How are you spending Thanksgiving? If you don't have any plans, have your stagestruck friends over for the big day, and tailor the meal to their (and your) favorite art form.
First, call 'em all up, and say, "Come on out and eat a little beefsteak. Eat a little ice cream. Fresh pickled pigs' feet. Come on out and eat a little chili. Why don't you come and have some lunch?"
Once you've phoned everyone and ensured that there are no empty chairs at empty tables, go shoppin' around. 7,000 heads of lettuce, 36,000 oranges, and 42,000 fresh eggs should make for a titanic start.
Encourage your friends to bring their own special creations. My signature dishes are Scott Salmon, Candide yams, and Mumbo-Jumbo Rhubarb-Rhubarb, Rat-Tat-Tat-Touille, and Chinese Peter Pan Fried Noodles (well, they do have peanut-butter as a base).
Get out your Sweeney Todd apron and start cookin' breakfast for the ones you love. Serve a little biscuit, bagels and yox, and a honey bun. Meat and potatoes, fried eggs -- and ham, though it be fat and greasy. And expensive. What do you think they get for ham now? Any milk today? Yes, milk and honey for that coffee (not in a cardboard cup), for only one chemical substance gets out the lead. Some will want hot chocolates, others will be racking their brains deciding between orange juice and prunes, and others will say, "Bloody Mary!" or request prairie oysters. (Don't use the toothpaste glass.) Yet if someone says, "Make it another old fashioned, please?" gently remind him, "But in the morning, no. Drinking stops your thinking."
What snacks did you get for those fans who'll be in front of the tube watching a quarterback pass that football like nothing you have ever seen. Could've been a Ring-Ding, or Three Musketeers, or cheese nips, but first you pass the jelly beans. (You're doing it for sugar.) Or penny candy. Beautiful candy too pretty to eat? Then no more candy, my dear. Save some for your hard candy Christmas.
Then it's lunch, one that will outshine President Jefferson's Sunday Luncheon. Bring on the hot dog! Bring on the bun! Frank N. Furters. Hand me down that can of beans (the special beans), pepper and chow-chow mustard. Chop Suey. Wolf down the sandwich, a skyscraper made with raisin bread and mayonnaise.
Wash it down with a light beer? Right, dear -- or a lemonade freshly made; a bottle of ice-cold coke. In fact, make it an el grande de Coca Cola.
And what's more, baby, you can cook dinner. So go and brown an onion. Pepper my ragu. Add Rosemary. (I hope you all enjoy linguini.)
Serve first, in honor of that song dropped from Promises, Promises, hot soup. Too darn hot? Blow high, blow low. Is it the good turtle soup, or merely the mock? Or serve shark-fin soup. (Bean cake fish goes well with it.)
For this salad day, greens, greens, nothing but greens. Parsley, peppers, cabbages and celery, asparagus and watercress, and fiddleferns and lettuce. (You gotta have hearts of lettuce.) If someone has a problem with their capped teeth and Caesar salad, reassure him: "If you ever lose your teeth while you're out to dine, borrow mine."
Supper time! Light the candles. Get the ice out. Pour the scotch out. Caviar and pheasant for dinner. (Incidentally, you can mix chit'luns with fresh caviar.) Fresh warm bread.
Then it's turkey-lurkey time. Wings. Soon, bye, bye, birdie! Have a fish. Have a pork. A little lamb. (Shall you make it au jus? Will any person ever get the juice of ewe?)
Follow the lamb with the leg of the duck. Or tenderloin, a pork chop, or a New York chop. Porgy and bass. A brook trout right out of the brook. Don't serve Hogan's goat, which would just make you and your guests cry for us all. Do serve French fried potatoes and a T-bone steak. (Try to ensure that Milky White isn't on that plate.) Too much of an abbondanza? Pick a little.
Talk a little. You may find that such a food-oriented day will inevitably give rise to many conversation pieces about food. Can't you hear it? "Eat a little something." "Please, sir, I want some more!" "Another memorable meal!" "But I had lobster thermidor last night. And what did you have?" "I never thought about how much I weighed when there was still one piece of cake." "Lots of choc'lates for me to eat!" "Son, a glass of water, please." "What a swell party this is!"
If some of your friends brought their infants, teach the little people that "The shiny stuff is tomatoes, the salad lies in a group, the curly stuff is potatoes, the stuff that moves is soup."
What's for dessert? Napoleons, a pastry? Should you let 'em eat cake, or Sara Lee? No, cherry pies ought to be your choice. More hot pies! God, that's good! (Dieters: Just the crust.) Lookie, lookie, here comes cookie. Have a nice macaroon. Top with ice cream (vanilla ice cream). Have a sundae, sweet sundae, or a Top Banana Split (Three scoops--chocolate, strawberry, vanilla. Choice of cherry or caramel sauce. Chopped nuts. Whipped cream. And coconut, sweet bubbling brown sugar, and jelly's last jam.) So damn yummy! They satisfy my tummy, and will make for a sweet Thursday.
If these desserts are forbidden, fruit. Rich, ripe, round, red, rosy apples. While I grant you an apple may not seem like a lot, it's a beautiful apple. Or a pineapple for you? You should see my nectarines. Ripe strawberries, ripe! (Though this plum is too ripe.) Figs? No, not figs -- raisins. Have a kumquat. Have two.
Let's have some wine! How does the wine taste? Check the label on the bottle. And once dinner's through at nine o'clock, I would gladly give up coffee for Sanka, so it's time for tea for two or more -- as long as it's decaffeinated chrysanthemum tea. Drink with me of days gone by. We'll take a glass together, and, as we're lifting it, we will most sincerely say, "Prosit!" "Your health, sir!" "Salute!" and "Skaal!" "Na Zdrovye!" "A votre sante!" This'll be better than the night they invented champagne, what with a pousee-cafe, vodka, vodka, sweet nectar, sherry, Campari, Scotch whiskey, chartreuse, a cognac -- and absinthe frappe? Careful! Some coppers and brass could be at your door singing, "Come with me where the food is free..."
Give everyone some leftovers of moo goo gai pan for tomorrow, since there is no longer a yummy Friday special at Stouffers, no dollar-ninety vegetable plate.
Yes, it will be a meal incredible. It will be a meal inedible, you say? Sorry, father, if you and everyone else feels as if you need Dollyheart's Genuine Gypsy Dropsy Cure, or even Pirelli's Magic Elixir. But I suspect you'll all be saying, "This was a real nice clambake! I'm mighty glad I came!"
Peter Filichia is the New Jersey drama critic for the Star-Ledger. You can E-mail him at Pfilichia@aol.com