The Popping Button

Oh, my... it's Thanksgiving week, America! And Thanksgiving is the holiday where we pause, count and give thanks for our many blessings. We're blessed to live in such a great country and I hope all of you are thankful for wonderful families, too. Like my family.

When I was growing up, there was nothing like Thanksgiving at the Simmons household on St. Louis Street in New Orleans' famous French Quarter. My mom and dad, Leonard and Shirley, my brother, Lenny and I had the best Thanksgiving feasts in the Quarter. I know, our family wasn't like The Waltons, there was only the four of us.

But wait, let me tell you more about Thanksgiving Day dinner at our house. See, my parents had lots of friends in the French Quarter. And for those friends of theirs who had no family, they were all invited to the Simmons home for a Thanksgiving feast you just wouldn't believe!

Both my parents were incredible chefs and they began preparing Thanksgiving dinner that day before the big day. They'd start on Wednesday morning and their cooking continued into the night. Boy, was it ever hard taking in all the smells drifting from our kitchen while those wonderful dishes were being prepared. And oh yeah, you shouldn't be surprised to know that I was more than happy to help my folks out in the kitchen. Hey Mom, I wanna help! Let me mash those potatoes for you!

By the time our guests arrived, all they had to do was follow their noses to our front door! That big roasted turkey was the star of the show. (My father would have taken such care picking out that perfect turkey from the A&P down on Royal Street.) But, besides the turkey, we'd have a big juicy ham and a leg of lamb, too!

Then there was my mother's oyster dressing, hands down, the best in the French Quarter. But you'd want to be sure and save room for the candied yams, the stuffed artichokes, baked asparagus with Parmesan cheese and, of course, those mashed potatoes I'd worked so hard on. (Okay, so I sneaked a little plate for myself before our friends arrived.) And oh yeah, to compliment all of the other dishes, there was nothing like my dad's homemade yeast rolls. Can somebody pass the butter please? Then, to complete the meal, my folks didn't serve just one dessert, they served, two! One of my favorites was my mother's oh-so-rich bread pudding, a New Orleans tradition. M-m-m-m!

Nope, that gobble, gobble, gobble sound wasn't coming from the turkey, it was coming from me... gobbling as much of everything as I could. Yep, every year, it was the same routine for me. I had some of everything on the table from the turkey, to the yams to the rolls to the...(are you getting the picture)? And oh, I didn't stop at seconds, either. I'd go back for thirds on some my favorite dishes which, truth was...all of them! I ate so much one Thanksgiving that a button actually popped off my shirt and landed smack in the middle of the gravy boat! Luckily, no one saw so I took a spoon and eased the button out of the gravy while everyone else was eating, laughing and having a good time.

Oh, wasn't I ever going to learn? Every Thanksgiving, it was as I were rehearsing to star in the movie Groundhog Day, with Bill Murray. I'd eat and eat and, oh yeah, I'd eat -- until my stomach could hold no more. When I finally retired to my bedroom, I was so full, I actually felt sick. Then I'd beat myself up and question why I ate so much. Thanksgiving became an excuse for me to double-down at the dinner table and put even my own over-the-top eating record to shame.

Now be honest with me. Do you ever fall into that same eat-all-you-can routine on Thanksgiving like I did when I was a kid? Is that what Thanksgiving should really be about? Well, of course not! And I'm so glad to say that I finally learned the importance of the word THANKS on Thanksgiving Day.

Yes, we should be thankful this Thursday. (And everyday, really.) But it's not about counting how many calories we can pile into our stomachs. Oh, no! Thanksgiving is about counting your blessings. No matter your situation in life, I'm willing to bet there are things you can be thankful for. Having a good family, good friends and good times are a few things to be thankful for. (Like my family did back in New Orleans.) And know what else? Enjoying the company of your family and friends doesn't cost you any calories.

So this year, on Thanksgiving Day, please think about the real meaning of this holiday. And yes, I do hope you have a wonderful holiday meal. I just want you to wake up the morning after Thanksgiving and have the numbers on your scale give you one more thing to be thankful for. No weight-gain!

Mom, I'll have just half of that drumstick please, thank you!