If you are headed to someone else’s house to celebrate Thanksgiving today, you may have only one burning etiquette question on your mind. Is there a polite way to ask your host to share the leftovers?
No, not really. Those leftovers—the thin slices of breast meat, the rich gravy, the tangy cranberry sauce—are essential ingredients of tomorrow’s sandwiches, and your host already has big plans for them. Probably involving rye bread.
But you crave the leftovers, too. You’re American, you may even be possibly descended from Pilgrims or whoever invented sweet potatoes with browned marshmallow crust. And you have played an essential role in the holiday, by adding a convivial atmosphere to your host’s gathering. So why should you be denied?
The way to get the leftovers is to lay a foundation. Compliment each dish, early and often, as soon as it makes an appearance at the table. “These are the best buttermilk mashed potatoes I have ever tasted,” for example. Or: “On my deathbed, when I review the high points of my life, your hashed brussels sprouts will flash before my eyes.”
Then, while you are helping with the dishes, point out how full the freezer is and ask if there’s anything you can do to help. This should earn you a foil-wrapped prize, if not an actual drumstick.
Flip side: If you are the host, how can you conserve your precious leftovers? Again, think ahead. Have a few tiny — I’m talking pint-sized—plastic containers waiting in the kitchen. Before the guests even start hinting around, say, “I’m sending you home with a taste of Thanksgiving to enjoy again tomorrow.” Say it like it was your idea first, and then you can control the number of small plastic containers you dole out.
(image courtesy of Quittner family archives)