Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Rally For Thanksgiving: The Dept. Of Nance Thanksgiving FAQ

Whether you like it or not, turkey is synonymous with Thanksgiving, and so much so that Butterball, Foremost Turkey Purveyor, has had a Turkey Hotline for more than thirty years. They have even taken to the Interwebs with this service, and in addition to calling their team of Turkey Experts at 1-800-BUTTERBALL, you can now live chat with them or email them via their website, here.

Not to be outdone, The Washington Post, journalistic bastion of all Beltway News and winner of forty-seven Pulitzer Prizes, has announced that, from now until Thanksgiving, it will be answering "some of the most commonly asked holiday meal questions." You can "E-mail [them]or join [their] weekly live Web chat on Wednesdays from noon to 1 p.m. For complete Turkey Day coverage, visit [their] Thanksgiving Central page."

Well, hell. I feel as if I have a ton of Thanksgiving Expertise to offer, but I don't have an 800 number or a newspaper. I do have this website; however, I don't want to wait around for people to submit questions or possibly ask things I don't want to talk about. So, I'm going to do it the Nance Way. Here, then, is

The Dept. Of Nanceswers, Thanksgiving Edition

Question: Must I serve an organic turkey at my Thanksgiving meal?
Nanceswer: Of course not. If you have a guest who insists upon a free-range, organic, fresh, or bilingual turkey, then politely request that he or she bring it so that it is correctly purchased, stored, and prepared. The same goes for any other special dietary request. Cheerily offer to provide the necessary serving pieces, and say that you look forward to tasting such a wonderful treat.

Q: Is it okay not to include kale, quinoa, or chia seeds in my Thanksgiving menu?
N: Absolutely. These trendy foods will welcome the respite, and butter will be glad for the work.

Q: How long do we have to wait for late guests? Is there a fifteen-minute rule, like for professors?
N: Just as no Fifteen Minute Rule For A Full Professor actually exists, no hard and fast rule for tardy dinner guests does either. But perpetually late guests are always Rude, and this behaviour should not be rewarded year after year. Call their bluff and sit down to a hot dinner. They will catch up and, hopefully, catch on. After all, microwaves were invented so that we could warm plates of food quickly and efficiently. Late guests can do this when they arrive. Greet them warmly, but without fanfare and judgment.

Q: How do you feel about The Kids' Table?
N: I am largely against it. Children should sit at the table with adults and learn about conversation; they should try new foods, observe and practice table manners, and be supervised by their parents. Thanksgiving is a great time for kids to sit down and learn how to eat a full meal in a relaxed setting and enjoy company.

Q: What wine do you suggest for Thanksgiving?
N: I've had lots of different wines with turkey, from a dry rose to Beaujolais Nouveau to a rich, oaky Chardonnay. All of them have been lovely. I think you should open a couple of wines that you truly enjoy and do just that, enjoy them. I would stay away from any sweet wine, like a riesling or the simply terrible white zinfandel or the dessert-y moscato. On principle, I'd stay away from those last two entirely, forever. But that's just me.

Q: Should I brine, deep fry, or otherwise do something worky to my turkey?
N: Only if you have nothing else to keep you busy and active. Have you tried crossword puzzles, knitting, or building low-cost housing for feral cats in your area? How about reformatting your laptop? Did you ever put all of your old super8 movies into a digital format? Just checking.

Q: How have you decorated your home for Thanksgiving?
N: I have two bags of cranberries in my freezer.

Q: Can you suggest some creative alternatives for pumpkin pie?
N: Listen. If you don't want pumpkin flavour, then make anything else you want. Make a chocolate cake. Make a pecan pie. Make a huge trifle with raspberries and hunks of pound cake. But if you like pumpkin spice flavour, stick with the pumpkin pie. Why mess with it? Let's face it: pumpkin roll, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins--all that stuff tastes like pumpkin pie and that's why people love it. So, either do the pie or do a 180 and make something else.

