Volume 14, Issue 47 ~ November 23 - November 29, 2006

Bay Reflections

Doubly Thankful

Savor and save room for dessert — or a second meal

by Carrie Madren

Last Thanksgiving, my fiancé — now husband — and I puzzled over the holiday Rubik’s Cube that young couples everywhere eventually must work out. We had to plan our Thanksgiving visits between two families.

Some new couples get the benefit of families living far apart — Sorry, Dad, we can’t be in both places at once — thereby escaping an Act II of turkey dinner. On the other hand, they have to make tough choices about which family to dine with on that fourth November Thursday.

Our families live close, and each is close.

Our entire lives, our families have eaten together on this revered family-centered holiday.

I didn’t want to miss my mom’s cranberry relish, made from real cranberries enveloped by citrus zest. Or the baked pineapple, hot from the oven (always in the same square, white glass dish), generously sprinkled with cinnamon.

Tyras refused to slight his mother’s yams with melted marshmallow topping, or miss seeing his two younger, out-of-state brothers, so the three now-grown boys could revert to childhood together.

The solution, we decided, was to revel in the best of both worlds, before the day comes when we’re expected to host the dinner ourselves.

Both of us is blessed with jovial family and mothers whose cooking, baking and hostessing skills come straight out of Southern Living. To join them both, our Thanksgiving would be a whirlwind of feasting.

We started with my family in Montgomery County, where mom laid out a decadent spread of the turkey day basics trimmed with family traditions. We didn’t want to rush eating the holiday bird, but I stole a glance at my watch under the table.

Another helping? offered mother. We rubbed our stomachs as we motioned No, thanks, we’re saving some room. Then we dipped in just one more spoonful of the heavenly mashed potatoes. After all, we needed fuel to make the hour-plus trip to Virginia for meal number two.

My family understood when we rose from the table, though tradition keeps our family chatting at the table long after the last of the sweet potatoes are scraped from the plate. After all, there’s plenty of wine.

We jetted — just a wee bit late, because we had to try a slice of pie (or two) — to Virginia along a beltway eerily clear of traffic.

At my future in-laws, we slipped in minutes before dinner to find a warm kitchen of Yankee candles, baking yams, buttered beans, sizzlin’ turkey and aromatic rolls. We barely had time to sample all the appetizers before we sat down to another extravagant feast in their formal dining room.

We rounded out the meal with the famous chocolate mousse pie — trimmed with chocolate leaves molded from real camellia leaves — Tyras had raved about since the previous Thanksgiving, which we spent apart.

After a swift cleanup, tradition dictated that the Madren boys retire to the basement for video games — the choicest being Mario Party — and tryptophan-induced naps.

It was an afternoon of sensory overload — the aromas, the warmth from food and company, the succulent tastes — and we crashed. Not that we would have done it differently.

So to new couples everywhere, caught in the transition from their old holidays to new traditions, I say, don’t rush. Just savor and save room for dessert — or a second meal.

Bay Weekly Staff writer Carrie Madren will celebrate her first married Thanksgiving with her family in Salisbury, where only one driving trip is required.

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