Food Friday: The Etiquette of Thanksgiving Leftovers

Cherished friends, here is an interesting question asked of The Lady, but one that is sure to apply to a number of people.

Dear Lady Hooper-Brackett, 

For the past six years on the day after Thanksgiving, my sister-in-law has a party at her home. She feels that since we are all not together on the holiday proper, it can be a ‘second-edition’ Thanksgiving for us. She extends invitations to about a dozen of us in the family. My question is this: Is it really  acceptable for her to heat up her Thanksgiving leftovers and serve these items to us as she has been doing? Don’t get me wrong, her cooking is wonderful, but I can’t help but feel that it is a little rude to be served leftover food.  Who is correct here?

I Don’t Like Leftovers

Dear I Don’t Like Leftovers,

The Lady admits that she has never been asked this question before, so some time was needed to come up with a thoughtful answer.

  1. The Lady believes that since she is very upfront about this being a ‘second-edition’ Thanksgiving and is inviting family only, this is perfectly fine. The Lady wonders just what else you would be eating on the day after Thanksgiving if you weren’t eating turkey and all the fixings?
  2. Your sister-in-law is being gracious by providing a venue for you all to be together after not spending the holiday proper together. Her invitation is sent from affection.
  3. What’s wrong with eating food that is wonderfully cooked?
  4. The Lady is pleased to see that she will not be discarding perfectly good food, but sharing it with you all.

The one caveat to this that The Lady will add: It never seems proper to serve leftovers in any other circumstance than this one: Invite family or extremely close friends only and be upfront.

Try to be gracious yourself, even if you do not like leftovers.

Best Leftover Wishes,

The Lady Hooper-Brackett

Food Friday: Ask The Lady

Cherished readers, what a timely question this is. The Lady so enjoys Thanksgiving for the family togetherness and of course, the opportunity to show off a properly set table! But just what if the table will be filled with those on opposite sides of the political spectrum?Let us examine…

Dear Lady Hooper-Brackett, 

I am a 53 year old woman who is beyond the point of tolerance for my family members. Maybe it’s my age, but I have no patience, time, or inclination to deal with people who are letting their opposing political views get in the way of my Thanksgiving celebration. My darling cherub children and their cousins are pretty much guaranteeing a big family feud as we carve the turkey. I have seen with my own eyes the posts on social media. I find this whole thing absurd and feel caught in the middle. What can I do? I told my husband I am ready to cancel the whole thing and go eat my Thanksgiving meal in peace at Golden Corral. 

Pissed Off Mother of 4

Dear Pissed Off Mother of 4,

Firstly, The Lady would like to point out that this is the precise reason that politics is on the No-No Topic list for polite conversation!

Second, while The Lady doesn’t have a problem with Golden Corral, she is unsure that you will be satisfied entrusting your Thanksgiving enjoyment to this place on what will probably be the most crowded day of the year.

Third, The Lady reminds you that the gathering will be at your home and YOU make the rules. If this animosity if being broadcast across social media, you have every right to send an email or make a call informing the warring factions that they are to leave their political squabbling at the door and not bring it inside. That is NOT what a family meal is for. And as you mention cousins will be coming to your home, The Lady would include their parents (you or your husband’s siblings) on the email or calls. MAKE IT VERY CLEAR (in a mannerly way, of course) that this is a non-negotiable house rule. For example:

Dear Children and Dear Nieces and Nephews, I am looking forward to seeing all of you on Thanksgiving and enjoying much-anticipated family time. I request that we use this day to celebrate family and gratitude and not use it to squabble over politics, religion, or any other divisive topic. I want to hear all about YOU, your families, jobs, and achievements. I love you all and I know that you will respect my wishes as you come to my home. I would be very disappointed to not continue our family tradition due to this matter. We will be family longer than any one person will be the President. Love, Your Pissed Off Mother and Aunt

The Lady is quite frankly tired of the political climate, which is why she frequently watches re-runs of Designing Women and The Golden Girls and has fond memories of the 80s and the Reagans. (The Lady shows her age!)

Please write back after Thanksgiving with an update.

Best Thanksgiving Wishes,

The Lady Hooper-Brackett

Food Friday: Cocktails with Mr. Babcock and Mame

Cherished readers, The Lady hopes you will enjoy this fun, short snippet from one of her favorite films, Auntie Mame starring Rosalind Russell. Little Patrick Dennis demonstrates impeccable manners in his dealings with Mr. Babcock. A true gentleman host!

Best Friday Wishes,

The Lady Hooper-Brackett

 

Food Friday: Decorum at The Table

Cherished readers, in the past week The Lady has gotten two questions  about dining away from home. Rather than answering them separately, this week’s Food Friday segment answers those questions about how to comport yourself, be it in a restaurant or at a friend’s home.

  1. Should you be a smoker, do not smoke at the table. The Lady is not sure any restaurant allows smoking anymore, so she will say that it is important to remember not to do this when in a friend’s or family’s home.
  2. Should you be in a buffet restaurant or at a party where there is a buffet line, do not fill your plate to epic proportions the first time around. You can always go back for more. (The Lady once saw a patron at a salad bar fill up their plate in an attempt to resemble Mount Everest!)
  3. Your dinner napkin is never tucked into the neck of your shirt. The Lady goes so far as to say that those plastic bibs they give you at New England restaurants when you order lobster are also a no-no.
  4. No fixing makeup at the table, or heaven forbid…combing the hair!
  5. Using at a toothpick at the table is frowned upon.
  6. Do not pick up a dropped utensil or anything else that may have fallen to the floor. Ask your hostess or waiter for a new one. Think how picking up the dirty implement will sully the table with all of the germs from the floor.

