If humorist Calvin Trillin had his way, you’d be serving up big plates of pasta every third Thursday in November. The author has been waging a semi-serious campaign to have Spaghetti Carbonara become the holiday’s official dish, based on his dubious (if delicious) take on historical events:
The Indians, having had some experience with Pilgrim cuisine during the year, took the precaution of taking along one dish of their own. They brought a dish that their ancestors had learned from none other than Christopher Columbus, who was known to the Indians as “the big Italian fellow.” The dish was spaghetti carbonara–made with pancetta bacon and fontina and the best imported prosciutto.
Whether or not you plan to serve pasta in Trillin’s honor this year, you know that Thanksgiving can be a challenging day for your operation. Your staff is giving up a holiday to serve diners, and those diners are arriving with heightened expectations. “They are coming in hungry, but they’re also hungry for an emotional connection,” says Melanie Young, a consultant in the food, wine and hospitality industry and the founder and cohost of The Connected Table LIVE! radio show. “It’s important for everyone in the operation to communicate the feeling that you’re honored they are choosing to spend this day with you.”
Young suggests including classic menu items for traditionalists, but insists that a bit of updating and personal flair will certainly be welcome. And above all, keep the focus on quality: “What you serve must be better than what they can prepare at home.”
How to accomplish that? Young suggests starting with the sides: “The side dishes can offer you plenty of room for creativity.” With enough plant-focused and well-executed sides, you’ll make it possible for those who aren’t eating turkey to create a satisfying meal from your menu.
And, says Young, make sure to keep those with special dietary needs in mind when it comes time for dessert. “You must menu some gluten-free and vegan options,” she says. “I like to focus on fruit, like caramelized poached pear, crustless apple pie served with cinnamon Greek yogurt or a fruit-topped pavlova made with aquafaba.”
Lifestyle site The Spruce offers a Thanksgiving menu in tribute of Calvin Trillin, featuring Spaghetti Carbonara
Szechuan Cornish Hens are the centerpiece of this globally inspired Thanksgiving menu from Whole Foods
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