If your family is like mine, you’ve spent the time and energy normally reserved for dividing up Thanksgiving potluck assignments determining how many people may attend your holiday, and under what public-safety conditions. The truth is, some families’ scaled-back Thanksgivings this year may actually mark an improvement on the traditional meal. We all know that turkeys are bland and fussy to prepare, one reason we don’t eat them all year round. (My father has a more gruesome objection involving the perceived similarity of turkey and human flesh, which I generally prefer not to consider.) Melissa Clark’s bacon-wrapped turkey breast is surely an enormous improvement. The industrial-sized portions of traditional Thanksgiving sides lend a cafeteria-like quality to the food — limp green bean casseroles, canned cranberry jelly, murky gravy. Potlucks introduce an element of danger, too: an aunt of mine used to bring stringy steamed turnips; my step-grandmother brought a cranberry Jell-O salad with ominous chunks of something floating in its wreath. Now, everyfood blog, cookingpersonality and Instagram influencer has tips for prizing quality over quantity, and your Thanksgiving may truly be the better for it, not to mention safer. As for me, my immediate family is illegally large to begin with: between my two parents and seven siblings, we’ve already maxed out the 10-person limit, and then there’s three wives and eight nieces and nephews to consider. So at the risk of exposing my parents to a visit from the state police, if not to COVID, I admit we won’t be bending over backward to rearrange our Thanksgiving. Our prodigious numbers suggest my family has never been too interested in ‘expert advice’ anyway, and this year possibly least of all: you try distancing and masking seven (seven) kids between the ages of two and five. Our concession to the COVID regime is not joining with my aunts, uncles, or 30-odd cousins for the holiday. I hope the governor will be satisfied.
As part of my ongoing crusade to bring good eats to my family, I’ll be presenting them with Alison Roman’s The Dip with homemade sourdough discard crackers, and balsamic-roasted Brussels sprouts from the farmer’s market. But I’ll be pleased to see some of the old staples on the table, too: the soggy beans, cloying candied sweet potatoes, boxed wines. Thanksgiving and all its usual foibles may be the most normal thing to happen this year, at least for us, and that’s something to be grateful for.