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Ten Fantasy Meals Mary Robinette Kowal Would Rather Eat Than Thanksgiving Leftovers

In America, nothing matches the archetype of “Feast” like the Thanksgiving dinner, which conjures images of tables groaning with food. But all that bounty comes with a price: Leftovers. Sure, with that first turkey sandwich you’re living the good life. But how long before the dread sets in? More cranberry sauce? Another helping of sweet potatoes? Soon you start to fantasize about all new meals. And what better way to do that than with fantasy, which offers bounties both fantastic and filling. Herewith, my top ten leftover alternatives.

10. The Pale Man’s Feast in Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
The first sight of that long table set with beautiful silver and crystal is so enticing. It even has a cranberry jello salad, like Thanksgiving. But continue down the table and you’ll see the Pale Man, and that’s when the horror sets: One bite of even one morsel and you’re doomed. It’s a close call, but I think I would still rather eat a single grape from the Pale Man’s table than a single leftover cranberry.

9. Mad Hatter’s Tea Party in Dreamchild (1985)
After a heavy meal, something lighter is in order. Tea, perhaps? To soothe the digestion. Please don’t mind the Dormouse in the sugar bowl. You had enough sweets yesterday, anyway. The quality of conversation is better than your friends and family can offer in their L-tryptophan turkey comas, and even if everyone is mad here, perhaps madness is just the thing you need to stare down a half-eaten poultry carcass.

8. The Other Mother’s Dinner in Coraline (2009)
You know what would make one of those big dinners better? If the gravy could be delivered on a train, the way the Other Mother presents treats on her dining room table (no Lazy Susan for her, no sir!). Maybe finish up the meal with a vintage taffy from the downstairs neighbors. It would sure beat another helping of sweet potatoes.

7. Dinner With the Podlings in The Dark Crystal (1982)
Perhaps I can slip out and join the rambunctious free-for-all with the podlings. They’ve got dancing on the table, music and absolutely no danger of leftovers. Though I wouldn’t recommend this option for clearing the tables, the arrival of the Garthim does mean that no one will have to figure out to what to do with all that leftover gravy.

6. Three Course Meal Gum in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)
The chief advantage to the three course meal gum that Violet tries is that there are no dishes to be dealt with afterwards. True, there’s the danger of turning into a giant blueberry, but let’s face it, Thanksgiving causes everyone to swell past their normal girth anyway. Better gum than another helping of pumpkin pie.

5. Dinner at Dragon of the Black Pool in Big Trouble in Little China (1986)
I think the way to go, really, is to head to a totally different cuisine. Steaming bowls of rice, lo mein, bok choy or kung pao yumminess. If you’re going to have mountains of leftovers, then the sheer variety of food here would win out. Plus, it helps you defeat elder gods which is much more useful than day-old biscuits.

4. Quail With Rose Petals in Like Water for Chocolate (1993)
If one is going to have a roast bird, why not quail? It’s individually sized and you don’t have to worry about the four hour cooking time that goes with turkey. Plus, toss on Tita’s special rose petal sauce and you have a… passionate meal. I’d much rather have the steamy results of that bit of magic than leftover broccoli casserole.

3. Ratatouille in Ratatouille (2007)
You know when they name the movie after the dish that it’s going to be tasty. And note the condition of the plate after the meal: EMPTY. As in, no leftovers. You see where I’m going here? Yes, it’s true, I’d rather have a meal prepared by a rat than have to face one more ounce of leftover stuffing.

2. Any Meal at Hogwarts in Harry Potter Series (2001-2011)
With the house-elves at Hogwarts doing the cooking and cleaning, pretty much every meal is delicious and fresh. It arrives at the table magically and is just as magically whisked away later. Not even the Weasleys, whose frugal mother makes them recycle everything, are forced to endure Hogwarts leftovers. That’s my kind of place. But it still doesn’t beat…

1. Bilbo’s Birthday Feast in Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
The meal I would most enjoy eating though would be Bilbo’s 111th birthday feast in the Shire. Delicious food, an outdoor setting and to top it off, dragon fireworks. See, that’s how things should be. Best of all, no congealed salad. Seriously, my preciousssss… Second-day Jello mold is a really bad idea.

What fantasy meal would you rather have than Thanksgiving leftovers?


Mary Robinette Kowal is the winner of the 2008 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer and a professional puppeteer. Her first novel, Shades of Milk and Honey, is being published by Tor in 2010.

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