Jewish World Review Dec. 19, 2003 / 24 Kislev, 5764

Lori Borgman

Lori Borgman
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Consumer Reports

Hours at the stove, moments at the table | As we pause for a brief intermission during all the holiday feasting, taking time to loosen our belts another notch, let us ask ourselves a question: How is it that the time it takes to consume a holiday meal is but a mere fraction of the time it takes to prepare a holiday meal? I've spent more time in a drive-through car wash than I have at some holiday tables. The final two minutes of a football game have been known to last three times as long as some holiday dinners.

We have a preparation-time-vs.- consumption-time problem here. Let me illustrate: The recipe for pumpkin cheesecake says that the prep time is 15 minutes, baking takes 2 hours and 20 minutes, cooling 1 hour, and chilling 3 hours. The cheesecake that took seven hours from start to finish will be gone in less than five minutes. That comes out to 45 minutes per bite.

Why would a sane cook spend that kind of time making something that disappears so quickly? Better check the eggnog.

Wild rice stuffing takes 15 minutes to prepare and 1 hour to cook, and needs to stand 15 minutes before serving, but can be swallowed without chewing.

Cooking instructions for a 16-pound turkey say to begin about six hours before serving. That doesn't count the two days needed to plead, coax and cajole the turkey into thawing.

Today's cook literally spends days planning, shopping and standing on her feet in the kitchen. She sets a wonderful spread on a beautiful table and -- WHOOSH! -- the turkey is gone, the potatoes disappear, and the cranberries have vanished. Nothing left but empty bowls, a few gravy stains on the tablecloth and a dozen semi-conscious relatives slumped in their chairs.

When you consider that the average holiday dinner contains more than 3,000 calories and 130 grams of fat (the equivalent of five Big Macs or 17 brownies), it makes sense to find a way to make the meal last a little longer.

Allow me to help with the following Suggestions for Making Your Holiday Dinner Last Longer than a Happy Meal

  • No quiet at the table. Quiet means people are eating. That's the last thing you want at a holiday meal. There must be talking, and lots of it. Discuss politics and religion. Re-ignite an old family feud. Filibuster if you have to, but get people talking

  • Pass thrice, serve once. Keep that food moving. And moving. And moving. Three times around the table with every serving dish before anybody is allowed to scoop some onto a plate.

  • Divide and conquer. Serve the meal in courses at your own risk. This may work for more refined groups, but know that many a group can turn surly.

  • Drop the fork and nobody gets hurt. Put the fork down after each bite. This is an inconvenience when guests are accustomed to the direct shovel method, but it has been known to extend a meal by two blonde jokes and one review of Uncle Harry's surgery.

  • Reduce access. Lengthen the meal by making the food harder to reach. Put it on a buffet table in the next room, in the neighbor's garage, or in the next ZIP code. Guests may growl and threaten you with the carving knife, but they'll thank you later. Or not.

If your attempt to lengthen your next holiday meal is a disaster, and friends and family don't thank you, I will take full responsibility. Just send your angry e-mails to me at martha@marthastewart .com. Bon appetit.

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JWR contributor Lori Borgman is the author of I Was a Better Mother Before I Had Kids. To comment, please click here. To visit her website click here.

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© 2001, Lori Borgman