Best Dining Wishes,

The Lady Hooper-Brackett

Food Friday: Six Course Formal Dinner

Cherished readers, today rather than looking at individual foods, let us examine the courses to serve at a formal dinner. The Lady realizes that these occasions are few and far between for most folks, but there is certainly nothing wrong with a little knowledge on this fine Food Friday. The Lady bases her thoughts here on the advice and training she received from numerous etiquette books and applies these guidelines to her own entertaining.

Six courses is the maximum number to serve at even the most formal of gatherings. More than this and your place settings will be huge and your guests confused.

  1. Choose one: Fresh fruit cup, soup, shellfish or melon. The shellfish selection may include oysters, shrimp, or clams.
  2. Fish course (which you would omit if you served shellfish in the first course) or a dish such as sweetbreads (not sweet breads. Google if you don’t know what this is. As an aside, The Lady prefers to serve the fish course as a matter of courtesy for those who will not eat sweetbreads.)
  3. The entree, which may be chicken, turkey, or roast beef. You may also consider a vegetarian option for those who are not meat eaters.
  4. Salad. The salad may also be served with the entree in a separate side dish. It is entirely correct to serve the salad after the entree, despite the custom to serve it first in restaurants.
  5. Dessert
  6. Coffee (or tea, port wine, brandy)

A well-balance menu is imperative and should be easy to achieve with this number of courses. Strike a balance between rich dishes and the more simple ones.

The appearance of the food should also be considered. Think of color…don’t serve all white foods with white sauces on white plates (Ohhhh how boring!) Don’t serve all sweet or all savory dishes. Aim for a beautiful balance so that the foods may be enjoyed thoroughly.

Arrange vegetables neatly in the serving dish. Arrange the meats neatly, also, rather than just piling them high on a platter. Make it interesting for your guests. Appeal to all of the senses!!!

Best Dinner Wishes,

The Lady Hooper-Brackett

Food Friday: Finger Foods

Cherished readers, there never seems to be a shortage of questions about food etiquette and table manners. Today The Lady will review items that may properly be consumed as ‘finger foods’. Bon Appetit.

Pizza: Except at a very formal dinner where one would use knife and fork (The Lady can truthfully say that she has never been to a formal dinner where pizza was served) pizza is eaten in your fingers with the wedge sides held together so that the cheese and filling do not come out. Have a napkin handy, just in case.

French Fries: Plain, small french fries with no gravy or ketchup on them can be eaten using your fingers, unless they are extremely greasy. Large french fries, or those served with gravy or other sauce are best eaten using fork.

Artichokes: A finger food. See post about this interesting vegetable here

Bacon: Only very crisp bacon may be eaten using your fingers.

Fried chicken: Should be eaten as a finger food on informal occasions, but this seems to perhaps be a regional preference. The Lady has had her second home in the South for just about 5 years now. The first time she attempted to eat fried chicken with a knife and fork, she received many quizzical looks. The Lady cannot recall when she was served fried chicken at a formal dinner.

Corn On The Cob: Finger food. See post here

Sandwiches: Small sandwiches may be eaten from the fingers, but large, high stacked sandwiches would be better eaten with a knife and fork. Imagine how big your mouth would have to be opened if you tried to fit a triple-decker club sandwich into it and how you would feel if someone snapped a picture at that moment. (Gracious!)

Olives and celery: Finger foods. Just a gentle reminder not to stick the olives on the ends of your fingers and nibble on them thoughtfully. The Lady admits that she did this as a child (and with great glee) but once one reaches the age of ten or so, it is no longer appropriate (alas).

Best Food Wishes,

The Lady Hooper-Brackett

Food Friday: Okie Dokie Artichokie

Cherished readers, because my posts about Food and Table Manners seem to be the most popular, I have designated Fridays as Food Fridays. Today’s post deals with artichokes, because people seem confused about how to eat them and also because we Hooper-Bracketts like to eat them here at the estate.

The artichoke is a study in contrasting textures. You have the tender leaves,  the inedible fuzzy ‘choke’ and finally the soft heart. Did you know that the artichoke is in the thistle family? When we cook it and eat it, it is an immature thistle bud. Here is the artichoke in all of its blooming glory:

Artichike flower.jpg

But as we are not interested in growing it…let’s get back to consuming it.

When you are served an artichoke, you must remember that it is a finger food. You pull the leaves off (one at a time), dip the meaty base into the sauce that is served with the artichoke (usually a hollandaise or a lemon butter) and then pull the leaf through your teeth to scrape off the end dipped in sauce. You would then place the inedible part of the leaf on the side of your plate. (Be neat!) You will proceed with each leaf in this fashion until you reach the center where you will find the fuzzy ‘choke’. Remove this fuzzy layer with a spoon, but don’t scrape too deeply…you want to keep the best part intact: The heart. You may cut heart into small bits and dip in the sauce.

For those who need a visual, The Lady found this short video for your viewing pleasure.

Best Food Wishes,

The Lady Hooper-Brackett