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Thinking about Thanksgiving

November 22, 2017

So tomorrow is the big day. I guess that makes tonight Thanksgiving Eve.

Somehow over the past several years, the night before Thanksgiving has become a big deal. And it makes sense. People go back to their hometowns on Wednesday, so they can wake up and start celebrating with their family on Thursday. But without family obligations on Wednesday night, you are free to meet up with old friends at beloved and once-frequented watering holes.

Thanksgiving day itself used to be sacrosanct, but over the past few years Black Friday promotions have crept earlier and earlier into the day on Thursday. When almost everyone had the day off, and there was really no place you could go—or anything else to do but spend time with your family—the day took on a magical tone.

Now, in some ways, it feels not that much different from any other day. Especially as the rush of consumerism reaches its annual peak.

Here’s a question to get us started, can we make Thanksgiving great again?

There are other things that I’m thinking about on the eve on Thanksgiving, that largely concern the much ballyhooed traditional Thanksgiving meal. And the one thing that I keep on coming back to, is that I just can’t believe anyone really loves the spread of traditional Thanksgiving dishes.

Which isn’t to say they don’t love Thanksgiving dinner. There is the ritual, there are the memories, and those are important. If you took away the turkey, it simply wouldn’t feel like Thanksgiving. I get that. And I’m not suggesting such drastic changes.

Who loves roast turkey? Like all things, when it’s done well, it’s very good. But of all the birds one could roast, a turkey is more notable for its size than its flavor. I found myself the other day admitting that I’d rather have roast chicken than roast turkey.

If people truly loved cranberry sauce, it would find its way into more dishes and we would see it in restaurants. For that matter if this was a food that people loved, we might see some more smaller producers making a higher quality version of the stuff than the weird mass produced jell in a can.

The thought here is that people love what these foods have come to represent. Not the food itself.

On the flip side, I’ll tell you what I do love about Thanksgiving. Yes, my Aunt N’s stuffing. Of course, her stuffing. But more than that, it’s how if you take a little bit of everything, your plate is mostly filled by vegetables. Of course, there’s turkey on the plate too. And there is a broad palette of colors: white, brown, orange, green, and red. It looks like fall. It looks like harvest. Because that’s exactly what it is.

In all honestly, I don’t even need all the food. I’m happy with stuffing. Little Miss Fussy really just wants the pies. The rest of the Fussy household are mashed potato with gravy lovers. Really, what I want is to just spend time with family.

We are all spread out around the country, and we’ve found our way to Connecticut every November for forever. We used to do the meals on Thursday. Now they are on Saturday. It’s no matter. The point isn’t the day. The point isn’t the food. The point is the togetherness.

Ideally, togetherness without the horrifying distractions of consumerism. Maybe that’s part of why it’s so important for people to cook everything from scratch. Because then it’s made and not bought.

Which isn’t to say you should feel badly about buying a precooked family meal. You shouldn’t. Not everyone has the space, time, energy, or inclination to spend a day or two cooking. And even if nobody really loves the food on the Thanksgiving, that’s okay too.

I’m thankful for my family. I’m thankful for my traditions. And I’m thankful to live without want. Best wishes for a delicious and meaningful Thanksgiving holiday.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Pam C. permalink
    November 22, 2017 12:29 pm

    Maybe it’s weird, but I do love all the traditional Thanksgiving foods. Not the jellied cranberry sauce in a can, although my father had to have it. Once I learned to make fresh cranberry sauce, there was no going back. I do love turkey, and order it when I am out, several times a year. I also love the stuffing, mashed potatoes and lots of gravy. My parents also had to have mashed turnips and also creamed pearl onions, but I didn’t care for those. Pie came later, because everyone was so full from dinner. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

  2. November 22, 2017 1:08 pm

    Daniel – I love the traditional Thanksgiving dinner. I with you on cranberry sauce and cans of “relish” though. I make a relish that is basically cranberries, orange and sugar to taste. Little tart, little sweet. The recipe used to be on bags of Ocean Spray cranberries. Not sure if it still is.

    But I really like roasted turkey (i often roast some for homemade turkey clubs), mashed potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes and stuffing. Lots of stuffing. I always make too much because a leftover turkey sandwich with stuffing is fantastic. And gravy. You didn’t mention gravy. I love turkey gravy. Last year I heated a up some, put it in a Thermos and brought it to Burger Fi to dunk fries (that was a brilliant idea I stole from Mr. Dave).

    I also like the contributions to the meal. One person is in charge of most of it or at least the coordination, but appetizer get brought by one family, a pie from another, my mother in law makes the best deviled eggs, wine….It’s one aspect of the meal I like even though I’m a control freak – I’m getting better as I age.

    So I’m with you that family day is great, a lot of cranberry stuff is bad and I don’t like that sales have kept into the holiday. Working in retail this week must be awful. And I do love traditions (this afternoon we will make some very family traditional cookies that go back to Thanksgivings of my childhood). But damn, a well prepared Thanksgiving dinner is a thing of beauty.

  3. Benjamin permalink
    November 22, 2017 1:10 pm

    I hate Black Friday. That, in my honest opinion, has ruined Thanksgiving. Not only do all the consumers go shopping, but the poor store employees have to be out at the stores. Which means every supermarket, gas station, and fast food place also has to be open. I am thankful for the internet, though, as most deals that were only available on Black Friday are now accessible with a computer. Perhaps someday it will cycle back around.

    My Italian family starts with a pasta/meatball/sausage/salad course (or is that two courses) before the typical Thanksgiving food. I will take that over the turkey any day.

  4. Dave permalink
    November 23, 2017 7:07 am

    I refuse to go shopping on Thanksgiving and Black Friday

  5. November 23, 2017 11:58 pm

    Turkey is more flavorful than chicken, end of story. If there was a chicken-size turkey I’d eat it every day of the year.

    As to cranberries, your syllogistic “if people truly loved cranberry sauce, it would find its way into more dishes and we would see it in restaurants” cannot stand any sort of scrutiny. Cranberries are not the same as cranberry sauce. They are made into cranberry juice to cure urinary ills and dried cranberries that are massively popular in China, I hear. And baked into scones and muffins.

    It just happens that cranberry sauce is a perfect sweet-sour palate cleanser to balance the many carbs and gravies on the Thanksgiving table. This year a creative cook in our home made low-sugar cranberry sauce and it was, as Bob and Ray say, “bitter as anything”. A powerful and wondrous bog fruit.

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