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