Used to be, everybody in the Gunch family was omnivorous – they ate anything and the more the better.
But now, we got picky eaters.
My sister-in-law Gloriosa, who has transformed from a free spirit with large boobs into an Uptown matron with kids, rules out red meat for health reasons. Also, she sends her kids to nursery at the Jewish CMODINE'S: THANKSGIVING WITH PiCKY EATERSommunity Center and some of the other children there were not allowed to eat shellfish and she figured they must know something we don’t know, so she ruled that out too.

My other sister-in-law, Larva, is the last surviving Sugar Busters! dieter in this city. But she goes Sugar Busters! one better. She won’t eat nothing that isn’t meat. Except maybe some Crisco out of the can.

My daughter Gumdrop is pregnant again, so she got a long list of things she ain’t allowed to have: sprouts, tuna fish, sweeteners, coffee, alcohol of any kind, blah, blah, blah. I ate all those things and none of my kids came out too weird, but now the experts say one wrong bite and God knows what could happen to your baby. So Gumdrop is swearing off all of them, not to mention food in general, being as she is at the throwing-up stage of expectancy.

She also informs me that my granddaughter Lollipop only eats things that she can pick up off her high chair tray with her tiny fingers, plus strained fruits and vegetables that are spooned down her little gullet while you are making airplane noises. No onions or garlic. Now I’ve seen this child scarf down an African violet right off the windowsill in 15 seconds, but I’m not going to mention that.

Naturally, this presents a problem with Thanksgiving. There are a lot of problems this year. It used to be the Gunch tradition to have Thanksgiving at my house. This year we got a choice of having a picnic on the Murphy’s oil spill where my house used to be or going somewheres else. It has to be somewhere with a lot of space – there are a lot of Gunches, and they ain’t the minimalist type.

And then it turns out everybody got pressing plans on the actual day – what with in-laws and football games and suing insurance companies. We could just cancel it, but this is the wrong year for that. We better be grateful. We don’t want to get on God’s bad side again.

So we decide to get together three weeks early at my daughter Gumdrop’s. She and her husband Slime and Lollipop and my mother-in-law Ms. Larda are staying in Folsom, in what used to be Slime’s parents’ vacation house.

Now we got the time and the place. The last problem is what we will eat.
Finally we decide to make it a potluck Thanksgiving. Then everybody can eat what they themselves bring; plus the turkey, which ain’t a problem now that the men of the family have discovered it’s manly to deep-fry that outside; and the dressing, which my mother-in-law Ms. Larda always makes.

Then the night before, Ms. Larda calls up. Her oyster stuffing is the best food God ever created but three people in a row called to tell her they can’t eat it unless she takes out the breadcrumbs, and the onion, and the oysters. She says she can’t cook under these new rules. I got to fix the stuffing.

So I got a choice between finding an all-night food store that has enough employees to actually be open all night, and then buying God-knows-what to suit everybody’s taste, or making stuffing out of what I got and let them take it or leave it.

I look in my fridge and I see, besides ice cubes, a bottle of piña colada mix my gentleman friend Lust brought me back in August. (He was dropping hits about a lei, so I invited him over to watch Blue Hawaii.) In my cupboard I got a couple cans of crushed pineapple, Rice-A-Roni, and a bunch of little bags of cashews my friend Awlette gave me when I met her plane from Chicago.

I decide we are going to have Hawaiian pineapple stuffing with this turkey.

Well, the Gunch family arrives for Thanksgiving dinner looking at each other as lovingly as Al Copeland and Luann Hunter. While the men are in the back yard with the beer and turkey, I pour wine from a big box Lust brought for the ladies to sip. He even brought sparkling apple juice for Gumdrop and the kids.

So by the time they haul in the fried turkey, most of us are feeling pretty mellow. Which is a good thing, because we also got Gloriosa’s tofu pie with whole-wheat crust, Larva’s bacon, ham and sausage salad and Gumdrop’s big bowl of strained carrot and banana swirl topped with Froot Loops. Thank God we got plenty of beer and wine and apple juice to wash it down.

My Hawaiian stuffing turns out to be a hit. I had chopped up the cashews, mixed them with crushed pineapple and Rice-A-Roni, heated it up and then poured the Piña Colada over it like a sauce. (Except for Gumdrop and the kids’ portions, which I put pineapple juice on.) Everybody politely tastes all the other dishes, but they all (except Gumdrop) ask for seconds and thirds of the stuffing. Even Larva forgets it has carbs. I think the secret ingredient was the sauce, which I didn’t realize had so much rum in it.

By the time dinner was over, we’re all very cheerful. Some of us are so cheerful we spent the night on Gumdrop’s living room floor, all together, just like we were for a couple months after Katrina. It brought back memories.

Maybe we got a new tradition here.