Q: Are you a Brussels Sprout Person?
N: Oh, my, yes. I am crazy about them. One of the finest drinks nibblies ever is an appetizer made by the chef at Nemo's restaurant in Avon, a little town near me here in NEO. It's sliced, fried Brussels sprouts with a little bit of bacon, balsamic reduction, and toasted pistachios. Those with a dirty vodka martini...perfection. But I'll take them straight up, steamed with a little butter and salt and pepper, too, and have them fresh on Thanksgiving.

Q: Is it acceptable to have plain vegetables rather than candied, casseroled, au gratined, escalloped or the like?
N: Yes, and I always do. With the abundance of food and gravy and starch like dressing, mashed potatoes, and rolls, I like to have plain vegetables with real butter, seasoned with salt and pepper only.

Q: What should be done regarding cell phones at the Thanksgiving table?
N: Unless someone is a medical doctor, has an aged parent in a Home or hospital, or will be Skyping in a distant relative (such as a member of the armed services overseas or a married child who is giving the in-laws their turn), the cell phones should be put away and silenced. This may be akin to Social Suicide for some tweens and stunted adults, but they will get over it. Slapping offenders is, of course, forbidden; instead, fix them with a stern yet sad look and say, "Why don't you go ahead and take care of your very important business in the other room? We'll make sure that a nice plate is left for you in the fridge." It does no good to force anyone to be someplace he does not want to be. But the rest of the table should not have to be subjected to someone's bowed head attending to an absent third party all during dinner.

Q: What about the crushing guilt if I don't use real whipped cream?
N: Get over it. I know that Cool Whip is a whole bunch of chemicals and grease. I also know that I use it only about twice a year and that it's way easier than making and storing real whipped cream. If your guilt is so strong, buy ReddiWip. It's made with real cream. Wow. Are you Catholic?

Q: What do you suggest regarding the attire for Thanksgiving?
N: Some families like to dress in their Sunday Best for this holiday and make it a very festive, special event. It makes for a lovely scene and, if you are This Type Of Family, some pretty photos. For the Dept., we dress quite casually, and I often consider having Jammies Thanksgiving. For us, it is a holiday of extreme relaxation and togetherness and joy. I think it's a matter of family style and preference. Ideally, generous and stretchy waistbands would be a given.

Q: Do you have any suggestions for all the leftover turkey?
N: Is this really a problem, honestly? Do people A) not know how to figure out how big of a turkey to buy; B) not have a love of turkey sandwiches; C) not have the Interwebs? I rarely have any leftover turkey, and it's a little irritating. When I have a little leftover turkey (or chicken), I like to make a big pot pie, which also uses up any other leftovers like potatoes, veg, and even dressing, which can be cubed up or sliced up and put on the bottom. It all gets mixed up with the leftover gravy, which can be supplemented with some good jarred or canned gravy. I use the turkey carcass and wings for soup, or at least stock.

Q: What about leftover cranberry sauce?
N: Why don't we make this terrific condiment more often? It's delicious with roasted pork, and it's wonderful on buttered toast or a bagel. You can use it with apples in a crisp. Warm it and spoon it over brie, then serve it with baguette or apple and pear slices. If you want to get terrifically worky, buy those little phyllo cups and spoon a little bit of the cranberry sauce in the bottom of each one; add a chunk of brie or a white farmer's cheese, then a walnut half; bake in a 350 oven for about 8 minutes, til the cup is golden, and the cheese is melty. Lovely!

Q: What should we do if we have any more questions?
N: Ask them in Comments.



  1. This is delightful. I'm totally with you on the brining question and the cell phone at the table question. Have to respectfully oppose you on the Cool Whip question.

    Here is my additional question: Where do you stand on the issue of appetizers before the meal? Should the host/hostess provide them, or are they excessive?

  2. On kale, quinoa and chia seeds:

    Kale. Why, when there's lovely, gorgeous raw spinach?

    Chia seeds. You mean they're edible? I thought they were just for spreading on stupid little gag-gift sculptures.

    Quinoa. I am sixty-six years old, and I have no idea what quinoa tastes like, one even looks like.

  3. fauxprof--I have had all three, and let me tell you, I am not enamoured enough of any of them, or their health benefits, to incorporate them into my diet.

