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Ladle out your wacky traditions

Wry Toast column by Edie Gross

WITH THANKSGIVING three weeks  away, my husband and I are gearing up for our annual round of Keep the Beagle Out of the Gravy Boat.

It’s sort of like a sporting event in the sense that there’s an arena—our dining room table—as well as winners and losers each season.

By “losers” I mean my husband and me.

Each year, we spend weeks talking strategy, heading into the matchup, confident that our defense finally will prevail.

And each year, by the end of the meal, there are usually paw prints on the tablecloth and tongue prints around the inside of the gravy boat.

We’re 1–3 over the past four Thanksgivings.

This is not a good record, and quite frankly, the only reason we scored the one victory was because the beagle got sidetracked by the cranberry sauce dish before she could reach the gravy boat.

But even an ugly win requiring gallons of stain remover is a win, so I’m not complaining.

The truth is, without the heart-pounding tension associated with the Hound vs. Humans contest every year, it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving at our house.

Oh, sure, it’d be a delicious meal with all the fixin’s and wonderful, relaxed conversation with family and friends.

But that’s a Hallmark card, not a family tradition.

One of my favorite holiday tradition stories comes from my good friend Kelly. At large family meals, she said, there’s usually a basket of bread or rolls on the table.

Kelly and her co-conspirators secrete sneak a roll or two into their laps and, without drawing any attention, methodically peel the dough out of the centers.

 Then, they quietly pass their bread guts around to a designated collector, who rolls them into one enormous bread ball.

As the air grows thick with anticipation—or perhaps just gravy fumes—they wait for just the right moment before plopping the doughy creation right down in the middle of an unsuspecting victim’s plate.

Because nothing says “Happy Holidays” like a beautifully crafted mound of mashed potatoes suddenly flattened by a well-handled blob of bread innards.

I had a boss years ago who used to hang a very special ornament on his Christmas tree each year.

I wouldn’t want him to get into any trouble, so I won’t tell you what it was, but it rhymed with “boint.”

Anyway, he’d had this beloved objet d’art —which is French for “thing that contains marijuana”—since college, and he used to hang it every year to remind him of the good old days, when he had long hair, no job and an obsession with tie-dyed macrame wall hangings.

My friend Bryan—who ultimately married Kelly of bread ball fame—also has a priceless item he hangs on his tree every year.

He received it nearly 15 years ago when he invited a bunch of his co-workers over for a tree-trimming party. A gracious host, he set out cheese, crackers and sausage for us to snack on.

At some point, one of us—I honestly can’t remember who, but if I had to guess, I’d say her name rhymed with Belly—took a slice of sausage, slipped it onto an ornament hook and hung it on the tree.

Insane, I know. But it was the ’90s after all.

As it turns out, Bryan has a soft spot for aged sausage—Who doesn’t?—and after that Christmas, he lovingly wrapped up the meat slice with his other ornaments.

Each year, it reappears on his tree, a little more leathery, gray and bacteria-laden than the year before.

I love the tradition, but we can’t hang sausage ornaments at our house thanks to a certain beagle.

Then again, it might be just the thing to distract her from the gravy boat.

Edie Gross: 540/374-5428


Do you have a funky, wacky, silly or just fun holiday tradition? Share it with us by emailing or by sending a letter to Edie Gross, 616 Amelia St., Fredericksburg, Va. 22401.