Petronella Wyatt

Speed eating

The ongoing escapades of London's answer to Ally McBeal

Text settings

New York

Thanksgiving is a bigger marathon than Christmas. Maybe because the holiday lasts only four days instead of 12. Thus Americans feel obliged to cram as many lunches and dinners as possible into that shorter period. It’s a form of speed eating.

Meals are staggered — at least they seem to be in New York State and on Long Island. Thus, on Thanksgiving day itself (Thursday), I attended one lunch at 1 o’clock. Thinking this was it — you know, é finita — I did ample justice to the turkey. Just as I was getting into the swing of a third slice of pecan pie at 4 o’clock, I was told I was expected at another lunch at 4.30.

‘Oh, ha, ha,’ I said with heavy sarcasm, stuffing in another spoonful.

At 4.30, we were knocking on another front door. Copious amounts of alcohol were already being consumed. Our host, judging by the number of pots and pans in his very large kitchen, seemed to be cooking for 40. It turned out that he was. After an hour of drinking, we went into the dining-room. Most of the room was taken up by the food, which would not have disgraced a Babylonian feast. There was wild turkey, farmed turkey, roast beef and five or six types of vegetable dish — not to mention sauces.

Oh, and the soup. I forgot the soup: a consommé with exotic-tasting noodles. After this was a cheese shop and then seven types of pudding. It was now approaching 10 o’clock. People were taking their leave. My mind focused longingly on bed, indigestion tablets and a packet of Zantac. It was not to be. ‘We’re just dropping in on another dinner,’ my escort informed me. At least by the time we arrived, most of the food was finished.

This went on all weekend. I suppose you could call it an example of pro-choice. Perhaps in a few years’ time, however, there will be only one, obligatory Thanksgiving dinner for all.