Sunday, November 15, 2009

Thinking of Thanksgiving? Check Out One of the Best Family Dinner Scenes in Literature

In the spirit of the approaching holidays, Julia Keller of The Chicago Tribune Books section recently asked readers to send a letter recommending a good family novel. I couldn't resist, and sent the following:

I've got to nominate To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf (1927) to the list of the best family novels of all time.

At this time of year, when families are gathering for Thanksgiving dinners, you can't find a better family dinner party scene than the one that lasted 20 pages in To The Lighthouse. Family and friends gather for a formal dinner of Beouf en Daube at a seaside retreat in pre-WWI England.

At first the guests are all pretty crabby and seem to be one word away from a family feud: the husband is frowning in a heap at the end of the table; one of the male guests refuses "to be condescended to by these silly women;" the hostess notices how shabby the room looks, and wonders how she'd ever felt any emotion or affection for her husband. This dinner party is about to become a train wreck.

The hostess knows that if she doesn't do something to coalesce the group and shepherd them into a kinder, gentler conversation, no one will. ("They all sat separate. And the whole of the effort of merging and flowing and creating rested on her.") Through the magic, intuition and sheer maternal willpower of the hostess, the candles are lit, the beouf is served, and the guests all come together in mutual admiration and goodwill.

To which I say: thank you moms and hostesses everywhere.

By the way, I have a great recipe for cranberry sauce. The secret ingredient is the jalapeno pepper.

Margie's Cranberry/Pineapple/Jalapeno Sauce

One 12 oz. bag of fresh cranberries
(Heat for 10 minutes or until they burst)
2 packed cups coarsely chopped pineapple
1/4 cup sugar
1 scallion coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 to 2 jalapenos, seeded and minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt

Pulse in food processor until coarsely chopped. Place in serving bowl and cover with plastic wrap for at least 30 minutes but no more than 2 hours. Serve chilled.

Happy Thanksgiving!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the review of To The Lighthouse. Despite the fact that Thanksgiving in Canada was few weeks ago I love the atmosphere of Thanksgiving that is going to start in U.S. That's why some gentle reading fits very well to this atmosphere. And I hope that my wife will also make my favorite pumpkin cake once more in this year.

    Have a nice day,


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.