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Nov 25, 2020

Covid, the Buffet Slayer!

Thanksgiving spreads to avoid pandemic spreads

By Ed Goldman

I’m assuming very few of us will be hosting Thanksgiving buffets this year. 

Ordinarily, the buffet format can be a time-saver: You just make mounds of food with thick, richly dry complementary textures—turkey, yams, mashed potatoes (just in case the yams didn’t cover the gluten requirements), green-bean-and-mushroom soup casserole, buttermilk biscuits and canned cranberry sauce (one of the only sauces you slice). This gagging combo allows your guests to shove portions of each element into their mouths simultaneously, necessitating the equally indiscriminate imbibing of a dreadful Gewurztraminer—served at room temperature or, even worse, over ice. A hostess gift from Granny Franny. 

There’s always room for– well, you know

The point is, when you serve this hodgepodge as a buffet, you don’t have to dish up plates of it individually or concern yourself either with portion sizes or Uncle Otis’s calling out from the den—over the sound of a fan-less football game—which turkey parts he’s called “dibs” on. You have my permission to tell Uncle Otis to go dib himself.

I’m making the assumption of a buffet-less holiday because our months of pandemic avoidance has rendered inadvisable (to say the least) the practice of allowing people to breathe all over everyone else’s food while making their own selections.

I’m sure we’ve all seen people in salad bar, cafeteria and smorgasbord lines “sample” things in the trays as they moved along. There’s even a disgusting hidden-camera video on Facebook or YouTube of some guy doing this, which made me swear off not only buffets but also watching hidden-camera videos. There are some things we just aren’t meant to see—unless we work for the county health board, the Drug Enforcement Agency or a private detective who specializes in nailing straying spouses in mid-stray.

Even if we persist on laying out a help-yourself spread for the holiday, I imagine not many of us are equipped to safe-proof a buffet in our own home. First, if we’ve brought the ping-pong table in from the backyard to serve as a staging area, there’s already a strong likelihood that a few snails, worms or termites have stowed away underneath the surface or within the crack where the hinges allow us to unevenly clamp on the net and fold the table in half for winter storage, something we probably haven’t done as yet. We can then power-wash the table with Formula 409 Multi-Surface Cleaner®.

In my opinion, a salad bar sneeze guard is no match for Covid-19, or even Covid-20 for that matter. However, I’m encouraged by the news from sneezeguard.com that there are 32 models of its product to choose from. I didn’t know there were even 32 kinds of sneezes.

If we’re going to insist on hosting a Thanksgiving feast, regardless of the inherent perils, I strongly suggest we consider amending the menu, since, as above-mentioned, most of the usual bill of fare personifies dry food, even if basted to the point of utter saturation. Why? Because trying to swallow food with the consistency of rebar tends to make people cough—and you know how popular coughing is these days. You can scream through muffled gag, “Allergies!” only so many times before you notice that people are not only backing away from you but also fleeing town without leaving forwarding addresses.

Ergo, why not serve only Jell-O salads this year? They slide right down your gullet, can be concocted with fresh, frozen, canned and possibly near-rotted fruit without provoking discerning commentary—I mean, when’s the last time you heard someone say, “The seafoam salad wasn’t quite as complex as I prefer ”?—and are much cheaper to whip up than turkey and trimmings.

Don’t worry. This will still allow you to serve one traditional, arid dessert: pumpkin pie, which can also be used to patch the hole in the wall Uncle Otis caused when he angrily drove his fist through it after you told him to go dib himself.

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).