Motley gathering evolves into The Feast of the Unloved

November 21, 2012 12:58 pm

Two days before any holiday I finally get in the mood for the revelry. Problem is, it takes longer than that to thaw a turkey.

This morning as I scribbled my stories, Adam Sandler’s “Thanksgiving Song” came to mind — an honest tribute to the centerpiece of the holiday, the turkey.

My brother and I hosted Thanksgiving dinner together for many years and I would ask guests to bring a favorite dish that would remind them of the holiday at home. My sister-in-law’s sweet potatoes with marshmallows mingled with my newer tradition — pumpkin pie made from a whole sugar pumpkin.

When I was the chief hostess I put a week’s worth of effort into the meal. The cornbread for the stuffing was baked the weekend before Thanksgiving so it could get good and stale. The night before, I did more baking and any prep work I could. On the blessed day of gastronomical delights, I cooked all day and lost complete interest in the meal by the time it was served.

Later, other family members took over the hosting and I would bring pies and side dishes — essentially cherry picking what I wanted to contribute. The motley gathering evolved into what is now called “The Feast of the Unloved,” or FOTU for short — friends who feast together because family is far away.

The first year I handed off the hosting mantle, I cooked the pumpkin a few days ahead of time and stored it in a plastic container. The morning of Thanksgiving, as I was making dinner roll dough and was searching for my spatula I wondered, “What did I do with the pumpkin?”

Up to my elbows in dough I had to wait to continue the search. I looked and looked and found no spatula and no cooked pumpkin for my pie…until I had a flash. The new house had a doggy-door which seemed so perfect — Finnegan could let himself in and out as he wished while I was away. But there was a flip-side to this arrangement. The curious lab had way to much access to the wider house.

He helped himself to loaves of bread, peach cobbler and had broken the “children’s locks” my brother had installed on the cabinet doors under the sink where the garbage can lived. He snapped them both like matchsticks within a day of their installation.

On a hunch, I went outside to where Finn liked to drag the garbage can, across the kitchen and dining area, through the doggy-door, and under a large spruce where he could inspect his treasures at leisure.

Under the spruce I not only found my spatula, but a now empty Rubbermaid container with the merest streak of orange remaining.

The other day I heard a story about a dog who ate an entire, cooked turkey, resting in a windowsill before it was served, and each year I watch in dismay as the Bumpus hounds take off with the turkey in the movie “A Christmas Story.”

Thanksgiving’s emphasis on bounty and traditional recipes alongside dishes like Mama Stamberg’s Cranberry Relish, my new favorite that combines cranberries and horseradish, makes the holiday fun for those of us who enjoy poring over recipes and making piles of dirty dishes.

All the fuss and bother and worry over matching plates and “Are there be enough chairs,” and “Will our guests get along,” I am reminded of a popular caricature of the holiday, “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving,” the antithesis to Sandler’s Turkey Song,  where two industrious souls toast toast, pop popcorn and dish up jelly beans and pretzels to their guests.

It’s the simple beasts and the children that seem to get it right. 

Last week my brother told my nephew that his friends from Steamboat Springs were coming to Denver for Thanksgiving and Ephraim said, “You mean FOTU?”

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