Gary Brown: Stuffing yourself at Thanksgiving dinner

Gary Brown

Eating Thanksgiving dinner in the 1950s and 1960s at the home of Aunt Jessie and Uncle Frank was where I discovered how to stuff myself silly.

It’s probably instinctive. But, I still worked at effectively eating Thanksgiving dinner for years and learned valuable plate-loading techniques by watching such family members as my Uncle Leon. He always seemed pretty hungry.

Technically, Uncle Frank and Uncle Leon were great-uncles and Aunt Jessie was a great-aunt — on my mother’s side of the family, where having large numbers of side dishes was a value in life.

And Uncle George, another healthy eater who mentored me at meals, was really some kind of a great-cousin. I was never sure exactly how I was related to him, but he usually let me have the turkey leg even if he passed the meat dish first. So, I liked him a lot.

Table laden

I remember the first time I sat down at Aunt Jessie’s and Uncle Frank’s Thanksgiving dinner table, which sort of seemed to sag from the weight of the bounty for which we were thankful and said so — as quickly as possible, of course, so it all wouldn’t get cold.

“Is somebody else coming?” I remember asking Aunt Jessie.

“No, honey, it’s all for us, so fill your plate,” she answered.

In this age of healthful eating habits and frequent class-action suits, I don’t think aunts, great or otherwise, legally are allowed to say that to children. So, I’m sorry all you young people missed out on a truly historic era in eating abandon.

Allow me to pass on to the inexperienced the knowledge I have gained from growing up as a glutton.

An overall piece of advice is to not be timid about how much you pile on. Nobody’s watching, except maybe mom, and she’ll probably forget to yell at you for eating so much by the time you get home.

Let things touch each other on your plate. They’re going to slop together sooner or later. You might even want to pile your plate in layers. Slices of turkey form a pretty good base for mashed potatoes, saving a good quarter of your plate for side dishes. And don’t worry where the gravy flows.

When choosing from among the multitude of side dishes, gather similar dishes. If two relatives both bring green beans, mix them together in a higher pile, and make a peak of peas or corn if you can balance it.

Forget the cranberry sauce. It just takes up space and slows down your real eating.

Always go back for seconds. People who offer them apparently overlook that you made a pig out of yourself the first plate.

Never leave room for pie. Things will settle. Do remember that a “taste” of each of the pumpkin, apple, and mincemeat pies will, when combined, be bigger than any single piece.

Time to eat

Thanksgiving dinner always was an enjoyable meal. Sure, it made most of my family waddle a little. But, it was fun to wait to giggle at the first uncle who leaned back in his chair, patted his stomach, and said those immortal words, “I can’t eat another thing ... what’s for dessert?”

The rest of the afternoon also was memorable. During the football games on television that followed the meal, if a kid whispered helplessly into Aunt Jessie’s ear, maybe with a raspiness that she mistook for thirst, she would serve bottles of Squirt citrus pop, Hires root beer and orange Crush.

This was a cherished Thanksgiving tradition and a step up from Kool-Aid for the special holiday celebration.

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