Thursday, November 23, 2006


(News-Herald, November 23) Thanksgiving is a special holiday. It is one of the few holidays that is truly American and totally devoted to our national heritage; at the same time, it provides us with an opportunity to reflect and appreciate the many gifts for which we should be grateful.
But most of all, it’s a chance to eat.
Fourth of July and Memorial Day are for parades. Christmas is for presents, and New Years is for drunken excess (or solitary sulking). Easter is still blessedly religious and Halloween is for teaching small children the fine art of extortion. The rest of our holidays are either mired in controversy (Columbus—hero or imperialist running dog?) or neglect (Presidents Day is in February, right?).
Only Thanksgiving is devoted to eating. So let’s do it properly. Here are your basic Thanksgiving meal instructions.
Turkey only for Thanksgiving dinner. Type is unimportant—you can serve a farm-bred mutant bird with a pop-up thermometer surgically implanted in its side, or some free-range anti-establishment hippy turkey that never held an honest job. You may not serve ham. And some kind of not-meat substitute tofu turkey is also forbidden. I realize that vegetarians, vegans, semi-veggies, and anti-meatites have the best of intentions, but I personally am proud to live at the top of the food chain, and on Thanksgiving I intend to honor my Puritan ancestors who managed not to get eaten. (Lets give thanks for the top of the food chain.)
You may warm up for dinner with a parade, though it’s advisable to watch with the mute button handy. Parade announcing is a difficult art to master. At least, I assume it’s difficult, because hardly anyone can do it well. One would think that high-paid network professional talking heads would be able to master this simple formula: 1) Give name of group. 2) Mention one useful fact. 3) Shut up. And especially be quiet when it’s time to hear the marching bands (Let’s give thanks for the marching bands.)
The turkey should be accompanied by some foodal accessories.
Stuffing is a must. Storebought mixes are allowable if you mix in your own fresh onions, a little garlic, and assorted herbs. I don’t see the need for anything nutlike, but it’s allowable. You can do the whole thing from scratch if you like—bake your own stale bread and rip it up personally. Just do it discretely; nobody likes a show-off.
Just about any vegetable is okay, even those funny mixed vegetable conglomerates. Potatoes can be little baked ones or all mashed up—my own family tradition is to make almost-mashed potatoes (boil potatoes, dice, start mashing, quit two minutes before they would actually be smoothly mashed up). As much as I like rice, it has no place at this dinner.
Dinner should include Something Special. My family is fond of cranberry relish, made of cranberries and various other vegetable matter run through a hand-cranked meat grinder quite possibly used by the original Pilgrims. The taste runs from slightly sweet to so tart it makes people in the next room go “ewwwww!” It must be lumpy. And as for cranberry jelly—well, I don’t even know what that’s for. Decoration? Gluing together your mixed vegetables?
Then there’s the matter of squash. Squash is like arena football, the Home and Garden Channel, or Paris Hilton in a bikini—I can kind of understand why it appeals to some people, but personally I don’t want to have to look at it. (Let’s give thanks for not having dinner with Paris Hilton.)
Then it’s time for dessert.
Dessert should be primarily composed of pies. My Grandmother Binmore made roughly six hundred varieties of pie; all participants were required to have one slice of each, which stretched dessert out for the rest of the day. Outside of my sister-in-law’s clan, I knew few families that can manage that standard.
However the Special Occasion Pie is mince. Mince pie is made, as I understand it, out of mince meat, although mince meat contains no more meat than a tofu turkey. I have no idea what a mince is made of, and I suspect I’m happier that way. I believe the current cost of mince meat is roughly $650 per can-- apparently wild minces are rare and elusive. My grandfather taught me to eat it with a slice of cheese. (Let’s give thanks for the cheese.)
Dessert should be rounded out with a cookie. My cookie experts Thomas and Barbara insist on those holiday favorites, Frosted Fingers. Care should be taken with the Frosted Fingers as they come covered with little flavor jimmies that will roll off and attempt to escape into the carpet where they hope to run free like a tofu turkey or a wild mince. (Let’s give thanks for fingers.)


Joanna said...

Okay, let me be the first to split hairs and point out that cranberries are not vegetables. (Go ahead, I'll wait while you go back and read it...) But as always, a wonderful piece. (Let's give thanks for Peter)

your baby sister

Peter A. Greene said...

I stand by my post-- I suggested that cranberries are vehetable matter, as opposed to animal or mineral. And anyway, anything that aspires to be a fruit should at least try to be sweet.

From my Flickr