Thanksgiving is coming. Sort of.

Thanksgiving will be here next week and, frankly, I’m pissed.

Do you know how you’ll be celebrating this year?

I don’t. Not exactly. I mean, I knew we’d not be socializing with anyone who doesn’t live here in Vermont. I didn’t know we’d not be socializing with those who do.

A few months ago, I’d hoped (expected?) to show “Jeff” a typical American holiday. (Don’t know who “Jeff” is? Here’s the post for you.) No humongous gathering; no family from Ohio. Our table can seat twelve, but I knew better than that. My plan was to invite four more people to add to our band of four (my mom lives on the property) and have a sober celebration. I was even looking forward willing to polish the silver.

With few exceptions over the past twenty years, we’ve generally gone away for Thanksgiving, either to Ohio where the kids are, which takes a few days, or to the nearby Mt. Washington Hotel for a fantastic afternoon meal. I’ve known since June we’d not be going anywhere this Thanksgiving. But I hadn’t known I’d not be inviting guests.

CoVid rules our lives.

Thanksgiving implies guests, especially guests who bring their favorite side-dishes. Side dishes are where my standard Thanksgiving meal tends to fall apart. I have the basics (mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy) mastered. It’s those dishes passed down through the generations that help make Thanksgiving unique, and those are the ones I’ll be missing.

We’re in Vermont, as you probably know. As you may not know, Vermont has done quite well at keeping CoVid at bay since the beginning of its reign. Here’s a recent image (November 10) from one of our local TV stations, WCAX.

Vermont is the tiny dark blue spot in the northeastern part of the US.

Vermont’s safe travel map (WCAX) By Cat Viglienzoni
Published: Nov. 10, 2020 at 5:41 PM EST

In the past six days, however, our numbers have skyrocketed.

CoVid reigns.

Though we show up as a blue island surrounded by a sea of red (I’m so glad this is NOT a political map), the numbers of new cases here in Vermont are now in the double digits, per day. Friday 13, they passed 100 new cases in one day! And on November 16 we saw 122 new cases. As a result, here’s the latest edict from the Vermont Department of Health, dated November 16:

Governor Phil Scott has temporarily prohibited social gatherings
with people from other households. People who live alone
may get together with members of their immediate family
living in a different household.

Seems the most common vector these days, more than schools or gyms, is the family dining table.

How much risk is it, really, to invite four three two more Vermonters to join us for Thanksgiving?

Indoors, true, but I’d crack open the windows and turn on the fans.

Masks off while we’re eating, true, but perhaps we can promise not to talk?

Six is a nice number around a table: recipes are easy, dishes sufficient, and conversation ideal. I would have made a great Thanksgiving with six around the table. But I won’t. It’s simply too risky.

How does one calculate risk? (I’ve written about this before, What’s Dangerous? Really?) It’s tempting to think Vermonters possess some special cultural shield that protected us from CoVid encroachment and will save us now.

Frankly, how many I invite is a moot point as they’ve all decided to stay home too.

Let’s move back to the food.

The classic Norman Rockwell view of American Thanksgiving.

Though we’ll be only four around our table this year, I don’t plan to cancel Thanksgiving, as some have called for. I’ll serve the standard fare: turkey, dressing, gravy, mashed white potatoes (merely a vehicle for the gravy), mashed sweet potatoes, fruit salad, two cranberry sauces (the canned jellied one and an uncooked one my mom loves to make), and two pies: pumpkin (Libby’s canned pumpkin has a new recipe this year) and apple.

Here’s where I need your help. I want a new side dish. I usually offer a plain green one: String beans, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, etc. But this year they seem boring. Plus, they get cold quickly.

Whether they’re regional or generational differences, traditional side dishes vary wildly. I’m looking for a new one, and, if I adopt it this year, I can pretend you’ve joined us for Thanksgiving dinner. That’ll be very nice. I’ll send pictures.

Who’s got a dramatic (but not exotic) side dish to share? (Recipe only; no beaming up the broccoli au gratin) And, if I can serve it in a dish straight from the oven, That’d be even better.

And let’s not forget the real joy of Thanksgiving is in giving thanks.

CoVid will not cancel Thanksgiving for me this year; of that I’m most grateful. It’ll just be different. I can call the people I’ll miss and talk to them, thankful for the Internet speed that allows me to do that. And I’ll give special thanks that I can just ignore the people I won’t miss.

How will you celebrate this Thanksgiving?

