Great and full: How to navigate the Thanksgiving table with ease



The thing about conversation is it can turn on a dime. One minute it’s convivial and good-spirited, the next minute somebody mentions Obamacare and everyone’s angry. When it comes to Thanksgiving dinner conversation topics:

No: politics.

Yes: current events (but not U.S.A.‘s political response to them).

No: your or anyone else’s poor health.

Yes: the deliciousness of the food currently being eaten.

No: religion.

Yes: the hobbies and interests of those at the table (but sparingly; don’t monopolize the conversation).

No: failed relationships.

Yes: happy, fondly remembered shared memories.

No: the lousiness of jobs/bosses/co-workers/neighbors/etc.

Yes: movies/music/books that recently have been enjoyed.

No: anything that might painfully embarrass someone at the table.

Yes: pie.


■ The side dishes are what Americans like most about Thanksgiving, according to a survey. Following the side dishes (96.3 percent), were friends and family (94 percent), turkey (91 percent) and watching football (55.6 percent).

■ 43.4 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more during the Thanksgivings holiday weekend, according to AAA projections. (

■ For the first time in 125 years, by some calculations, Thanksgiving day and the first full day of Hanukkah land on Nov. 28. Happy Thanksgivukkah!

■ There are four places named after the Thanksgiving bird: Turkey Creek, La.; Turkey, Texas; Turkey, N.C.; and Turkey Creek, Ariz. (U.S. Census Bureau)

■ Only tom turkeys gobble. Hen turkeys make a clicking sound. (National Turkey Federation,

■ In 2012, the most recent year for this data, Illinois was the state that grew the most pumpkins, followed by California, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and Michigan. (Ag Marketing Resource Center)

■ Cranberries contain significant amounts of antioxidants, help prevent urinary tract infections, reduce risk of gum disease, might help prevent ulcers and contain natural antibiotic ingredients. Seconds anyone? (Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers Association,



While manners are for every day, they are especially important on Thanksgiving Day, when friends and family come together and good feelings are the goal. The etiquette experts at Emily Post offer these tips:

■ If you’re invited to someone else’s home for the meal, arrive on time.

■ In fact, not only should you arrive on time, but dress appropriately, or maybe even one step up from usual.

■ Offer to contribute to the meal, but not in a way that would overwhelm what the host has planned. This is especially thoughtful if you have particular dietary needs that must be accommodated.

■ Once the meal is finished, help with the clean up.

■ Do not bring technology to the table — no cell phones, no iPads, no texting, no TV.

■ Allow children and the elderly to be served and seated first.

■ Avoid talking about controversial or painful subjects.

■ Remember table etiquette: Put your napkin on your lap as soon as you sit; no elbows on the table; use your utensils; chew with your mouth closed; wait to eat until everyone is seated and the host indicates it’s time to start.

■ Don’t take more than your fair share of food. Be mindful of how many guests there are and how much has been prepared.

■ Say thank you to your hosts or guests, to everyone who helped, to friends and family who’ve gathered near and enriched your gratitude.


Within the post-Thanksgiving dinner refrigerator, a hierarchy emerges. Some leftovers, it must be acknowledged, are better than others.

Ranked in order, from best to worst, they are:

1. Pie: It is the greatest leftover, forever and always, amen.

2. Turkey: In a sandwich, cubed into gravy, eaten out of hand, it’s always delicious.

3. Jellied cranberry sauce: Thanksgiving day, it’s kind of weird. Day after, it is supreme on a turkey sandwich.

4. JELL-O salad: This stuff stays good for weeks.

5. Gravy: Cold in the refrigerator, it is an Oobleck-style congealed freak show. But heated up, it’s just as lovely and smooth as the day before.

6. Any iteration of sweet potato or yam dish (especially the kind with marshmallows on top): Just yum. Next day, the tubers are still firm but fork-tender and the oven-golden marshmallows may not be as delightfully crisp as the day before, but they’re still sweet and welcome.

7. Stuffing: This is where the leftovers start to go off the rails. Bread stuffing is unavoidably gummy the next day, yet still fairly tasty.

