What has happened to Thanksgiving, that much loved holiday set aside just for us to give thanks, the one day of the year devoted to being grateful for our many blessings? Well first of all, Black Friday popped up, supposedly the busiest retail sales day of the year, and the big kick-off to the holiday shopping season.
When that was a success, retailers began to propose Black Thursday (my expression), when stores would remain open on Thanksgiving Day for more shopping! Can you imagine leaping out of bed on Thanksgiving morning, grabbing a deli-sliced turkey sandwich and a mug of pumpkin flavored eggnog as you dash off to the mall just to save a few bucks on your Christmas gifts?
I’m proposing “Black November”! Sales would start the day after Halloween and continue right up to midnight, Christmas Eve. Surely that would give even the most dedicated shopper enough time to get the job done, especially with gaudy ads promising “Sales – Sales – Sales,” and “Lowest Prices Of The Season Guaranteed!” Wouldn’t that satisfy our urge to spend money in order to save money, the end result of our pie-in-the-sky attitude toward life?
“Black November,” three extra weeks to get those bargains! No more “Black Thursdays” to dread. No “Black Fridays” to drive us frantic.
Just think, Thanksgiving could return to being what it’s supposed to be, a quiet, peaceful day to spend with family and friends, tables piled high with the favorite foods of the season as we give thanks for the bounty we’ve received.
The most relaxed, laid-back holiday of the year requires so little effort, other than the marathon cooking projects taking place in kitchens across the country. Decorations? Just turn the Halloween Jack-o-lantern faces to the wall, bring in a bunch of dead leaves and Voila! a Thanksgiving theme! Costumes? Optional, with one of two choices; Pilgrims with those goofy hats, or Native American Indians with their knack for recycling turkey feathers. Gifts? NO! None, not even one. Well, maybe a courtesy floral arrangement or a bottle of wine, but that’s it.
Entertainment? No more home town parades, no decorated tractors, no crepe paper streamers on the Radio Flyer. Fido or Fluffy wouldn’t have to ride along, miserable in their tied-on finery, as we’d plod for a couple miles, either in bitter cold or a sudden downpour or both. Now we get to kick back in the recliner watching a parade of hot air balloons drift over a variety of cities. It beats the hot air usually drifting overhead in an election year, generated by a panel of turkeys eager for our attention. The entire family can participate, as long as someone runs to the kitchen every so often to baste the actual turkey.
And that brings us to the really fun part of the day, preparing the feast! I find it interesting that our Thanksgiving dinner remains the same, year after year, family after family. Based on what we think the original foods were, wild turkeys, squash and corn, it’s evolved into quite a splendid spread. Regional variations and family likes and dislikes aside, we all pretty much prepare the same foods. Most of our menus follow the same time-honored traditions.
Turkey, of course, roasted and redolent with herbs. I’ve seen a few barbequed salmon on cedar planks in the northwest, and I hear TOFURKEY is big in Southern California, otherwise thousands and thousands of pounds of turkeys are popped into thousands of ovens in the wee small hours of the big day, so we can drool over the good smells for hours.
Stuffing or Dressing? It doesn’t matter what it’s called, what matters is whether it’s been poked into the bird or baked separately. The main difference is in where you live. Southerners want theirs made with cornbread, New Englanders add oysters and Anglophiles insist on roasted chestnuts. Otherwise it’s bread cubes and herbs.
Cranberries: those bright, zingy little berries seem to show up on every table. The bog people at Ocean Spray have a great idea going and we love them for it.
Mashed potatoes: Put down that box. This is the day for the real thing. Lumps are O.K. The same with Gravy: here again lumps can be forgiven as long as you make enough gravy. Running out is what’s unforgivable.
Sweet potatoes or yams: the big difference being that yams have more color and nutritional value Preparation depends on how many sugary dishes the human body can absorb in one day. I say a few marshmallows never hurt anyone.
Scalloped corn: a dish definitely from the upper Midwest. We Northeners will say “Absolutely a must!” To the rest of you it’s a “Huh?”
Tossed Green Salad: Optional. I happen to be related to people who demand a sworn statement to the effect that no leafy greens will show up on their holiday table. “Thanksgiving feasts are meant to be festive, they don’t have to be healthy,” or so they insist.
“Not Really Salad” Salads: Very popular side dishes full of crunchy, rich goodies like nuts, coconut, pineapple, cherries, cream cheese, on and on. Every cook has several variations on these. Once again, how much of this type of food can we handle at one time? The answer seems to be quite a lot. Bring it on.
Creamed Onions? Brussels Sprouts? Green Bean Casserole? These dishes all have their lobbies. Family favorites and regional preferences rule. Also crudites, relishes and pickles: here again a matter of family choice. Grandma’s pickled parsnips may be traditional on your table. If you’re not from Texas or the Southwest, watch out for the jalapenos.
Auntie Jo’s Parkerhouse Rolls; Auntie Jo makes these for Easter, too. One year they were accidently dropped into the pastel Easter dyes, and made a good substitute for hard boiled eggs when it was time for egg rolling on the lawn. A tactful attempt to get someone else to bring the Parkerhouse Rolls could be tried, bearing in mind that Auntie Jo’s temperament is almost as famous as her rolls.
And Pies! Lots of Pies! The perfect heavy, rich dessert to follow a heavy, rich meal. Pumpkin always leads the choices, followed closely by Pecan, with a couple of Apples for good measure. A Must Have: real Whipped Cream, mounds of the genuine cholesterol-laden stuff. Leave the chemical fluff in the back of the freezer, where it belongs. By now the calorie count per person has climbed to an astronomical figure. Why stop now?
So there you have it, the perfect Thanksgiving feast for the perfect Thanksgiving Day with no proposed “Black Thursdays” to ruin things. Now if the guys could be pried off the sofas to clean up the kitchen while the gals watched football, it would be a real celebration. And we’d still have “Black Friday” to lounge around and nibble on leftovers.
Forget Black Thursday, Relax on Black Friday!
Let’s give Thanks for Black November!!