For most people, the Thanksgiving holiday centers around “the big game.” This game is usually a football game. Because I am not a big sports fan, for me, “the big game” is the Thanksgiving meal itself. And like coaches and players the world over, before the “game,” I establish a game plan.
Thanksgiving is a wonderful time for many reasons. There is an abundance of carefully prepared food, quality time with family, and most thankfully of all – no hassle of gift-giving. A day of giving thanks, Thanksgiving is a day not to make your wallet cringe, but to put on elastic-waisted pants and sit down to an extended table buckling in the center with the weight of casserole dishes.
However, before you sit down to indulge yourself on whatever food traditions your family may follow, it is important to assess the meal as a whole and determine your caloric priorities.
When planning your meal, it is important to think of your stomach as real estate. Valuable real estate. No one would put a huge dollar store or petting zoo in the middle of Times Square, would they? Then why would you waste valuable stomach space on things like raw veggies and dip, a huge glass of apple cider or that weird jello mold with the mystery chunks floating in it?
The rolls (in the basket, not under your shirt), with their flaky and buttery goodness, should be eaten sparingly and saved for leftovers. Eating more than two with your meal is a rookie mistake and will leave you cursing yourself when you have no room for that second piece of pie.
Gravy is the blood running through the veins of the Thanksgiving meal and is vital to your culinary enjoyment. But, use it excessively, and the integrity of the food itself can be lost. Drowning your plate in gravy will not only anger the rest of your family, but will also cover up the tastes that you are really looking to enjoy.
Stuffing can present a real challenge at this dinner-of-dinners. If your mom’s stuffing is one of your Thanksgiving favorites, and you only get it once a year, clearly you must make it a priority and pre-designate a significant amount of stomach room. This food is well-named – stuffing. If it is not a turkey-day highlight for you, keep the portion size small.
Any other day, any other meal, your mother would have some justification in being concerned for your health, but on Thanksgiving, it is important to keep your priorities in check. When it comes to Thanksgiving, don’t be hesitant to tell your mom to take a seat as she tries to put vegetables on your plate.
There is one softball in the Thanksgiving meal, and that is cranberry sauce. A relatively neutral dish, it doesn’t take up much room in your stomach, and is a different taste sensation from the rest of the meal altogether. Make your mom happy by adding some color to your otherwise beige plate with this freebie.
If you successfully navigate your way through the buffet line and have followed your game plan, you should have some room left for dessert. I advocate tiny pieces of everything rather than one big piece of your favorite. This way, you get to taste it all and with any luck, while everyone is enjoying dessert, you can squirrel away a bigger piece for later.
If your family has dessert right after the main meal, you will have to keep your portions small. If this is simply not a sacrifice you are willing to make, suggest that you wait a while for dessert, or even better, go on a leisurely walk around the block after dinner. While I normally support as little physical exertion as possible, it’s amazing what a little moving around can do to allow things to settle a bit and clear up some of that valuable belly real estate. An added bonus is that your mom will think you are attempting to keep everyone healthy!
Let her labor under this delusion – after all, once Thanksgiving is over, and the leftovers are gone, you will need that goodwill in your favor for the next major holiday looming around the corner…