Same thing every year she says, looking at a table scattered with cookbooks, food magazines, and recipes. Such array of possibilities, who can choose? Holiday dilemmas assail everyone.

Face it, too many choices. Impossible to synthesize. Today’s taste buds are meaningless for tomorrow’s menu. What’s for tomorrow when “they” show up, expecting a kingly buffet? “Eat, drink, and be merry,” they’ll sing, marching through the door bringing nothing but an appetite.   

Who’s “they?” Why, family and friends, that’s who. And it’s our turn to feed the ravenous, freeloading relatives. A spread-sheet cost analysis is critical, and not the least, is a plan to facilitate the post-bacchanalian clean-up.  

Holidays begin at Home Depot when containers full of fake greenery arrive from Beijing. This year it was September. It’s confirmed by volumes of catalogues clogging our mailboxes, and boggling our minds. 

Same old thing, year after year, prepare meals to appease every palate. There are things to consider, like balancing proteins, carbs, dairy, greenery, yeast, flour, and to top it all off, everything appropriately garnished, and color coordinated. Chefs are underpaid.  

Hours of deliberation produce nothing. Then the door opens. It’s Larry, a.k.a. Pappy to his friends. He’s in a rush, lugging a large book in one hand, and some root veggies in the other. The book appears to vibrate. He’s an organic farmer living the dream in the parallel universe of Patterson, Georgia. He aims for nothing, and rarely misses.  

He glances at the table with a stunned look.   

“What’s all this?” he says, picking up a magazine entitled, Clean Eating. He flips through it with a disgusted look and tosses it on the table. 

“Who eats this?” he demands. 

“Healthy eating, Pappy. From your looks you should be, too. You’ll live longer, feel better,” I tell him. 

“Oh, I’ve seen these people. You call that living? No sir, biscuits and gravy, sausage with sorghum pancakes. That’s living. Have you ever seen a smiling jogger? They’re miserable. And those skinny, emaciated yogis toting yoga mats. Are they happy? Forget quinoa, miso and gluten-free. They’re Millennial fads. Live dangerously for once, people,” he says, tossing his book on the table. 

The cover is a life-size photo of a possum. The book shimmers as if it’s alive.   

“What’s this, photos of your backyard buddies?” I ask. 

“My latest recipe book,” he says, “101 Ways to Prepare Possum for Parties. Online orders are flooding in. I can hardly keep the book in stock. It’s yours.” 

“Try it, you won’t regret it. Gotta run,” he says, leaving as he comes, always in a rush.

We take a break, brew up some green tea, and recollect the “eat, drink, and be merry,” parties of the past. 

I ask if she remembers the Thanksgiving when we experimented with recipes from The Pilgrim’s Pride cookbook her aunt gave her? That was the meal that destroyed all mirth, and we sat around looking glum and discussing 12th century poetry, James Joyce, and listening to dirges by Beethoven. 

“Don’t remind me,” she says. 

“How about the time your brother over-spiked the cranberries with too much Smirnoff?” she says. 

“Ah, yes, now that was a real eat, drink, and be merry day to remember,” I say. “It was turkey flambeau à la charred. So much for grilling big birds.”

We return to the task of choosing the menu. Progress is slow. Pappy’s book lies on the table like some sort of forbidden temptation. Curiosity is enticed by things forbidden, especially where crafty critters are involved. We open it, flip through the pages.

It’s amazing what a fertile mind can cook up. There, in minute detail, are recipes for possum cooked in every way imaginable. There is possum à la cauliflower risotto; possum pancakes; possum sliders con Bush’s baked beans; possum with kale, squash blossoms, and bean sprouts. 

There’s possum pizza Italiano with mozzarella and mushrooms; possum with micro-greens, bacon, and avocado; and possum with hard boiled eggs, Brussels sprouts, and chopped walnuts.  

We look at each other, thinking the same thing. Should we? Why not. We open the wine, and agree: Eat, drink, and be merry demands creativity. 

We decide to go with the tried and true: Possum and grits with shrimp thrown in for disguise. Who’ll know? Dilemma solved. We toast to eat, drink, and be merry. After all, we only live once. 

I could swear I heard Pappy’s possum book squeal.