The formidable Thanksgiving feasting is over, and we cleaner-uppers have nothing to look forward to — unless we’re hosting pre-Christmas parties — for at least three weeks.
In the meantime, we’re not resting on any laurels, because our kind gets little respect for setting up attractive holiday tables, polishing silverware, scrubbing the biggest pots and pans in the sink and loading dishwashers three and four times, not to mention putting seldom-used dinnerware and serving pieces away on hard-to-reach shelves.
I got to thinking about a political rally I attended during the ‘80s. The visiting politico with local family connections exercised the enthusiasm of about 200 women lunching in a hotel ballroom by shouting repeatedly, “You don’t get any respect!” She was referring to the fact that the current president had named few if any women to prominent posts in his administration.
I could add that non-cooking women who co-host familial functions at which food is the major attraction “don’t get any respect” either.
A bit of history here: For 54 years, my husband and I have laid the holiday tables at our house. Being a superb cook, he has prepared the traditional dishes, with my assistance consisting of providing salad and dessert — and I’ve always done my “baking” by making a run to dorberge heaven, that storied establishment that we New Orleanians know and love so well.
My sister, who was at our house with her family one Christmas, did a double take when I told her it was time for “my baking” and to jump into the car. I was the one who was astounded another time when a clerk in the old Holmses asked if I were “ready for the holidays” and said she had baked six different pies — favorites of each of her granddaughters.
This Thanksgiving, my husband declared himself too aged and decrepit to cope and contracted with a catfish restaurant for a deep-fried turkey. Our daughter offered oyster dressing, candied yams, green bean casserole and bread pudding with blueberries and lemon sauce to be conveyed from her house down the street; I supplied the salad, opening cans of pineapple chunks and mandarin oranges and mixing them with sour cream, tiny marshmallows and coconut. It was very good, even though you haven’t harvested the fruit yourself and if you like easy fixings, which I do.
A day before, I had determined that eight matching place mats and contrasting napkins were ready in the linen cupboard, polished some silver, and on the morning of the feast day set the table up. That was an easy enough task, but there have been years when I’ve slipped up in pre-planning and had to get the ironing board out at the last minute.
The dinner was declared a tremendous success — no comments on the looks of the table. Then, after several hours of conversation with seldom-seen relatives visiting from California, our daughter, son-in-law and grandsons departed, leaving behind an abundance of leftovers to be put into plastic containers and wedged into the refrigerator. (She sent the already-ravenous-again grandson down to collect them later that night.)
My husband had departed for our bedroom, from which the football games of the day could be heard on the television, and the out-of-towners and I began cleaning up.
It’s a chore for which there is seldom any thanks except in the hearts of the doers, who are reminded thankfully of the circumstances that enabled them to enjoy such a repast.
Bettye Anding is a former editor of the Living section of The Times Picayune, for which she wrote “Silver Threads” until her retirement. Email comments to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.