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 20.

"All right, the food is on the table!" Marian said.

"Wow, that turkey is huge!" William exclaimed, looking hungrily at it. "Can I have a drumstick?"

"I'm pretty sure you can't eat an entire drumstick, William," Jacob said.

"Oh, I can, grandpa!" William insisted.

"So can I!" Lisa said.

"Does that mean you don't want any dessert? No plum pudding?" Mark asked, grinning.

Lisa made a face. "I don't know what that is."

"It's great!" William told her. "But it's not for little kids!"

"I'm not a little kid!" Lisa insisted.

"Shhh, keep the peace, kids! Sit down and let's eat!" Jacob told them.

They all sat down, except for Mark who got the job of cutting the turkey.

*There is so much food on the table! I'm not even sure I know what all of it is!* Martouf remarked.

*I am mostly interested in the roast turkey, but some of those... side dishes, or whatever it is they call them, looks good too," Lantash told him.

*Cranberry sauce. If I understand correctly, it's fairly tart berries - interesting choice for a sauce to accompany meat. I look forward to trying that.*

*Didn't you see how much sugar Sam added when she made it? I'm sure it will not be tart. But I do want to try it - together with the gravy.*

*And more of the mashed potatoes. I don't think those are a good choice to eat with turkey - which is a large fowl. I prefer potatoes cooked. Or baked.*

*You have no sense of adventure!* Lantash teased. *If you don't want to try these things, then just give me control!*

*I will still taste it!*

*Not if I suppress you. Would you prefer that?*

*You wouldn't!*

Lantash gave his host a 'hug'. *No, I would never do that!*

*Let us take turns being in control. People are focused on their food anyway.*

*Agreed. By the way, Mark is talking to you.*

Martouf looked up. "I apologize, I was... lost in thought."

"Clearly." Mark smiled. "Hold out your plate, so I can give you a piece of the turkey."

Martouf did as he was told. "Thank you." He took some of the mashed potatoes, and some of the gravy. Finally, he added some of the cranberry sauce to his plate as well.

"You must try the green bean casserole!" Marian insisted.

"Ah, certainly. Thank you," Martouf said, accepting a spoonful of it. *I hope it is edible. It looks a little strange.* He carefully picked up some of it with his fork and ate it slowly.

*It doesn't just look strange. It tastes strange too!* Lantash complained. *Actually, it is pretty vile. Don't take any more of that!*

*I agree, but I have to eat what is on the plate - to be polite,* Martouf insisted. He took some of the turkey. *This is very good.*

*I agree. Let's try it with some of the gravy added.*

"Here," Mark said. "Let me give you some of the sweet potato casserole. It's my mom's special recipe, and I always look forward to it each Christmas!"

"Thank you. That is... very kind of you," Martouf said, when Mark had shoveled up a couple large spoonfuls on his plate.

"You watched me make it - it's the one with the little miniature marshmallows!" Marian told him, smiling.

"Yes, I know." He gave her a polite smile. *I had hoped to avoid trying this! Samantha explained what marshmallows are, and we tried one of them. How can anyone put that on top of a vegetable dish?*

*I have no idea. The thought turns my stomach!* Lantash 'shuddered'.

Martouf scooped up some of the gooey marshmallow-potato mix and hesitantly ate it. *It's... very sweet. I think the topping in itself might be good in a dessert, but not together with a tuber.*

*Try just the mashed tubers,* Lantash suggested.

*Better, don't you think?*

*Yes, but still very sweet. I think there is sugar in it too. Perhaps we could ask Samantha to buy just the tubers, so we can try them cooked or baked with nothing else? I think they might be good, then.*

"Wine?" Sam asked him.

"Yes, please," Martouf said, wanting something sour to counter the sweetness.

"What do you think of the food?" Marian wondered.

"Ah, I think this dish is a bit too... sweet for me. I am not used to very sweet foods," Martouf said, smiling. "But the roast turkey is delicious."

Marian smiled. "Thank you. You say you're not used to food being this sweet - how many of these dishes resemble ones you know from your home country?"

"We also eat roast fowl, of different kinds, with gravy. Potatoes and other tubers as well. Bread, of course... and wine. The other dishes have some familiar ingredients, but are prepared very differently," he said, carefully.

"What about corn muffins? You have those, right?" William asked, pointing at them. "They're awesome with the cranberry sauce!"

"Really? I will have to try that," Martouf said politely, taking one of the corn muffins. He broke off a piece and dipped it in the cranberry sauce and ate it. "You are correct. It is quite good. I do not believe we have anything similar, though."

*Corn is the same product they call maize. The caramel corn also had this ingredient. It's what we call el'ohtl,* Lantash helpfully informed him.

*Yes! I know!* Martouf ate another piece of the corn muffin. "We do have some baked goods made with maize, but usually wheat or rye is used." He looked to Sam. "I very much like the cranberry sauce you made."

She smiled at him. "It's very easy to make, but I'll be happy to teach you how." She put a hand on his knee, unseen under the table, and gave him a squeeze.

Martouf smiled back at her. "Thank you." He put his hand over her hers, and caressed it, before returning to his dinner.

He and Lantash both felt happy and very lucky. They were eating excellent food, and sitting beside Samantha - who clearly liked them.

The holiday was looking better and better!


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