Today’s article is light on finance. I hope you’ll indulge me, and read this "light" piece on the upcoming holiday.
What is the point of Thanksgiving? Is it really about giving thanks for the many things and people we should be thankful for? Or is it about visiting with family? Is it about eating lots of high calorie comfort-food without any pretense or guilt about your health?
You’ll read many cynical articles this year from cranky authors who positively hate the holiday. It’s usually because they either don’t like their families or vice-versa.
Count me among the people who actually look forward to Thanksgiving. It’s definitely in my top three. Call it a dead heat between Christmas, Thanksgiving and any random three-day weekend holiday like President’s Day that always seems to sneak up on me – I like the surprise factor of those.
But Thanksgiving is consistently the best.
At first I thought that maybe that’s just because I actually like my family, and to-date, I haven’t heard any compelling evidence to suggest that they don’t like me.
But I don’t think so…
I spend lots of time with my family, and I always enjoy that time – but something about Thanksgiving pushes the occasion over the top of any other average family get-together.
And as proof – I submit my evidence: the worst Thanksgiving of my life was a total disaster when it came to the food. I call it "The Worst Thanksgiving in World History."
Now, the relative in question who prepared "The Worst Thanksgiving in World History" is still among us. This person does not have internet access, so I am taking a risk in writing about this Thanksgiving, but as long as I have some cooperation from my family, this person does not need to know…
There’s something special about the Thanksgiving meal – not just because of the roast turkey. Even though a well-cooked roast turkey is truly one of the most sublime main courses a home-chef can conjure.
And no, it’s not just the mashed potatoes and gravy. I make mashed potatoes about once a month, and they’re always good – but they’re never Thanksgiving good.
It’s not the stuffing, or the corn, the bread, cranberry sauce, the wine (I have two bottles of fresh off the presses 2011 Beaujolais this year) or the variety of casseroles, soufflés and pies.
I firmly believe it’s the combination of these dishes, and their very careful preparation. It takes a seasoned cook to make sure these dishes come together all at once, in harmony.
Not least of which is because the turkey is a notoriously tricky bird to cook – or to even correctly estimate its cooking time.
Any clear-thinking person would probably tell you that at the very least you need turkey, potatoes, gravy, one vegetable, cranberry sauce (for color) and bread before you can even call it a Thanksgiving feast.
But on the year of the "Worst Thanksgiving in World History" something went terribly wrong.
Yes, there was turkey. Yes there were potatoes, mashed.
But the resemblance to Thanksgiving stops there.
Instead of focusing laser-like on roasting the turkey to perfection, my nameless relative diverted attention to another main entree…
Thanksgiving aficionados with heart conditions: please consult your doctor before reading further.
It still pains me to say it, but this person prepared hand-made stuffed manicotti from scratch.
I didn’t even know what manicotti was until that day. And I’ve since learned two things about manicotti:
1) I do not like manicotti, whether it’s hand-made fresh from scratch or mass-produced and frozen into oblivion.
2) Manicotti does not, will not, can not replace the half dozen other requisite turkey-day side kicks. If at all, it should play an outside role IN ADDITION to those side-kicks.
The worst part: being that the turkey was overcooked and dried to a fine grit, it desperately required more than the usual dousing of gravy.
But gravy there was none.
"Where’s the gravy?" I quietly asked my now fully-brooding father.
"There isn’t any gravy," he said in a tone he usually reserved for incompetent clerks or insolent dogs.
No gravy for the potatoes. No gravy for the non-existent stuffing. No gravy to sop up with the nowhere to be found dinner rolls.
So maybe it’s not even all of the food in combination. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it’s just the gravy.
This year, I’ll be hosting my first Thanksgiving dinner. It’s also my first Thanksgiving I’ll spend in Vermont. And my first Thanksgiving as a father…
With our son Beckett approaching his 7 month birthday – the 10+ hour car trip isn’t going to happen to take us back "home" to Pennsylvania this year.
So my wife and I will host my parents and my youngest sister Adele (see, I told you they liked me!) up here in the Wintry north. We received about 10 inches of snow last night – which reminds me: I might have to reconsider cooking the turkey on the charcoal barbeque this year.
One thing for sure: there will be gravy. More gravy than we could possibly eat in 10 meals. Gravy boats – heck, gravy Armadas.
A grand gravy-navy that will strain the tensile strength of my oak dining room table.
There will be gravy.