This year, the Peña Five will be the happy guests of the gracious Carroll family, whose Thanksgiving dinners embody Norman Rockwell paintings, only with better lighting, more attractive guests, and less inebriation. Aunt N always prepares an impeccable traditional Thanksgiving dinner with turkey, pork stuffing, whipped potatoes, and so on, but done so perfectly and consistently that I can hardly bear the excruciating anticipation in the weeks leading up to the most delicious of Thursdays.
The single issue I have with my favorite meal-based holiday involves the majority of tables across the US, and in no way directs any criticism toward two of my favorite hosts. Many dinner guests enjoy a beer or a glass of wine during the hour before the meal, but not much of a drinker, I turn to another nerve softener: cheese. I can almost always rely on my old friend to ease me into a mingle, and start feeling at home as soon as I spot a cheddar and pepperoni combo plate with a fan of Ritz, a nut-encrusted ball surrounded by water crackers, a yule log, a pub cheese, a baked brie and baguette toasts, or the Excalibur, generally reserved for wedding receptions: the fruit and cheese cube fountain.
How many Thanksgiving dinners can you recall that incorporated any sort of cheese showcase? My best guess is that most diners on this particular occasion are concerned that they will exceed capacity before they’d like to stop eating, and can’t allow distractions like pepperjack to poach on precious abdominal real estate. I, however, do not overeat at Thanksgiving. I’m not above the occasional overindulgence, but I dread experiencing the inevitable system shutdown anywhere but at home. If I can’t get into my bed, I stop at one plate.
There must be others like me, who yearn to stick their head right into the bowl of whipped potatoes, while instead they slowly cut their one slice of breast meat, and savor their single scoop of pork stuffing, when they just want to grab the serving dish and lock themselves in the nearest closet with it. A good bracing of cheese beforehand would spare us from these horrible fantasies.
Since I’ve managed to establish a solid run for my coveted monopoly on the Christmas feast (a childhood dream), I don’t see myself hosting many Thanksgiving dinners in the coming years. So I entreat you, gentle reader, to leave a little space on the coffee tables between the nuts and olives this Thursday, and let’s see what happens when we get some Camembert involved.