Update 2016… Thanksgiving Economics 101: I’m still not sure about feeding a family of ten on less than $50 for the big meal, but OK, that’s what the latest report says. Of course, that’s without alcohol and many other frills, but there is a drumstick and some dressing in the mix. The dessert in such a low cost meal must be humble pie.
Turkey Talk about Food Safety: Despite what Julia Child might have told us during the height of her authority on all things related to home cooking, apparently we should not be washing our raw poultry in the kitchen sink. That bit of advice and more in this food safety news article.
We had no noon football games on the black and white TV, but cousin Terry might have a beat up pigskin on his lap. We were itching to get outside to play ball—what kid really likes cranberry sauce anyway? A promise of pumpkin pie is the only thing that kept us from bolting.
I have little recall of the meal chatter, but Granny might inform us that turkeys were not always the guest of honor at Thanksgiving. “Back then,” she’d say, “we used to butcher and dress barnyard chickens for the feast. Not much fun steaming and plucking feathers on a chilly morning.” We kids had been present at poultry harvest times, so a cousin might start describing the chicken-with-its-head-cut-off ritual until he was shushed. Grossing each other out was a national pastime for us boys at that age, but the Thanksgiving table was not prime territory for it.
As the autumn sun shone through the large south windows, Dad might point out, “Even though today is perfect for football, we’ve seen Thanksgivings when the ground was covered with snow. When I was about your age, the 1940 Armistice Day blizzard surprised us all. Farmers were caught out in the cornfields, hunters were nearly frozen to death in duck blinds, and chickens were stuck solid to their roosts. No weather forecasts to warn us back then.” Even at that age, I’d seen a Thanksgiving or two when the creek banks were lined with thin ice, and the morning sun lit up frost that coated woven wire fences and corn stalks left in the field after the harvest.
But today had the brilliant light of a slanting autumn sun, and as soon as we hit the yard, it was all pass, run, argue, punt, fumble, and argue some more as we conveniently ignored the fact that someone was cleaning up after the big event. Back then, adults were like benevolent extraterrestrials who usually stayed in their own universe—until chore time.
“The cow needs milkin’,” some galactic overlord would announce. “And the steers in the lot across the road need five buckets of grain and eight bales of hay.” No holiday shopping excuses to save us. The advertizing Madmen of the 60s hadn’t come up with Black (and Blue) Friday Frenzy, which is now morphing into Thanksgiving Brown Thursday and maybe a type of sepia-tinged Thanksgiving Week with all the sales and hype. We were bright enough kids, but the word “shopping” was not in our vocabulary, and merchants back then didn’t even think of hoisting Christmas on us until Thanksgiving was over.
The day was for celebrating family and the harvest–and for kids playing outside in the sunshine or snow. And the evening was for eating the meal I liked best–the leftovers. Dark turkey meat, warmed-up dressing with gravy on it, Mom’s homemade bread, a slice of pumpkin pie. Living was easy.
Until the morning after Thanksgiving. No school, but Dad–the human alarm clock–would call into the bedroom, “Time to get up, boys,” and after our eggs, toast, and orange juice, we put on five-buckle boots and headed to the hog house. Grunting pigs, a layer of muck, and worn pitchforks awaited us. Now that’s what I call a real Black Friday.
by Dan Gogerty (top pic from midliferoadtrip.tv; paper turkey pic from blogher.com)
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