Hello, my pumpkin pies,
PeaceBang is in the midst of Thanksgiving Madness just now and won’t be blogging for the next week or so. Do enjoy the archives whilst I prepare hearth and home for the holiday. Meanwhile, keep writing it with inquiries and I’ll respond after I’ve roused myself from the chaise lounge where I will have collapsed with a dish towel over my eyes.
Remember: if you’re visiting friends or parishioners for the big day, don’t arrive empty-handed,* compliment the cook even if his or her eats give you heartburn and high blood pressure (you can always sneak out for a Big Mac on the way home), and help wash dishes even if he or she makes little “shoo-go away” gestures (PeaceBang used to do this but now throws an apron at her guests and says, “Go for it!” while she kicks back with a glass of wine. After all this grocery shopping, cleaning and preparation? Are you kidding? What kind of martyr was I?). If dining with parishioners, watch it with the booze. Be prepared to offer the blessing over the meal and observe family dysfunctions that aren’t your own, for a change.
* TEN HOSTESS GIFT IDEAS:
1. A bottle of Prosecco — fun bubbly for under $15! Do NOT bring cheap wine whose quality you cannot vouch for to a nice dinner. This puts your host/ess in the embarrassed position of feeling obligated to serve it, and that’s not fair. At least be prepared to drink it if you bring it (hosts and hostesses, it’s perfectly good manners to tuck away all gift wines for later use, which PeaceBang always does although her friends generally have darned good taste in wine.)
2. A big bunch of fresh sage or mint from your garden.
3. 3-4 bottles of pretty seltzer water with a fresh lemon or lime (always welcome, always get used eventually).
4. A nice bottle of hand soap tied with a bow (TJ Maxx always has them for under $5).
5. A jar of fleur de sel or nice olive oil for the serious cook. Trader Joe’s has wonderful affordable options.
6. A pair of taper candles in neutral or autumnal colors.
7. A small bouquet of flowers (nothing overly fragrant or fancy) that you are prepared to put in a vase of your host/hostess’s choosing as instructed (it’s a help).
8. An offer of a good shoulder rub after dinner (and make good on it!). If that doesn’t appeal to your talents, why not offer to be the Event Photographer; something your hosts won’t have time to do but would truly appreciate!
9. Something super practical, like the time someone came over with a stack of tupperware containers which were SO useful for doling out leftovers after dinner! Great idea!
10. Fill a small jar with chunky sea salt. Sprinkle with a few drops of some essential oil (lavender or rose or rosemary, or whatever combination you like). Shake well. Tie with a sweet bow and give it to your hosts for a refreshing bath or foot soak.
HOW TO BE A GOOD THANKSGIVING GUEST:
1. R.S.V.P. in a timely fashion. Don’t make your hosts scramble to accommodate you at the last minute.
2. Don’t assume you can bring a guest to a formal dinner: ask first. If you’re not close friends with the hosts, don’t ask at all. There may be constraints of budget or space that your host or hostess would rather not reveal, and you may be causing more stress than you know with your inquiry. Again, this doesn’t apply to pals whose home and general financial situation you know can accommodate a few more pilgrims.
3. Arrive on time, or close to it. If your hostess says that drinks are at 3 and dinner at 4pm, don’t come at 4:15. A formal sit-down Thanksgiving dinner is a complex and highly-choreographed event involving many dishes in and out of the oven; you may actually ruin dinner if you hold things up. Don’t. If you get held up, have the courtesy to phone and give your hostess permission to start without you. If she has leeway, she’ll let you know, but consider the timing of the meal and respect the parameters of the invitation. A sit-down meal is NOT the same as a buffet casual dinner party.
4. Help the hostess by mixing and mingling yourself. Because of the nature of Thanksgiving dinner, your host/ess may have to be in the kitchen in the early stages of the party. She will not be offended if you abandon her to go eat appetizers around the fire and visit with other guests. In fact, she’d prefer it. That’s why the appetizers are there. If the appetizers are set up in the kitchen, get yourself a drink and by all means bug the cook.
5. If your host or hostess is single, make yourself a secret Party Spouse. Pick up plates and glasses and bring them to the kitchen. Keep the fire going. Fill the ice bucket. Entertain the children. Answer the door. Be a good fairy.
Thank your hosts before you leave, send a thank you note within a week (unless they’re good personal buds, in which case an e-mail is fine), and return the hospitality if at all possible. Pay attention to detail so that if you have the good fortune of being invited back next year, you can contribute something (“Linda, it must have been so much work to peel all those potatoes, why don’t I make the mashed potatoes this year?”). And that, my friends, is called the lost art of good manners and social etiquette.
Beloveds, may your turkeys or tofu casseroles be succulent and may your prayers of gratitude be sincere. PeaceBang is thankful for you.
[Update: Even the Boston Globe’s Miss Conduct preaches the gospel of PeaceBang! ]
(Photos from La Casa de PeaceBang, Thanksgiblets 2006)