One of the great things about Thanksgiving is it’s a chance for us to get out the silverware and dishes and cutlery and all that that we don’t dare get out when it’s just us eating because we haven’t got near enough self-esteem to treat themselves to the good silverware. By the good silverware we mean the silverware that’s somehow gotten tarnished even though it was definitely cleaned before it was put away last time, eleven months ago, in a series of individually custom-fitting plastic wrappers, from which it was untouched by human hands and even forgotten about for that whole stretch between April and late October. By the good dishes we mean the ones that are kind of small but have that fancy lining we’re afraid is going to be scraped off by picking up whole-berry cranberries with the fork. By the cutlery we’re pretty sure we mean something. By all that we mean the things overlooked before.
The defining characteristic of the good silverware is we have no idea what most of it is for because the only things we eat anymore are sandwiches wraps, granola bars that are almost four percent granola and 90 percent chocolate-laced corn syrup, and extruded blocks of Colby/Monterey Jack blended cheese. So here’s some of the key pieces:
Forks. These multi-tined food implements were introduced to Western Civilization during the Carolingian Renaissance, although after the notorious Stabbening of Aix-la-Chapelle they beat a hasty retreat and didn’t come back until things had gotten a whole bunch more civilized and somehow the 17th Century counted. They started with three tines, then four, reaching five just before the rise of time-management theory and Fred Taylor’s theory that they’d do better with as few tines as possible. Things went absurdly far, reducing the fork to just one long dagger-like spindle in the 1930s, when nobody had any food anyway. In the good silverware they come in a small version, for salads, in a big version, for the meal, in a tinier still version, for pie, in an extra-medium version, for some reason, and in a tiny version but with one really thick tine that looks kind of like Popeye’s bulging muskles, for Bluto to stare at silently while contemplating the injustices of fate.
Mysterious Spoons. Spoons should come in multiple sizes and dimensions, including several that are nearly all holes. Those are used when you’re trying to serve something that comes in a juice, which you leave behind because of the holes, which raises questions about whether you need the juice at all and maybe it turns out spoons are really more complicated than we realized. The important thing is to use the sharpest spoon there is to slice the gelatinized cranberries because it’s just so, so pretty when it gets sliced into neat little polygonal wedges. So pretty. So, so pretty.
Yam Mauls. These triangular posts, were designed to allow the more efficient splitting of yams or sweet potatoes by the yam pirates of the Pine Barrens. While their success in that can be disputed, so can pretty much everything else, including on what day of the week Tuesday falls, so you can’t really go by the fact there’s a dispute possible. If nothing else having one person with a yam maul means there’s the chance to end the debate on whether yams are just sweet potatoes or if there’s got to be a difference if they’re called different things. This theory fails if there’s two people with yam mauls.
Poseidon’s Trident. This long tri-tined fork is used to hold the main course in place and where needed to condemn impious seafarers beating about the wine-dark sea. Leave it in the hands of the most responsible person, which can be determined by seeing who has the longest beard of those white poofy curly things. (They’re allowed to be rental beards.) You don’t want this kind of power being put in the hands of someone trying to run the carrots aground on the Island of Circe.
Plates. There should be one master plate for the main meal, and a side plate for the salad, and a little bowl also for the salad, and maybe a tinier bowl yet for a soup, if you make soup, and if you don’t you can just use the littlest bowl as something to take out of the way before you start eating. There should also be enough glasses that some migrate to your seating partners and are never seen again; more upscale ones will send postcards relating their adventures tersely.
Don’t ask about the tablecloths. We don’t need that kind of trouble.