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When Thanksgiving Means Making Reservations, Not Turkey

The moment of last-minute head counts and late-night runs to the supermarket has nearly arrived. But a small but proud segment of the population simply smiles and puts their feet up. They're having Thanksgiving dinner served to them in a restaurant.

The notion of Turkey Day away from home and hearth may sound sad. But 14 million Americans, or 6 percent, will be sharing food with family and friends while losing the toil and anxiety of cooking a feast, according to a new poll by the National Restaurant Association. (About 22 percent of those eating out say it's because they can't cook.)

The lion's share — about 90 percent — of Americans will be in their home or someone else's home, the poll found.

But that small crew of restaurant-goers is a happy one, according to The Salt's unscientific survey. Some have made Thanksgiving out a family tradition, while others use it as a Plan B in a pinch.

Carolyn Grantham loves to cook and eat. But she usually works the Friday after Turkey Day. "If I have just one day off, I don't want to spend it cooking and cleaning up," she says.

So she and her husband have established a new tradition: They use Thanksgiving to revisit favorite restaurants near their home in Medford, Mass. She's blogged about their adventures with Alsatian and Italian cuisine, knowing that the restaurants also serve turkey with all the trimmings.

This year they'll be returning to Eastern Standard because of its fabulous oysters, which were traditional Thanksgiving fare in the 19th century, and for its unusual cocktails, which most certainly were not. "It's one of my favorite places to go, period, so getting to do Thanksgiving there is particularly nice," says Grantham.

For others, restaurants offer pure convenience. Lila Guterman is an editor in Washington, D.C., who didn't have enough time off work to visit relatives.

So her husband is off to Grandma's with their 4-year-old daughter, and she's going to the Old Ebbitt Grill, a descendant of the oldest restaurant in D.C., with her 17-month-old son and a friend. "I think it'll be fun," Guterman says. She's a vegetarian, so she's not fussed about missing turkey. (She's on solid historical ground there; turkey didn't become the iconic Thanksgiving food until the 1800s.)

Odds are this Thanksgiving day out won't be a repeat event. "I'm sorry about missing the family," Guterman says. "Food I don't care as much about, honestly."

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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