I know that it’s early November, but it’s never too early to talk about Thanksgiving. Especially when I’m giving you a piece of advice about something that you may have to pre-order. And I’m not talking about the turkey.
Let’s talk about last year for a minute.
It’s not my favorite characteristic, but my husband is exceptionally good at getting sick on major holidays.
Although technically it’s not his fault, he has a tendency to eat suspicious mayonnaise-based products the morning of a major event. Several years ago he ate a greenish chicken salad from a local deli and was violently ill during Thanksgiving dinner. Years before it was funky sushi the day of his birthday party.
I should have prepared for another Thanksgiving disaster last year, brought in special backup teams or outsourced the meal preparation. In my world, heading into Thanksgiving without a backup plan is like hosting an outdoor wedding in May.
Thanksgiving morning I rolled out of bed, the world my oyster, the dishes that I’d lovingly cook for our family and friends sketched out on a piece of paper. Rodney had graciously offered to take care of the kids to give me some much-needed space in the kitchen.
I walked out of our bedroom and found Rodney hunched over the toilet.
Rodney: “I feel sick. My stomach hurts.”
Me: “Ha, that’s a good one.”
Rodney: “I’m serious, I feel really sick.”
Me: “You can’t be sick today, not allowed. Sorry.”
Rodney: “I feel like I’m going to throw up. I literally can’t move.”
Me: “Oh, my, God. Every year. Ev-ver-ry year. Why do I do this to myself. What did you eat last night?”
Rodney: “A burrito.”
Me: “From where?”
Rodney: “Duane Reade.”
Apparently in a fit of hunger, instead of reaching into our perfectly stocked fridge for dinner, he panicked and bought himself a pork burrito from our local drugstore’s freezer case.
So rather than watching him get ready to take the kids to the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade, our first time buying tickets, the tickets we’d gotten so that the kids could be out my hair while I cooked dinner for 16 people – rather than watching him do that……I now had to witness him crawl over to the couch and lie down in the fetal position with a bucket wedged next to his head.
Missing the parade was not an option at this point. The kids had been talking about it for weeks. Tears would be shed. Hearts would be broken.
So I did what any calm and collected Thanksgiving hostess would do in this situation. I swore like a sailor and stopped breathing for a solid minute, just until I became faint-headed enough to believe that this was actually a cruel joke and not my reality. As I regained consciousness, I figured out my plan.
We’d switch places, I’d take the kids to the parade. He would cook. Terrifying, all of it, but it was the only option.
Fortunately the crowds weren’t too bad. Can we even call them crowds? It was more like a million-person flash mob that sprung up from nowhere to gawk at giant Hello Kitty balloons and Carly Rae Jepson. We were shoulder to shoulder with people who’d come in from every borough, and every neighboring state just for chance to see all of the action in person.
There I was, lonely and panic-stricken in a sea of festivity. I spent the entire time hunched over my phone, trying to make myself heard above the noise.
“RODNEY!” began a series of calls:
9:00AM – “Take the turkey and butter out of the fridge! YES, OUT OF THE FRIDGE!”
10:00AM – “CHOP the herbs and mix it with the BUTTER! SAGE! That’s the flat furry one! And THYME, the little branches with tiny LEAVES!”
10:05AM – “Did you PREHEAT the oven? YES, you have to PREHEAT the oven. 425. Turn the nob to 425!”
10:30AM – “Is the oven HOT? Rub the BUTTER on the TURKEY and put it in the OVEN!”
I don’t know who was in worse shape – me, feeling helpless amidst the crowds. Or Rodney, handicapped with crippling food poisoning and left to look after a 15-month old and a 20-lb raw bird.
I needed a nap. Or a reset button. Or a few shots of whiskey.
But all of it had to wait.
When I got home, I began what I will now call my Iron Chef period.
From about 1-4PM I chopped, sliced, and tap-danced my way through a high-stakes game of Thanksgiving chicken (or should I say turkey?). Would I get it done? Would I have to order last-minute reinforcements? Would I slice a finger as I rushed to the finish line?
It was the most pressure I’ve felt in the kitchen, the clock ticking, knives flying, meat sizzling, fat rendering, roasts roasting, veggies sweating, salts seasoning.
But somehow, the Gods were smiling on us that afternoon because in record time, I pulled together the remaining dishes. Rodney even started to feel better. By 4PM he was starting to crack a few jokes, decant the wine, put on the Pandora and light the candles. I couldn’t believe it, we were actually going to make it.
And it truly was a joyous occasion. Our guests walked in, oblivious to the chaos we’d just endured. We laughed, we ate warm Brie, we clinked our glasses, we mingled. We moved from one conversation to the next, forgetting our glasses behind, grabbing another glass that looked like our own.
And that, my friends, is how disease is spread. Stomach bugs look an awful lot like food poisoning.
Oh, how I wish it had been that horrible drugstore burrito. But it was worse. It was far, far worse. Rodney’s stomach bug rivaled the plague in its ferocity. Like a cruel version of Thanksgiving Contagion, it swept through the party, sparing few.
Here are a few highlights from the post-mortem assessment of the damage, conducted by email since we were all too sick to leave our beds.
Me > my brother: I’m sure you’ve talked to Mum about the legendary stomach bug that’s wiped through our Thanksgiving party. Apparently Rodney’s drugstore pork burrito wasn’t the culprit- just an old school stomach bug that he passed to me that night, and we obviously passed to the rest of the party….Anyway, hopefully you made it through unscathed.
My brother > Me: OMG! Just got up from spending 15 of the last 18 hours in bed. It hit me on the plane trip back but I think the worst is behind me.
Me > Female dinner guest 1: I just heard from Rodney that you’ve got a stomach bug…..I feel horrible! Rodney’s shady Duane Reade pork burrito seems to have been a stomach bug – I came down with it last night. Hopefully you’ll feel better soon- if it’s any consolation, it’s fierce but short duration.
Female dinner guest > Me: I hope it’s the stomach bug, because I would die from four more weeks of morning sickness like this.
Me > Female dinner guest 2: Are any of you sick? Turns out that Rodney’s pork burrito was in fact a stomach bug – I came down with it after Thanksgiving and my mum just got it today. Just wanted to give a heads up in case any of you get sick.
Female dinner guest 2 > Me: I’m sick. [Her son] also threw up in the middle of the night and is refusing food today. In happier news, I think my diarrhea has helped me lose another lb (of post-pregnancy weight.)
In any case, as I promised earlier in this post, I wanted to share something that will be of great use in preventing such a situation in your own home.
Wine charms, ever used them? If not, may I introduce you to a modern little device that fights the spread of disease better than hand washing itself.
I highly suggest that you order a set of these for the holiday season. Who wants to be sick during our merriest of times? That short, perfect season between Thanksgiving and the end of December when we bake, eat, drink and get far too many hangovers. Not me. I intend to be as healthy as possible while enduring those hangovers.
And, just as I gave you some suggestions for your Halloween costumes, I likewise did some research on some adorable wine charms for you to buy for your next party.
So cheers to a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner and to getting ready for a fabulous holiday season. Stay healthy everyone.