My parents were always pretty relaxed about table manners; we were definitely not an elbows-off-the-table, two-feet-on-the-floor kind of family. That being said, my sisters and I were not encouraged to play with our food, so when my little sister began to elaborately sculpt her Thanksgiving mashed potatoes one year, it was definitely memorable.
My little sister has a habit of preparing her food very slowly; she's the kind of person who will layer the toppings on each individual nacho. Apparently this habit started fairly early in life, because one year she took a particularly long time preparing her mashed potatoes for gravy. After saying grace and digging in, the rest of the family noticed that my sister had started to build up the sides of her mashed potato pile. We had all been taught to make a divot in our potatoes for gravy, but as my sister began to rip small pieces of turkey apart, placing them with perfect precision onto the sides of her mashed potatoes, her potatoes started to look more like a science fair project than a meal.
Now, my sister has never really been a history buff, so what happened next surprised everyone. After standing the turkey bits up around all sides of the volcano, my sister grabbed the gravy boat and said, “Look everybody—it’s people fleeing Pompeii!” as she poured the gravy over her own miniature Mount Vesuvius. Because our potatoes are full of cheese, they get pretty orange, so they really did resemble lava and molten rock.
Because playing with food is a very rare occurrence at my house, this Thanksgiving story really stands out in my memory. In the Thanksgivings that have followed the eruption, someone has always mentioned the fall of Pompeii to a chorus of laughter from the family, proving that sometimes playing with your food isn’t always such a bad thing.