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Turkey tips

Over the river and through the hills, to grandmother's house they would go. That was when people went by sleigh. This week, grandmothers and grandfathers are more likely to be flying over the clouds and on to the runways to visit their children a...

Over the river and through the hills, to grandmother's house they would go.

That was when people went by sleigh. This week, grandmothers and grandfathers are more likely to be flying over the clouds and on to the runways to visit their children and grandchildren. Uncles and aunts will be dropping out of the skies to spend Thanksgiving with relatives. And good friends will be driving down the highways to eat turkey with Joe and Mary. Or Donald and Alice. Those on the home front are saying Angie brings the salad. Mary will do the pies. And Ann will bring a vegetable dish.


The first round of holiday visiting begins this week and continues until they ring in the Year 2008.

It's time to review the proper way to carve a turkey, how to set the table and how to make houseguests welcome during the holidays. Miss Manners, I am not. But here, for what it's worth, are thoughts on Turkey Days gathered through the years:


-- The person who can carve a turkey is a gem, indeed. Every home should have one. If not, go out and invite someone who can carve a turkey and slice the white meat and dark meat neatly on a platter with the drumstick and wings along the side. This calls for a person with nerves of steel.

-- That fork or spoon above your plate at the Thanksgiving dinner is for dessert. So, leave it be while you eat your meat and potatoes. If you find two forks to the left of your plate, the first one is for salad. The fork nearest the plate is a dinner fork. The plate above the forks is for bread. The water glass goes above the knife and spoon at the right of your plate. The napkin at the left of the forks or on your plate should be placed on your lap when you sit down. You pass food usually from left to right. The main thing is to pass it the same way all the other food is going.

These are things we tend to forget when we spend a lot of time eating pizza and burgers and fries with our fingers.

In many homes, there is the custom of setting a children's table. That makes room for the adults at the big table. But every kids' table should have a good-natured adult. Some kids long to be at the adult table. Others dread it.

-- There is an art to making houseguests welcome. First of all, you have to extend a welcome when they arrive and tell them you are glad they have come. My brother-in-law, the late Carl Jensen, used to come out to the car and make a big point of saying, "Welcome." You need to make guests feel welcome and as you show them to their room explain the idiosyncrasies of the shower, the night lights and whatever else they need to know. The main thing is communication. It's good while everyone is listening to tell the guest the plans for the morrow. Tell them what time you are planning breakfast and dinner. Tell them about other plans.

At the same time, the houseguest should ask questions about what's going on. The houseguest should offer to help. Be prepared to pitch in with peeling the potatoes, fixing a creaky door or just generally helping out. But back off if the host and hostess say they do not need help. The houseguest should arrive with a gift, or maybe instead offer to take their hosts out for a lunch or dinner. The gracious guest finds something pleasant to say about the house or that they slept well if, indeed, they did.

One ideal guest at my house once said before going to bed, "Thank you for today."

Good houseguests eat what is served and try not to act finicky. Good hosts make sure their guestrooms are comfortable. It's a good idea to sleep in them to make sure. It's nice to have a hair dryer and extra toothbrushes on hand. A good guest notices if the hosts take their shoes off when they come in the house. Then, they follow suit.


Have enough communication. Tell guests what time you usually get up. Let them know they if they are welcome to plug in the coffee and get the newspaper if they are early risers. A good guest comes armed with a book and acts content when there are lulls inactivity.

-- Got kids? Even grandchildren should be told not to get into drawers and closets and to keep their hands off other people's belongings. They need to be polite. They need to refrain from fighting. They need to eat what is put in front of them. And through it all, they should have fun. They should be willing to go with the flow and do what their hosts suggest. If they want to be wild, they should go outside or to the basement. They can have fun playing games or cards with the family. These are precious moments.

When all is said and done, there should be a thank you note after a visit. It doesn't have to be long.

Just do it.

Reach Hagerty at mhagerty@gfherald.com , or telephone 772-1055.

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