    Kale tastes like dirt to me, period. I'm sorry, but there it is, had to be said. And that taste is so very strong and prevalent that it ruins everything, even a salad. And forget about sneaking it into a smoothing. Ugh.

    Chia seeds are supposedly a superfood, very high in protein, I think. My brother is devoted to them. They are expensive little things, and I'll just add a little dab of peanut butter or more cheese or black beans, all of which I love.

    Quinoa I do like, but it's not easy to cook and some of it looks downright scary. It's gluten-free and that's its big plus, along with its protein content, though per calorie, oats and brown rice have more. People who are vegan/vegetarian are popularizing pseudo-grains like quinoa as meat substitutes to help with protein intake.

    Ally Bean--Why, thank you. I know you will not be alone on the Cool Whip issue, trust me. That's okay.

    Regarding the appetizers:
    Honestly, this depends upon how early your guests arrive. If you like guests to be there promptly in time to toss coats on the bed and sit down to dinner within a half-hour, then I say forget appetizers entirely. All that does is ensure that all of your hard work in the kitchen goes to waste.

    If your guests arrive more than an hour before service, then certainly having a drink and nibblies before dinner is expected. A nice sparkling wine, dry, and a very small appetizer would be lovely. There's nothing wrong with setting out some very nice sweet and spicy mixed nuts (you can find great recipes online or just buy very good ones) and that's it, making certain that guests don't spoil their dinners.

  4. My dad always grows & cans so many green beans that he usually takes some to our Thanksgiving dinner - just cooked with a little oil (& maybe bacon fat) - to counterbalance all the carbs. Sadly, he & I are probably the only ones who eat them. Ha!

    My aunt is always responsible for the turkey & some years she smokes one & I have to say that I find smoked turkey to be delicious. Much better than regular turkey...

    We don't have a kids table now since we eat in a church fellowship hall, but when I was growing up, my grandmother's table would only accommodate the adults, so we were banished to a small table in the living room. And we LOVED it! No eating with boring old adults :)

  5. So, your November is my October and you are posting lots and lots.
    Re whipping cream. Real! Beaten at the last moment by muscular offspring.
    Re method of cooking turkey etc, with you all the way.
    Only there must be tomato aspic and both jellied and real cranberry sauce here.
    My question (unanswerable, I fear): how do I persuade the next generation to forget the 'to grandmother's house we go' bit and put on the meal themselves? I can't bear to overlook the turkey, but what else can I do?
    Love the turkey phone and the post!

  6. Mary G--Thanks for the kind compliments.

    With regard to your Question, I'm absolutely in The Same Place when it comes to our family's Christmas Eve. I think this is the year that I

    N: Begin to drop a few jolly comments, remarks, and hints, such as, "It's about time for one of you younger individuals to do the family Thanksgiving/Christmas Eve/insert unwanted holiday here. I've had a good, long run of (in my case) 25 years now. I'm ready to pass the torch." Certainly some horrified glances and faux devastation will occur, such as, "Oh! It wouldn't be (Holiday) without coming here!", which really means, "No way do we want to do all this work and have all this go on at OUR house!", but you may get lucky and have someone take up the standard. At the very least, you've planted the seed, and no one will be surprised when, in the next year or two, you tell people well in advance that you are NOT DOING IT ANYMORE.

    Bug--I used to eat at the kids' table every now and again when we went to a large Thanksgiving at my mother's family cabin in Ashland county, OH. Most of us cousins didn't care for it and waited for the day when we graduated to the adult table where there was lots more conversation and laughter. And all of the best food. The kids' table was a haphazard affair and we knew it; it was full of picky eaters who made fun of what everyone else ate, and there were always lots of spills. Hated it with a passion.

    Home canned green beans sound so good! I'd skip the bacon, though--not a fan.

  7. So entertaining on so many levels, though the biggest laughs went to the worky turkey and Thanksgiving decorations. Never have been a fan of the Martha Stewart-esque holiday folderol. M.S., of course, would decorate her butt if she thought anyone was looking.

    Us? We went to my sister's for Thanksgiving, and I brought wine and prepared exactly *zero* food for the first time in years. This is the reward you get when it is a 16-hour drive round trip.


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