Saturday, November 21, 2009

A Premature Thanksgiving Post

Earlier this week, Jim Donahue at the Velvet Blog (see Recommended sidebar) posted his annual Grandma's Stuffing recipe. I went shopping this morning for Turkey Day food (I forgot to get chicken broth. The menu is roasted chicken, stuffing, mashed potatoes, acorn squash, asparagus, pumpkin pie and Kool Whip. And lots of gravy. And as you will find out below, no jello or canned cranberries.)

That got me thinking of the obligatory Thanksgiving post. There being no present inspiration, I did a word search for Thanksgiving on the blog and found there are a lot of posts with the word in them, some not too bad, search if you like. I may well do a real post; but, here's the one I did three years ago, right after I started this thing up, when some of you weren't reading what I write, that I like the best:

Tryptophan and Thanksgiving


"Does turkey contain a natural sedative that makes you feel sleepy after eating a lot of it?

In this instance, lore almost intersects with science. Turkey does contain tryptophan, an amino acid which is a natural sedative. But tryptophan doesn't act on the brain unless it is taken on an empty stomach with no protein present, and the amount gobbled even during a holiday feast is generally too small to have an appreciable effect.

That lazy, lethargic feeling so many are overcome by at the conclusion of a festive season meal is most likely due to the combination drinking alcohol ...overeating a [solid-food] carbohydrate-rich repast, [and] increased blood flow to the gastrointestinal tract."

I have been to many Thanksgiving family feasts over the years. With or without the aid of Tryptophan, they invoke a warm, lazy, comfortable memory.

In the early years they rotated among my parents', an uncle's and an aunt's house. In the pecking order of cousins and brothers I was mid-level. Four older, two younger, plus my two younger brothers. In my childhood and teen years I never graduated to the big people table. There were just too many people with seniority.

Just before family started arriving, or just before we got to the relatives' house, my father would lecture us on proper behavior. In my young world there was no functional difference between a father or mother and an aunt or uncle. Any adult trumped any child. Woe to the child that didn't understand that. We were not to run, there was no yelling. You could not ask for anything. If offered, you could say yes. As a sullen teen I fantasized during the lecture, still given for the benefit of my younger brothers, about the permissability of asking for emergency life-saving treatment if I had a run-in with the carving knife.

While sitting on the front porch, a cousin taught me to tie my shoes on Thanksgiving Day. I went to my first non-drive-in movie, The Old Man and the Sea, on Thanksgiving day. I was introduced to the wonders of Kool Whip (the look on my mother's face told me all I needed to know about asking my Aunt for another dollop). White meat turkey slices with salt and mayo on white bread (a starch source I have out-grown) and cold stuffing, mid-evening is actually better than the feast during the day. Choking down a teaspoon of yellow or green Jello with stuff in it is an acceptable price for the rest of the day, though no one should have to eat canned cranberry sauce.

My generation is somewhat scattered over the Country. Me in Atlanta. A brother in Phoenix. A cousin in Florida. My youngest brother and some of my cousins are still close enough to each other to carry on the tradition.

My last family feast was in 1999 when I traveled not for the holiday but to attend my mother's funeral a couple of days before Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving was held that year at one of my cousin's son's house. Tradition was turning full circle. My brothers had daughters. They had cousins. I was disappointed to see that the kids were not at card tables. Long tables had been borrowed from the church and everyone sat together. At least I got to sit at the big people table.

I'm going back this year to my youngest brother's house. There are a few more kids and no more of the original generation. I plan on eating dark meat, lots of mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy and pumpkin pie. I'm going to dollop on all the Kool Whip I want, which won't be much. I am not going to eat any Jello or cranberries, sauce or whole. I plan on smiling more than I did when I was sullen teen.


Sonja's Mom said...

What - no Green Bean Casserole? Always a staple at our house.

Your childhood Thanksgiving's sound pretty much like mine. Those holiday dinners invoke some of my fondest memories of my family. Thanks for sharing.

Dave said...

We had it SM, but it wasn't at the top or the bottom of the love/hate food chain. Did you get it with the canned crispy onion thingies?

An aside to the post, I grew up having to have at least a spoonful of everything that was served, hence the hatred of jello and cranberries. My youngest brother would not eat a green pea. He would sit at the table for hours after dinner looking at ten or so peas and finally go to bed. When he asked his wife to marry him it was conditional - no peas would ever cross the thresh hold of the house. And they haven't. We're a rigid bunch my family.