The Trends Gobbling Thanksgiving

Is a traditional Thanksgiving going the way of the horse and buggy? Or full-time jobs? Or broadcast television? Or paid journalism? Or pensions? Or pantyhose? Or... what were we talking about again? Oh, yes: A Modern Thanksgiving.

Seems like everywhere you look (or cook), someone's trumpeting a new Thanksgiving trend. For instance, a chef named Jessica Young says, "People don't want huge meals anymore where afterwards they feel as stuffed as the turkey on the platter."

They don't? I thought that was the whole point. Anyway, Young contends that, "Smaller plates, such as individual Cornish hens or pie bars will be popping up on tables this year."

If you're serving Cornish hens at your Thanksgiving, raise your hand. Anyone? Anyone? Though I have to say, her idea of pie bars -- pies cut into what sound like brownie-size bites -- sounds pretty appealing. Then again, so do bite-size desserts of any stripe, right?

So, another trend I was just reading about is to add liquor -- specifically, spiced rum -- to any and all courses, including the sweet potatoes. This could be good, unless the problem at your holiday table is an excess of liquor NOT added to the food, at which point you might want to revert to other, more traditional flavor-enhancers. My college roommate always swore there was not a food on earth that couldn't be improved with more butter, garlic or chocolate.

But it's not just flavor, it is the menu itself that is being toyed with this holiday. While turkey-shaped tofu has been around for 20 years now -- the website for Fresh Tofu Inc. advertises that its bird comes with "no bones" (imagine if it did!) -- guests' dietary requirements have grown steadily more demanding. Now a merely vegetarian feast seems as old-fashioned as those weird foil crowns on turkey drumsticks. Today's guests are going dairy-free, gluten-free and vegan. Last year, says Dee Muma, owner and chef at the Dark Horse Restaurant in Riverhead, Long Island, she put a small notice on her Thanksgiving menu that said, "We speak G.F."

G.F. stands for gluten free -- as anyone with gluten intolerance well knows. "But," admits Muma, "I didn't want to chase regular diners away, so I put it a little on the down-low." Only about 10 percent of the folks celebrating Thanksgiving at her restaurant last year were gluten intolerant. This year, it's 25 percent.

She's happy to serve them, but gets a little miffed when the requests pile on: "They say, 'Can you make me bread that has no eggs, no wheat, no milk, no yeast?' What (SET ITAL) would (END ITAL) you like me to make it of? I accommodate as much as I can, but I have a very hard time when all my tools are taken away from me."

Perhaps this explains why the biggest trend this year seems to be the Thanksgiving potluck. If all you can tolerate are Brussels sprouts glazed with decaf coffee, you bring them so you'll have something to eat. In fact, you can probably eat every last one of them, and no one will object. Likewise, a tofu turkey fan can bring a tom made of soy and the only problem will be the non-existence of its wishbone.

With any luck, no one will even notice, so delighted are they with their Cornish hens, or so drunk they are on their sweet potatoes.

Here's wishing you a very happy holiday no matter what you eat ... or don't.



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