Lori Falce: Conversation at Thanksgiving table
When I plan my Thanksgiving menu, I do it with the people who will fill their plates in mind.
My mom loves turkey, so I give the bird its starring role with juicy brined meat and crispy skin.
One sister wants her mashed potatoes pure and unadulterated by the sour cream and bacon I would like to bring to the party, so I make them with plenty of sweet butter and hot milk instead.
The other sister needs green bean casserole. Her husband is allergic to chocolate, so there’s always a safe dessert for him. Everyone wants the fluffy, homemade rolls. I make cranberry-pineapple sauce from scratch for my stepfather, who prefers it to the canned jelly.
The stuffing — packed with chunks of sausage and apples and raisins — is for me.
It creates a crazy quilt of flavors which is exactly what Thanksgiving demands. The picture-perfect holiday with friendly Pilgrims and docile natives chowing down on a Norman Rockwell turkey might be historically inaccurate, but it doesn’t mean the idea of people coming together peacefully for a meal isn’t worth trying to replicate.
And what is good for food is good for ideas, too.
Too many recommendations are out there for surviving Thanksgiving through a game plan of zipped lips and strategic withdrawals. Don’t talk about politics or religion or current events or “Dancing with the Stars.” If your cousin starts ranting, say it’s time to go walk the dog. Focus on the food or the football.
What if the conversation was like the table? What if a Democrat and a Republican could sit next to each other and find harmony like a little tart cranberry sauce nestled next to the turkey? What if we didn’t concentrate on the differences in our opinions so much as what they complement?
A Thanksgiving conversation with family should involve etiquette just like the meal. Namely, it demands as much listening and thinking as it does talking. Maybe more.
It shouldn’t be an opportunity to run up the score for your side. Your opinionated relative isn’t the Detroit Lions.
Breaking bread together should be a way to diffuse tensions, not inflame them. Giving thanks should include giving respect — on all sides.
And just like making sure everyone should find something that speaks to them on the table, everyone should feel free to speak — and be heard — around it.
Lori Falce is a Tribune-Review community engagement editor. You can contact Lori at [email protected].