37 Responses

  1. Allene Hogan
    | Reply

    It’s going to be a tough one for me this year. I usually go up to New York, where I have 3 sons that live a few miles from each other and get together on the Saturday after. So, I get a chance to see all of them and their families. Not this year, I won’t. I will have one friend over, but it’s not the same. And I can’t really complain because neither myself nor any of my family have been sick. Thank goodness. Anyway, Cheers! Hope you have a lovely day.❤️

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Allene and welcome. I also love seeing my adult sons interacting as adults! So grateful they didn’t actually kill each other when they were kids.

      I’ve just made plans to FaceTime with my sons (we’ll need two devices) at some point during the day. Question is, when? Hope that might be a possibility for you too. In any event, you know what the day’s about. We can do this!

  2. marianbeaman
    | Reply

    My kids are leery about getting together this year. We were going to our daughter’s house, then she nixed the idea, then I was going to host, now I’m not. I was offering to have food on the bar and then take our plates outside on the patio. Even that is probably not going to fly.

    Part of our county would register as a tiny blue spot in NE Florida. I never see our people in our neighborhood without masks. And people I know have not been infected; we take precautions.

    I am thankful that a vaccine is on the horizon, a bright spot that my son-in-law, a chemical engineer in pharmaceuticals, can verify if coming soon, even if it will take a while to dispense.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Response to CoVid has been so politicized. No wonder so many are confused. Soon, soon.

      I considered having a Thanksgiving walk this year with my mom rather than having her over for a meal. But the governor has actually included that situation — single family members living in a different residence can come over, just not other families. Odd, but it is what it is and we are trying to fall in step. I’m just not used to seeing our numbers climb so drastically. Stay safe down there. What’s the meme that went around earlier in the CoVid era? Something like “our grandparents were asked to ration food; we just asked to sit on our sofa.” (I believe I’ve lost some of it over the months). We can do this.

  3. merrildsmith
    | Reply

    We usually have about 16 people here for Thanksgiving. This year, it will just be my husband and me–though we might exchange some food with one daughter. First time that I remember not having our cranberry squirrel. My husband will have a turkey to himself. We don’t have mashed potatoes, just mashed sweet because our family loves stuffing–and I make giblet gravy and vegetarian gravy and lots of homemade bread. We usually have creamed onions–no recipe, just those little onions boiled and peeled and cooked in a white sauce. Younger daughter makes mashed rutabaga for my husband, no recipe for that either.

    My best friend always has mac and cheese as a side.

  4. lilliestone
    | Reply

    Yep. 12 is a usual minmum. We have had 30 when i was younger, with more oomph than at 68. People brought sides of their choice, i supplied all you listed. This year we will be 3. Us and a son we constantly see who lives close. Here in the Maryland (near DC) ‘burbs Covid has been bad. Not NYC bad, but bad. He has been the person who runs errands, etc for us. My husband is 76. The W Post ran an article called “Thanksgiving-ish” about this year. We decided to make brisket because we have one languishing in the freezer, waiting for dinner guests. I ache to see family. But, onward.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Thank you. I knew I wasn’t alone. I’m starting to regret sticking to a traditional menu. Brisket sounds fantastic. But, we bought a half dozen turkey drumsticks (hubs thought they were full legs). And we will roast those with the rest. It’ll be just fine. And certainly a memory in the making. Thanks for joining us this week. And sorry for the delay. Something went amiss in my notification system.

  5. Mary Jo Beebe
    | Reply

    I’m trying to innovate for a happy time on Thanksgiving. At present I’m planning a Zoom meeting with loved ones. Perhaps we can have dessert together and talk and play word games. (A friend told me about one that is fun for both kids and adults.) My two daughters live 3-4 hours away. I’m in Dallas. One is in OKC. The other is in Austin. Every week my daughters and I meet Sunday afternoon for a Zoom date for us girls–wecook together sometimes and other times, just talk about our week and new things we are doing. So, having a zoom meeting with the extended family sounds like fun to me!! Happy Thanksgiving! We can do this! We can bring joy to the world!

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hello Mary Jo. I’m so glad to have you back. And thank you for your comment: you provided the idea that led to similar plans with my sons. Not sure just when, yet, as I told Allene, but looking forward to it. What’s OKC? Oklahoma City comes to mind. ??

      • Mary Jo Beebe
        | Reply

        Yes, Oklahoma City.

  6. Darlene
    | Reply

    I love making the side dishes. Here is one that is so easy and everyone seems to like. It can be made ahead and served room temp.
    Courgettes (Zucchini) with Mint
    8 medium sized zucchini
    5 oz olive oil
    2 tbsp red wine vinegar
    2 cloves of garlic, crushed
    3 tbsp chopped fresh mint
    salt and freshly ground pepper

    Wash the zucchini and dry well
    cut into quarters lengthways, the in half across.
    Heat oil in a wok or frying pan and fry until golden and just cooked through. Do not over cook.
    Transfer zucchini and cooking oil to a bowl and sprinkle with vinegar, garlic and mint.
    Season with salt and pepper and serve at room temperature.
    Easy peasy! and so yummy.
    Note: Cut in half if you don’t have a big crowd. Use dried mint if no fresh mint available. Just use less.
    From The Vegetable Market Cookbook, Classic Recipes from Around the World by Robert Budwig

    Now I feel like I’ll be with you at your meal. Happy Thanksgiving!!

