There was a moment when I wondered if this was such a good idea.
The empty dining room felt lonely rather than private and we missed the jostling and shoving that comes from trying to fit too many people at a too small table. It was odd to place an order instead of spending an entire day juggling cooking times and oven space. As we waited for a woman we’d never met before to bring us our plates full of turkey and stuffing, we didn’t feel adventurous. I worried that my family holiday vacation was a sad substitute for a family Thanksgiving feast at home.
The waitress at the Holiday Inn & Suites in St. Augustine, Florida brought out plates heaping with turkey, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, cornbread stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce. It took about two bites for us to stop second guessing our decision and start asking about the stuffing recipe. (For the record? Boxed cornbread stuffing beats the stuff I’ve been making for years.)
Our waitress was joined by another waitress and a woman who was either the cook or the restaurant manager. They were all eager to hear how we were enjoying our holiday meal and happy to refill our plates with more food. When we could no longer fit food into our bellies, they filled up to-go containers with leftovers and pumpkin pie. I had to resist the urge to offer to help clear our table before we headed back up to our room.
Except, of course, you don’t have to clear the table when you have Thanksgiving dinner at a Holiday Inn. You also don’t have to do the dishes or clean the house before or after the arrival of company. You do, however, still get to take a nap in front of the football game on TV after dinner.
Spending the holidays traveling is definitely a very different experience than spending them with your family traditions at home. But as my family was reminded on Thanksgiving, different does not necessarily mean bad. In fact, we might just be making this our new holiday tradition.
(Seriously. Thanksgiving dinner WITH NO DISHES.)
Photos by Britt Reints