousins.
And cousins, I come to you today with an urgent holiday warning: Gather ye cranberries while ye may. Yes, I know that you still have a jack-o-lantern on the front porch, and the calendar says you have many, many days left to prepare, but Thanksgiving dinner requires a heap of ingredients, and every day the feasting frenzy increases.
Some people wait until the day before Thanksgiving and naively pull into the grocery parking lot, long list in hand. Poor, sad Pilgrims, by the time they make it back to their cars a good share of their thankfulness will be gone. Going to the grocery store the day before Thanksgiving is like trying to score that advertised $200, 52-foot flat-screen TV the day after. It’s jousting with shopping carts. Even kind, gentle souls could end up wrestling over the last can of pumpkin knowing full well that the loser will be forced to buy a fresh pumpkin and spend the next several hours peeling and chopping and cooking it down, and after all that work, their family had better enjoy every last bit of that pie with big smiles, and I mean big smiles on their faces. Happy holiday!
Me? I would have to wave my white flag and put out a nice plate of Little Debbie Pumpkin Cakes if I could still find them. Like I said, it’s better to hit the stores early when side time is on your side. Canned things, boxed things, things from the frozen food section–all of these can be gathered into the barn weeks ahead. You’ll still have to buy a few last-minute fresh items, but if you do not require a shopping cart you can run through the crowds like a well-trained running back and score a checkout before fights break out in the deli.
Speaking of running backs, when the meal is over you’ll be choosing up different sorts of sides–one that bellies up to the sink to do the dishes and one that carries their bellies down to the den and plops themselves down in front of the TV to watch football.
The following day, there will two sides for sure– Alabama and Auburn. Football and leftovers. Sounds like a holiday to me.