Opinion: Food for (scientific) thought


With COVID-19 restrictions waning, people are planning get-togethers for a turkey dinner this Thanksgiving — but with rising food prices, more cooks may be chickening out, instead. Restaurant prices are up, also. The Mafia is even economizing by eating at Olive Garden. Pitch-in dinners will be more popular than ever, which has the potential of saving the hosts money. Well, maybe. Read on.

How much food should you bring to a Thanksgiving gathering? This must have stumped even Albert Einstein, who came from a nice Jewish family where food, of course, played a very important role. Some biographers think the equation E = mc2 really meant the amount of food you can eat (that’s E) is equal to the size of the average mouth (that’s M) times the number of cousins (C) who were invited. Then, Einstein’s mother just squared everything, which became a holiday tradition … and is why most people gain 11 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.

Einstein got a lot of credit for his theories on atomic energy, but very little recognition has been given to Mother Einstein’s classic formula for how much potato salad to lug to the family reunion picnic.

This Thanksgiving we are invited to our friends’ home. My wife will be bringing something to contribute to the sumptuous feast. Whenever my mother brought something to someone’s house, she would watch it like a hawk, concerned that her candied yams would go unacknowledged, requiring her to either chuck the remains at the end of the party or hide the half-full casserole dish behind her back as she nervously slid out the door.

If the dish was completely consumed, the casserole wiped clean, it would have meant my mother did not bring enough and that this miscalculation would stain the reputation of the entire Wolfsie clan. That’s when my mother adopted Mama Einstein’s theory of quantum food.

This made a huge impression on me as a kid. So, when my wife offered to contribute her barbeque string beans to the upcoming Haverstick party, I tried to determine how much to bring in a scientific manner. For argument’s sake, let’s say they’re having 12 people for dinner. We should make enough mashed potatoes for 24 people because, if the spuds are good, everyone will want seconds. But other people also will be bringing dishes, and they, no doubt, are also familiar with this culinary formula. If all 12 people bring enough food for 24 people, there will be enough on the table that night to feed 288 people.

Which should be plenty.

The Wolfsies will probably have Christmas dinner alone, at home. Mary Ellen usually likes to talk about family trips and fun experiences we’ve had together, although this year I suspect she’s going to obsess over why we are eating two pans of string beans left over from Thanksgiving.