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Copied, pasted, and printed. Thanks so much, Darlene. And the zucchini gives me the green veggie I wanted. I noticed to cookbook is “recipes from around the world.” Any idea which part of the world this one is from? Perhaps the Mediterranean area?

      • Darlene Foster
        | Reply

        This one was in the Italian section. I should have mentioned that. I hope you all enjoy it.

  7. jzrart
    | Reply

    Congrats to Vermont for its low numbers. Right here in C’ville and Albemarle County we’ve had the lowest numbers in the state, but it’s beginning to rise some. Not good news. We usually go to a friend’s home for the day but not this year. She has a large number of local family members attending this year with several who have underlying conditions. So we’ll enjoy dinner here with one friend, who is part of our “Bubble” who would otherwise be alone.

    Despite the damned disease floating around out there, I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Better at home with precautions than ending up in an ICU later.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Joan. You know, as I read your and the other comments I’m taking enormous comfort in recognizing that we are all in this together. As much as CoVid has made us isolate, it’s also bringing us together. I don’t feel quite as pissed as I had. (A shared enemy is always a team builder 🙂 Enjoy your day and give Bill a hug for me please. Give yourself one too, if you would. I’d appreciate that.

  8. David E Ackerman
    | Reply

    I think we are all going to order our favorite take out food and watch movies after I force the rest of my family to finally play the Wingspan board game they all got me for my birthday in April.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Sounds delightful, actually. So glad to see you here, Dave. We’ll have to time the Facetime well; don’t want to interrupt the movie. Shall we eat together? Someone above actually plays games on Zoom (I think it was Zoom; doesn’t matter). At the least though, the kids will get a chance to say hello to “Jeff.” Now I’m off to look up Wingspan. Love you. (I don’t say that to all my Commenters, you know).

  9. Frank Moore
    | Reply

    Well, for the first time ever, it will be just Rose and me. For years I smoked a turkey (usually hickory) for Thanksgiving. More recently we alternated between that and joining my oldest son and two grandsons for an eat out dinner in Columbia MD. But, since it’s just the two of us this year, I really wimped out! Bought a frozen pre-cooked & smoked turkey that just need heating and have ordered side dishes from Rose’s church which is smartly having a frozen casserole sale this coming Saturday. I’ll still make one side and two pies – – a mincemeat for me, a pumpkin for Rose.

    Janet, an Eastern Shore side dish staple is baked pineapple. If you’d like, I’ll send you the recipe. It’s simple and you can serve it from the dish it’s baked in. I have both a yahoo and gmail address for you but don’t know if either is current. Or I can send it via Facebook’s “Messenger”. Let me know.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Frank. It came through fine and I thank you. What a great idea. It’ll replace my fruit salad which is a painstakingly slow process (I hand peel grapefruit and navel oranges and my perfectionism gets triggered). Do, yes please. Send away. I’ll take a picture too. And, btw, woody and I have the same pie preferences. He, mincemeat; me, pumpkin. Do you have a good recipe fur the mincemeat?

  10. Frank V Moore
    | Reply

    Submitted a lengthy comment and an offer to send you a simple recipe for an Eastern Shore staple side dish, baked pineapple. It seems to have disappeared into the ether.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Yum yum. Can’t edit to get the recipe. And pineapple has good symbolism for hospitality.

  11. Jenny C.
    | Reply

    We already had our Thanksgiving here in Canada. With my hubby as a guinea pig, I experimented with a recipe that could work as a side dish for you (instead of sweet potatoes). I cut a nice butternut squash into chunks, added a couple of apples, also chopped into chunks and threw them in a casserole dish. Then, I drizzled them with a sauce made of melted butter, maple syrup, a squeeze of lemon juice and a blend of spices (cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger). I stirred them all up to make sure everything was evenly coated, covered the dish and baked at about 350 until done (an hour or so, I think). I was a hit!

    Since there are only two of us in the household, we had it for several meals. Then, a friend happened to mention eating soup with the same basic ingredients. So, I blended up the remainder of my casserole, added some vegetable broth and coconut milk, heated it all up and had some delicious, creamy soup! I guess you could say that’s a Thanksgiving recipe that kept giving!

