The Wolfsies have accepted two invitations to dinner on Thanksgiving. Our good friends the Haversticks always invite my wife and son and me to join them at a lovely buffet at a downtown hotel. Since Mary Ellen and I have siblings who live out of town, we appreciate this gesture. The truth is, I come from a pretty good-size family in New York, but we’re not talking to each other, mostly because of a very contentious Thanksgiving about 25 years ago. For you ornithology buffs, please note: I have seen a turkey fly.
Our friends the Goslings have invited us to their house after we dine with the Haversticks. This makes perfect sense because we all know that an hour after you stuff yourself at an all-you-can-eat buffet, you start getting ready for your next meal. The Wolfsies offered to bring something to share at the Gosling family dinner pitch-in. But what we contribute (and how much) might depend on the noon smorgasbord with the Haversticks—and whether the restaurant has those big Styrofoam to-go boxes.
If Mary Ellen decides to cook something, how much are we supposed to bring? Calculating this would have stumped even Albert Einstein, who came from a nice Jewish family where food, of course, played a very important role. Some biographers think the equation E=mc2 really meant the amount of food you can Eat (that would be E) is equal to the size of the average Mouth (that’s M) times the number of cousins (C) who were invited. Then Einstein’s mother just squared everything to make sure there would be leftovers.
Einstein has gotten a lot of credit for his theories on atomic energy, but very little recognition has been given to Mother Einstein’s classic formula for how much potato salad to lug to the family reunion picnic. Einstein said everything was relative—and his mother needed a way to determine just how much his relatives would eat.
Mary Ellen will watch her prepared food like a hawk, concerned it may go unappreciated, thus requiring her to slither out the door with the still-full casserole dish behind her back. But there is an even worse scenario: suppose her dish is completely consumed. Not a scrap left. Wiped clean. That would mean she did not bring enough. This miscalculation would stain the reputation of the entire Wolfsie clan. That’s why Mary Ellen will plan her recipe around Mama Einstein’s theory of quantum gorging.
So here’s how we figure it. Dan and Noelle Gosling are having about 20 people for dinner, so we need to make enough sour cream mashed potatoes for 40 people, because if the spuds are as good as they sound, everyone is going to have seconds. But other people are also bringing dishes. And these people may also be familiar with this culinary formula. So if all 20 people bring enough food for 40 servings, there will be enough fare on the table that night to feed about 800 people. That should be plenty. Wait, their son Anthony is a six-foot-four teenager.
I sure hope there’s enough.