8. Rolls: They’re pretty OK day-after, but any longer than that and they attain the seemingly impossible of being dry yet greasy.

9. Green bean casserole: It’s still edible, but barely.

10. Mashed potatoes: A grainy disaster that no amount of reheating, no infusion of butter or half-and-half, can redeem.


■ Get out for a run or walk. Loop your neighborhood, taking in the brisk air and sunshine.

Or hurry to Two Rivers Convention Center between 7–8:30 a.m. today and register to run or walk the 5K Turkey Trot, which begins at 9 a.m. at Third and Main streets. There also will be a Little Gobbler run for kiddos that will take place on Main Street. Info:

■ Make a list of what you are thankful for. While you are at it, write a snail-mail “thank you” note or two or 10. Children who are too young to write can color pictures of what they are thankful for.

■ Watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. It’s the 87th annual parade, complete with 50 huge balloons and 40 floats, according to Check TV listings for channels and times.

■ Start planning you Black Friday outing. This newspaper is packed with ads and information that can help.

What to do about those tablecloth stains? Need a post meal activity? SEE PAGE 5D


With that many people gathered around the bounty of a Thanksgiving table, spills are inevitable. If the table is covered with the good linens, this could be a bigger problem than usual.

To ward off Thanksgiving-caused stains, Good Housekeeping advises:

■ Gravy: Scrape up the excess and, once the table is cleared, apply a laundry pre-wash product to the spot and put the linen in the washing machine with all-fabric bleach and enzyme detergent. Soak it in warm water overnight, then drain the water and wash it in hot water and bleach that’s safe for the fabric. Check for remaining stains before drying.

■ Butter: Sprinkle salt or artificial sweetener on the spill to absorb the grease and keep it from spreading. Before washing, rub the spot with some liquid detergent and wash it in the hottest water that’s safe for the fabric.

■ Cranberry sauce: Scrape off the excess and sponge the spot with cool water. Mix one tablespoon of white vinegar and half a teaspoon of liquid laundry detergent in one quart of cool water and soak the linen in it for 15 minutes. Then, rinse and sponge the spot with rubbing alcohol if it remains. Launder as usual.

■ Pumpkin pie: Pick up the excess with a damp cloth. Mix one tablespoon of dishwashing liquid into two cups of warm water and sponge the area with a cloth dipped in that solution. If the stain remains, mix one tablespoon of non-sudsing ammonia in two cups of warm water and blot the spot (but don’t use ammonia on silk or wool carpet).

■ Red wine: Blot it up with paper towels or absorbent cloths, then dampen a clean cloth with water to soak up more of the wine. Mix one tablespoon of plain hand dishwashing liquid and one tablespoon of white vinegar in two cups of warm water. Dampen a clean cloth with it and apply it to the stain a little at a time, blotting with a dry cloth as the stain dissolves. When the stain is gone, rinse the area well with a clean, damp cloth and blot it dry.


■ Go into a coma, or at least a mighty stupor. Stare unblinkingly into the middle distance while your stomach rumbles “Uh, hello? Little help down here?”

■ Unbutton the ol’ pants. Because it’s tradition.

■ Do, or help with, the Herculean chore of dishes. Use the motivation of pie to power through the stacks.

■ Go for a walk (or stagger, as the case may be). It clears the head and soothes the stomach and justifies extra whipped cream.

■ Call or Skype family members out of town. Compare notes about how grandma’s roll recipe turned out.

■ Play a game: football in the backyard, Jenga on the cleared table, a rousing round of Go Fish or Shanghai Rummy.

The heart of the home, the old saying goes, is the kitchen. But on Thanksgiving, the true heart of the home is the table — friends and family gathered ‘round, the turkey glistening golden brown, the mashed potatoes piled high.

On Thanksgiving, the meal is the star, but everything leading up to it and trailing after make the entire day one of the most memorable of the year.

Take a tour around the Thanksgiving table for tips and tidbits to make today happy, interesting, delicious and cozy!


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