An acquaintance recently remarked that there is a strain in American society bent on making people perpetually dissatisfied with themselves and most every event that constitutes their existence. The anxietification of Thanksgiving is an archetypal proof of this thesis.
The staples of a generic Thanksgiving meal are turkey, cranberries, sweet potatoes, some form of stuffing, and pumpkin or perhaps apple pie. These elemental ingredients are amongst the healthiest foods available (with the possible exception of the stuffing), but somehow the consumption of the traditional mid-day feast is a dynamite of dietary panic. Your gallbladder will have to work overtime to metabolize all of that fat! In league with the booze and blood rushing to your tummy, this will make you sleepy! The drive home! The drive home! Heavens to Betsy, stay awake for the drive home!
A country with its own Food Network has the means to make turkey, cranberries, stuffing, sweet potatoes and even pies without the sacks of sugar and bushels of butter that would make them more unhealthy than wholesome. But the Thanksgiving advice narrative is not pragmatic, rather it focuses on hyper damage control centered on doing everything possible not to enjoy a carefree meal. Eat a filling breakfast; get in a workout; use a smaller plate, finish with a wedge of pineapple, it helps to metabolize all that presumptive fat!
The idea that preparing a turkey is beyond the ken of a typical person is an incomprehensible myth. Cooking a turkey is no harder than turning on an oven, removing the giblets, and putting the big bird in. The Perpetual Panic Critic makes this seem the equivalent of dissecting a frog using your weak hand. True, the result of this easiest and most obvious method will be dry, but that’s just the problem that The Food Network was made to remedy.
The transformation of Thanksgiving into Thankless Misgivings is most interesting when juxtaposed with McJesus Day (AKA X-Mas). The mall warfare and travel gauntlet preceding McJesus Day are as cortisol-oriented as the Thanksgiving feast. McJesus Day itself, however, is a placid eye in the Perpetual Panic Critic’s yearly hurricane of short breath and clenched fists. A true celebration.
The one McJesus Day I saw involved my ex-girlfriend’s family waking, unwrapping tchotches placed beneath a pagan symbol of prosperity, and then playing with their new booty for the rest of the day. Thanksgiving offers the distraction of Detroit Lions football, somnambulist parades, sit-com marathons, and domicile food preparation. Eventually though, the turkey thermometer pops and the clan comes to the table. The clan stays at the table. The clan chews and chats. All of them. Present. At the table. I posit that the bogus hysteria involving the Thanksgiving travel, meal preparation and consumption is a sublimation of the fact that many Americans despise their kin. Or their kin-laws. Because this is impolite to say in public and heretical for our society to admit to itself — especially for the fascism-lite “family values” stalwarts who have such a disproportionate sway on our polity — we hate on the turkey instead.
Our fowl loathing is a shame, because a properly brined turkey is succulent and replete with lean protein and selenium. Mashed potatoes offer fluffy goodness and plenty of potassium and B-vitamins if you keep the skins on. Sweet potatoes and pumpkins are long in fiber and micornutrients and longer in toothsome sweetness. Cranberries bring a refreshing zing along with their Vitamin C and Vitamin K. The pectin and folate in apples is still present in pie form. Even with a scoop of ice cream on top.
We’re all in it together on Turkey Day. We might as well allow the food resting in our stomach to bring smiles to our faces. Let it keep us relaxed and happy, all the way through the long drive home.