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I love Thanksgiving. It’s my favorite holiday and the favorite holiday of my family. Like the San Francisco Chronicle columnist Jon Carroll has written,

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. It is comfortably free of the strident religious and/or militaristic overtones that give the other holidays their soft emanations of uneasiness.

At Christmas, for instance, we are required to deal with the divinity of Christ — I know some of you folks have made up your minds about that one, but not me — and on the Fourth of July we must wrestle with the question of whether all those simulated aerial bombardments represent the most useful form of nationalism available.

At Thanksgiving, all we have to worry about is whether we can wholeheartedly support A) roasted turkey, B) friends and C) gratitude. My opinions on these matters are unambiguous; I am in favor of them all. The Squanto-give-corn stuff has been blessedly eliminated from the iconography, so the thrill of Thanksgiving is undiminished by caveats, codicils or carps. That alone is something to be thankful for.

Thanksgiving provides a formal context in which to consider the instances of kindness that have enlightened our lives, for moments of grace that have gotten us through when all seemed lost. These are fine and sentimental subjects for contemplation.

(The rest of that column can be read here.  Carroll later wrote another column about Thanksgiving which can be seen here.)

As the perennial hostess of family Thanksgiving, I do wield a certain amount of power about what will be served, as well as dictate the behavior of the guests.  I’m okay with telling people to bring a pie and have them show up instead with a salad, which has happened more than once. It’s all food. The behavior rules, though, I’m less flexible on.  Drink all you want, play football inside the house, fling your skirt up over your head – I’m down with that. But no texting or phone calls at the table, and no discussion of politics or religion. Anyone who thinks they can cross me will be covered with great heaping piles of  scorn, shown the door, and allowed to stand around outside on  a chilly late November afternoon until they decide they can admit the error of their ways. So far I haven’t actually had to enact this rule – with power comes responsibility – but it’s there if I need it.

So here I am in mid-November trying to get my family to tell me what day they are available for Thanksgiving dinner. There are work schedules and travel times to be considered, plus the obligation of having to attend the dinner of Their Other Family, so I’m willing to be The Nice One and serve dinner on Friday or Saturday.  Once I get the date and time set, I make the calls and tell people what to bring, or at least suggest a category. Like I said, I’m lenient on that part.

I found a couple of funny Thanksgiving-From-Hell letters on the internet. You might have read the first, the infamous Marney’s Thanksgiving letter. I understand this is real and that Marney isn’t quite as bad as she appears.  I can’t verify that, though.

From: Marney

As you all know a fabulous Thanksgiving Dinner does not make itself. I need to ask each of you to help by bringing something to complete the meal. I truly appreciate your offers to assist with the meal preparation.

Now, while I do have quite a sense of humor and joke around all the time, I COULD NOT BE MORE SERIOUS when I am providing you with your Thanksgiving instructions and orders. I am very particular, so please perform your task EXACTLY as I have requested and read your portion very carefully. If I ask you to bring your offering in a container that has a lid, bring your offering in a container WITH A LID, NOT ALUMINUM FOIL! If I ask you to bring a serving spoon for your dish, BRING A SERVING SPOON, NOT A SOUP SPOON! And please do not forget anything.

All food that is to be cooked should already be prepared, bring it hot and ready to serve, warm or room temp. These are your ONLY THREE options. Anything meant to be served cold should, of course, already be cold.

HJB—Dinner wine

The Mike Byron Family
1. Turnips in a casserole with a lid and a serving spoon. Please do not fill the casserole all the way up to the top, it gets too messy. I know this may come as a bit of a surprise to you, but most of us hate turnips so don’t feel like you a have to feed an army.
2. Two half gallons of ice cream, one must be VANILLA, I don’t care what the other one is. No store brands please. I did see an ad this morning for Hagan Daz Peppermint Bark Ice Cream, yum!! (no pressure here, though).
3. Toppings for the ice cream.
4. A case of bottled water, NOT gallons, any brand is ok.

The Bob Byron Family
1. Green beans or asparagus (not both) in a casserole with a lid and a serving spoon. If you are making the green beans, please prepare FOUR pounds, if you are making asparagus please prepare FIVE pounds. It is up to you how you wish to prepare them, no soupy sauces, no cheese (you know how Mike is), a light sprinkling of toasted nuts, or pancetta, or some EVOO would be a nice way to jazz them up.
2. A case of beer of your choice (I have Coors Light and Corona) or a bottle of clos du bois chardonnay (you will have to let me know which you will bring prior to 11/22).

The Lisa Byron Chesterford Family
1. Lisa as a married woman you are now required to contribute at the adult level. You can bring an hors d’ouvres. A few helpful hints/suggestions. Keep it very light, and non-filling, NO COCKTAIL SAUCE, no beans of any kind. I think your best bet would be a platter of fresh veggies and dip. Not a huge platter mind you (i.e., not the plastic platter from the supermarket).

