We sit down at the table, which is loaded with food. A twenty-five pound turkey sits proudly in the middle, and it looks as if it’s done to perfection. There are huge bowls of mashed potatoes with garlic, yams, cranberry salad, stuffing (bread), steamed vegetables, and a fruit salad surrounding it. There’s also a platter of spare ribs, and another platter of assorted breads. Finally, there are three gravy boats placed strategically around the table so everybody can reach one. My pants will be in serious danger of bursting, but it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make. I’m seated beside Rembrandt and Jacqueline, and the kids are on the other side of Jacqueline.
“I’d like to say a few words,” Stephanie says. No one replies, but I catch the guys rolling their eyes. That tells me they’re used to Stephanie speechifying, and they’ve realized it’s useless to protest. “In my life, I’ve been blessed with a loving husband, three terrific sons, Antonio, Jacqueline, Nicholas, and Beth. Now, Megan has been added to our happy family, and I feel even more blessed than ever. I don’t care for the traditional meaning of Thanksgiving, but I consider it a time to bring my family close to my bosom. I’m grateful you all live in Minnesota as well, so we can have these family gatherings with minimal fuss and/or muss. That’s it. Dig in!” Stephanie smiles at everyone, and I smile back. That was sweet and fairly short, so I don’t see the problem. Stephanie starts plating generous portions of food, then handing them out around the table. I get mine after Rembrandt, and my mouth is watering as the tantalizing smell of spare ribs greets my nose. I glance at Rembrandt and see that he’s waiting for the others to be served first, so I don’t pick up my fork just yet. As soon as Stephanie makes a plate for herself—I notice that she gives herself far less than she has doled out to the rest of us—I pick up my fork and eat as fast as I can without breaking social dicta. Everything is fantastic, and I can tell where Rembrandt gets his cooking chops from.
“You are a terrific chef, Stephanie,” I say when I’ve taken the edge off my hunger.
“Thank you,” Stephanie beams at me. “Francisco’s mom was a sous-chef in Italy, and he taught me everything he knew when we first got married. I couldn’t even boil water back then.”
Conversation peters out as we all concentrate on our food. I notice that the guys are putting a serious dent in the reserves, yet, there’s still more left than what they’ve consumed. Jacqueline alternates eating a few bites of her food with helping Beth eat. Stephanie is more interested in making sure everyone’s plate is full than in eating. Me, I’m doing my best to clean my plate, but I’m slowing down. As tasty as everything is, there is only so much food I can eat at one time. Normally, I eat small amounts several times a day, so it’s a challenge for me to eat this much food in one sitting. I have to do it a second time later tonight, but I don’t want to think about that right now. I finish the stuffing because it’s my favorite, and Stephanie quickly adds another scoop to my plate. I nod my head in thanks, but inside, I’m groaning. I still have more than half my plate to eat, and she keeps adding to it as soon as I finish one kind of food. I realize that’s the key—I have to eat some of everything and not let one particular kind of food get down to nothing. I put that to the test, and it works like a charm.
“Mom, can I have more mashed potatoes?” Gaugin asks, his mouth full of yams.
“Yes, you may,” Stephanie says pointedly. “And don’t talk with your mouth full.”
“Sorry,” Gaugin says after he swallows. He holds out his plate, and Stephanie fills a quarter of it with mashed potatoes. Gaugin happily digs in, unaware that Jacqueline is shooting him a dirty look.
“Honey, remember your cholesterol,” Jacqueline says, her voice stern. “You know Dr. Ellis wants you to be more careful with your diet.”
“It’s Thanksgiving,” Gaugin protests, barely taking a break in his eating. “No one watches their diet on Thanksgiving.”