A Thanksgiving conundrum

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. It’s one of the four days of the year I can cash in my calorie coupons and feast until I feel as stuffed as the turkey on the table. (The other three being Christmas, my birthday and the day after Lent ends, because after 40 days of no chocolate, it’s hard to control myself.)

But on Thanksgiving, it’s all about the turkey. And the dressing. And the sweet potato casserole. And all the other delicious sides Cracker Barrel has to offer. Going out for Thanksgiving dinner has become a tradition for my family. All the delicious food — none of the cleanup.

However, Thanksgiving does pose one small problem for me — how to get all that yummy food on one plate without any of it touching. Yes, I am an adult. But I don’t like my food to touch on the plate. Even though I know it all ends up in the same place, I just can’t stand the flavors mixing before it gets there.
There are a few exceptions, of course. Gravy can go on the turkey and dressing, but I have to construct a dam of stuffing to keep it from getting into the green beans. Sweet potato casserole is delicious — but not when smeared on the ham. And the cranberry sauce is the worst contaminant on the plate. I loathe the stuff, and anything that comes into contact with it must be immediately quarantined from the rest of the plate. Sure, I could ask for it to be left off, but then my dad wouldn’t be able to protect my dinner by nobly offering to eat it for me.

I could, I suppose, ask that everything be brought out to me on separate plates, but five adults and one toddler make for an already crowded table. Not to mention all the extra dishes that would have to be washed. So I just have to make the most of what I’ve got to keep my food separated for maximum enjoyment.

My dilemma is not just limited to Thanksgiving — it’s a problem I face every single day. Corn cannot mix with mashed potatoes. General Tso’s chicken should not come into contact with fried wontons. Spaghetti and salad? Forget it. I’ll need a separate bowl for the salad. Just the idea that I might get spaghetti sauce in my salad — even though I may have tomatoes in my salad — gives me the willies.

While in the process of writing this column, I started wondering if I’m the only adult permanently stuck in childhood mentality when it comes to food on a plate. Surely not! So I decided to use a highly scientific process in order to poll my peers. I posed the question on Facebook. And according to my friends on Facebook, I’m the only picky eater not only in this state but in half a dozen others and two countries as well. Even my friend’s 16-year-old daughter chimed in to say that everything tasted better with gravy on it.

Even the children are showing me up!

Fortunately, my coworkers bailed me out from feeling alone in my pickiness. Heather Mullinix and Missy Wattenbarger both agree with me that food should never, ever touch on a plate. We all agree that if we could develop a line of nice-looking divided plates made of china or some kind of stoneware, we could probably make a fortune catering to other picky adult eaters. Because I’m sure we’re not the only grown-ups in America who believe baked beans should not come into contact with your hamburger — despite the results of my Facebook poll.

So this Thanksgiving, as I’m separating the food on my plate, I’ll give my thanks for the meal on the table, the health of my family, and for parents who understand my culinary peculiarities and know to put my peas in a bowl when we have hamburger lasagna.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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