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      And a happy belated thanksgiving to you, Jenny. Yours falls on Woodys and my wedding anniversary and with his family in Canada (did you know? I’m not sure; Perth area) we are always aware. I’ve long thought your Thanksgiving day makes much more sense than ours, if you think of it as a harvest feast. Glad you stopped by. Your butternut squash sounds fantastic. We shall have it soon. And best wishes with your new novel, Cuban Kisses. Sounds delightful. (Are they like Hersey’s kisses?). 🙂

      • Jenny C.
        | Reply

        Hello again Janet!
        I did not know Woody’s family hails from Perth. I lived there and in other parts of Lanark County for quite a few years. I worked for the Smiths Falls Record News/EMC much of that time. I still know people in that area and occasionally visit. Sing along now… “It’s a small world, after all!”
        Jenny C. recently posted…Want to travel to Cuba via my mind?My Profile

  12. timfearnside
    | Reply

    Happy (early) Thanksgiving, Janet. It certainly will be a bit different this year, but I trust you’ll be able to give “Jeff” a solid “taste” of what it’s all about. I unfortunately don’t have any recipes for you, but based on your menu, I’d keep it as fresh and light as possible. A green bean dish would be good. Better yet, maybe, a leafy green salad of some sort, perhaps fruited?

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Tim. My fruit salad (oranges, grapefruit, pomegranate seeds, etc) lie on a bed of lettuce. But as I mentioned to Frank, I’ll pass that up this year and roast a pineapple. I actually love trying new recipes. I’m thinking of adding my dil’s broccoli casserole. It’s heavy (Swiss cheese) but it’s green. And stays hot. (We just got our boiler fixed after surviving two days with just the wood stove that never lasts the night. So I’m particularly interested in HOT). Thanks for stopping by.

      • timfearnside
        | Reply

        Citrus sounds like a winner to me. Also, Darlene’s zucchini recipe!

  13. Arlene Somerton Smith
    | Reply

    Happy Thanksgiving to you – such as it is. We celebrated our Canadian Thanksgiving in October with only a small gathering of those already in our “bubble.” In recent days we’ve been talking about how fitting the theme of the Grinch Who Stole Christmas will be this year. We’ll have to remember that Christmas comes “just the same” without all of our usual mingling.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hello Arlene, I’m so sorry I’ve missed this from you. I’m on just now to do a few more edits to this website and saw the notification. Not sure why it didn’t come to my inbox. Oh well; the ways of the Internet are well beyond my grasp. I always appreciate your voice added here. Here in Vermont our Governor has requested we socialize ONLY with those already living in our home. So, three of my “bubble mates” as it were, have now been disinvited. BUT, thanks to Mary Jo’s comment, I’ll enjoy a live facetime with the kids and g’kids. We always do a phone call with the sons, but this time I’ll get a bit more full story. Still wondering how it’ll work out. Not done this before. Oh, how often I’ve said this these past eight months. Thanks for stopping.

      • Arlene Somerton Smith
        | Reply

        We have had a few Zoom dinners with friends. We set up the laptop across the dining room from us, and after a very short time, it feels like they are right there. I leave the room to go to the kitchen, and when I come back, I’m always a little surprised that it’s just my laptop there, not the actual people. The world is an amazing place.

        • Janet Givens
          | Reply

          That sound truly delightful. I’ll have to tell my mom; she lives alone. It might be fun for her. Thanks.

  14. Susan Jackson
    | Reply

    Sweet potato casserole with real maple syrup—I am going to split a small turkey with my son and he gets half of a ham from me and we all eat and home and talk on message. His girlfriend is very depressed as they usually have about 25 people over—family and friends—I even took Lucinda and her husband when they were here visiting—they loved it

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      I love ❤️ it. How resourceful we can be, when needed. How creative. Thanks Susan.

  15. susan scott
    | Reply

    Happy Thanksgiving Janet! Good reminder that it’s all about giving thanks. A side dish, cold, is actually broccoli and green beans in a lovely dressing. So simple. It’s how I got my children to enjoy these greens. Sprinkle some nuts on top.

  16. Janet Morrison
    | Reply

    As usual, I’m a day (or month?) later reading this. My sister and I had a very quiet Thanksgiving. Just the two of us. I’m fortunate to have her as a sister, a housemate, and my best friend. I couldn’t have helped you with that exotic green side dish, even if I’d read this before Thanksgiving. We opted for the old standby green beans. When our niece in Georgia told us she made green bean casserole, it made my mouth water. That might be the exotic green side dish we put on our Christmas Dinner table.

    By the way, I finally found the link to the Lorrain Historical Society Zoom conversation you’re doing. I emailed the society a few minutes ago to ask if there was still a space available for me. Thank you for letting me know about it.

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