Thanksgiving at the Kid's Table

11.17.09: Leo's 17th month


Thanksgiving is our family’s big holiday. It’s the one time of the year when my Mom’s side of the family gets together. Since we’re very well-endowed in the cousin department, we’re usually at least 25 at the dinner table. And dinner is the main event. I think about it for weeks in advance (obviously) and enjoy the meal so thoroughly that I almost can’t believe it when it’s over. “That’s it?” I think. “The Great Thanksgiving Dinner has been eaten? We must all return to our ordinary dinners again?”

The best parts of Thanksgiving dinner are invariably the sides. Well, and the appetizers. And the dessert. Oh, okay, and the family. There’s a huge age range in my family, and it’s very lovely to be around the oldest and youngest of our clan. This year, Leo won’t be the youngest any more, and we’ll be meeting our newest cousin, Jack. Other than Jack, I think the kids will really be able to play together now, which will be a new development. The last time there was real playing at Thanksgiving, I was doing it.

I was also at the kid’s table back then. What I mostly remember from the kid’s table was that my much-revered older cousin Ariana turned up her nose at stuffing. “How can you eat that?” she’d say. And if it had been any other meal, any other side dish, I might have turned up my nose too just to avoid having her stare at me in disgust. But stuffing and I have never let each other down like that, and never will.

From my adult perspective, I’m not so convinced about the whole kid’s table concept. Do you have one at your Thanksgiving? What about other times of year? As a child, I remember that the kid’s table often was served special kid’s food. Say, burgers and fries while the grown-ups had big fancy steaks and asparagus and mashed potatoes. I wanted the steak!

This year, my older cousin (the oldest of our “young” generation) is hosting for the first time. It’s a big step, a passing down of the mantle from my mom’s generation to mine, and I’m very excited to support my cousins in their hosting endeavors. I’ll be bringing veggie sides and a chocolate cake as usual this year. But my cousin also suggested I make a mac and cheese for the kids if I have time.

Hmm. Now I like mac and cheese as much as the next guy. And we do eat pasta an awful lot around here (last night we had pasta with turkey sausage and kale to warm up for Turkey Day) so I’m sure Leo would be onboard with that. But he’s never had stuffing, cranberry sauce, gravy, my mom’s sweet potato–and–apple casserole, my Dad’s curried lentils (these got added to the menu when my cousins and I were vegetarian and they’re great with everything else)…

I think Leo is going to love Thanksgiving dinner, and since it only comes around once a year, part of me resists giving him the idea that mac and cheese is part of the holiday. Why fill up on pasta on the best food day of the whole year?

Would you make the mac and cheese? I guess he’ll still discover stuffing even with that distraction. He’s what you’d call a good eater. And in case any of his little cousins has inherited Ariana’s disdain for the rest of the meal, I suppose it would be nice to show them how good, cheesy and crusty homemade mac and cheese can be. It’s in the never-too-much-of-a-good-thing spirit of the holiday so why not?

Recipe: Pasta with Kale, Turkey Sausage and Mushrooms