The Michelle Bobble Family
1. Stuffing in a casserole with a serving spoon. Please make the stuffing sans meat.
2. 2.5-3 qts. of mashed squash in a casserole with a lid and serving spoon
3. Proscuitto pin wheel – please stick to the recipe, no need to bring a plate.
4. A pie knife

The June Davis Family
1. 15 LBS of mashed potatoes in a casserole with a serving spoon. Please do not use the over-size blue serving dish you used last year. Because you are making such a large batch you can do one of two things: put half the mash in a regulation size casserole with lid and put the other half in a plastic container and we can just replenish with that or use two regulation size casserole dishes with lids. Only one serving spoon is needed.
2. A bottle of clos du bois chardonnay

The Amy Misto Family (why do I even bother she will never read this)
1. A pumpkin pie in a pie dish (please use my silver palate recipe) no knife needed.
2. An apple pie in a pie dish, you can use your own recipe, no knife needed.

Looking forward to the 28th!!


This second one is from the blog of Margaret and Helen.  I’m pretty sure I’d like them if I knew them.

Dear Family,

This year I am thankful to have you as my family rather than a normal American family.  I say that because Sarah Palin is fond of talking about her family being a normal American family.

Last time I checked everyone in my family knows where Africa is on a globe. Everyone goes to college after high school.  We’ve had no teen pregnancies as of yet and no one has appeared in Playgirl.  If the Palins are a normal American family, I guess my bunch of anti-American socialists are fine by me.

But we have our own issues.   For instance, some of us are Aggies and others are Longhorns.   Which makes for interesting choices for some of you.  If a football game is more important than Thanksgiving, then consider this my last will  and testament: When I die, it’s all going to charity

Thanksgiving dinner will be moved to Friday after all of you have returned from your important tailgating party.  And now that I have made that little sacrifice, I am sure you will all work extra hard to comply with a few rules.

  1.  Cloe.  I am begging you honey.  None of that Jello crap.  No one eats it and the garbage stinks for a week after I throw it out.  You and Jello are like Palin and McCain.   How many times before you learn no one wants seconds much less firsts.
  2. Jennifer.  Your children are cute.  We all can agree on that.  Your husband’s video camera capturing every runny nose and  bowel movement– not so much.  Keep this up honey and you’ll have one posing for Playgirl before you know it.  It’s just not natural to be that comfortable in front of a camera. Ten minutes of video when you first arrive and then the camera goes back into the camera bag. 
  3. Trudy.  If your brother and sister want to come, they can be on time like everyone else.  If they are late again this year, they can eat what the dogs don’t finish. 
  4. Rhonda.   It’s my oven and once again I’ll  be using it right up until mealtime.  If you can’t bring something that doesn’t require heating, then don’t bring anything at all.
  5. Mary.    Your kid’s dirty shoes and my clean sofa have never met.  Let’s keep it that way.
  6. If you are a meat-eater, try a vegetable for your health.   If you are a vegetarian, try the stuffing for the bacon.  Either way, you’ll be cured of what ails you.
  7. If I see one grandchild doing that texting stuff, there will be no pie for dessert.  If I see one parent checking email… scratch that – new rule.  Leave your cell phone in your car.  They used to be called mobile phones for a reason.  Now-a-days the only thing mobile about your phone is your thumbs.  Trust me.  Skinny thumbs and a fat ass are not a good look.
  8. Jonathan.  How a Republican ended up in this family is beyond me, but we love you all the same.  That said, Reagan is dead darling.   Get over it.
  9. I cooked the meal.  Your grandfather paid for it.  You can clean the kitchen and we’ll call it even.
  10. Honestly, if you insist on bringing anything, bring some butter.  I go through about 20 sticks to get this meal on the table and I might as well start stocking up for Christmas now.
  11. Marshall.  I am sure you believe that your children sing beautifully.  Don’t put me in a situation where I have to make you question your beliefs.
  12. Grandpa Harold says if the Longhorns win, the bar is open.  If they lose, the party is BYOB.

Well that about covers it.  I’m almost 84.  I know what I like and what I don’t like.  Humor me and we’ll all have a good time.  Unlike Robert Bryd, when I no longer know which side my turkey is basted on, I will step down and let someone else take over the holiday preparation.  Until then, come and enjoy the meal and the company.

To all my new friends out there, I say this.  Life is short.  Don’t squabble over the little things like Jello and Sarah Palin.  If we are going to fight, let’s fight about the things that matter like world peace and apple pie.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.  Harold is doing fine.  Thanks for asking.  I mean it.

I do actually intend to put down some recipes and suggestions about Thanksgiving  but this is long enough now. Soon.


3 responses »

  1. I need to send you my story about my family’s t-giving (dis)functions. However my desktop is down right now. Soon. Love Eggs in Hell.

  2. Thank you for the link to the Jon Carroll column. And for Eggs in Hell!


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