Gobble Gobble

Contrary to what your favorite retailer would have you believe, Thanksgiving is not merely the starting pistol for the holiday shopping season. It’s a wonderful holiday that’s proven itself so difficult to commercialize into obnoxiousness that all non-grocery stores just skip it altogether and go strait into Christmas right after Labor Day.

Thanksgiving has long been my favorite holiday. When I was growing up, it was always spent at my grandparent’s house in rural North Carolina where I happily spent so much of my childhood. My brother, cousins, and I would spend most of the day throwing a football around in the yard or riding bikes or running around in the woods until supper was ready.

We all knew the meal was ready when my grandmother would holler out of the kitchen, “Alright, wash yer hands and get the snuff out chur mouth. It’s time to eat” I don’t know if anyone in the family had chewed snuff since her mother passed away or not, but she said it at every holiday meal strictly out of tradition. And I still miss it every year.

My grandmother and aunts would work together to put together what I guess is the classic southern thanksgiving fare: turkey, ham, stuffing, butter beans, corn, collard greens, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, yams (almost all of which had been harvested from their own gardens) and if you were willing to wait for it, my grandmother would invariably forget about the biscuits until that perfect smell of burning reminded us all that they were still in the oven.

I won’t even get into the massive amount of desserts weighing down that poor antique buffet in the dining room. But I will say that I still think “mincemeat pie” just sounds gross. And no amount of southern or country living will ever get me to like salt cured ham. Eck!

I’m guessing my family isn’t the only one where the kids ate too fast and the adults seemed to have no time to eat over the desire to visit together and share stories from the past, often the same stories they told last year, and a few they’ll tell again a month later when we do it all again at Christmas.

After everyone had eaten their fill plus one more piece of pecan pie, the men would slowly herd into the living room and one by one fall asleep in front of the football game on television. I think Dallas still plays every Thanksgiving day. They always gave my Redskins fan of a grandfather someone to root against.

While the men slept off lunch in order to find the energy they’d need to eat again later, my grandmother, her sisters, cousin, and occasionally her brother would all stay at the dining room table for hours catching up with each other while my great aunts filled the air with smoke and the ashtrays with smashed and bent cigarette butts. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen siblings closer to each other than they were. They spoke to each other either in person or on the phone all of the time, but never ran out of things to talk about. And if that threat ever presented itself, there were always the family stories to retell. I loved sitting in on those sessions. It’s a shame that I don’t remember more of the stories.

These days, we gather at my cousin’s house, still in rural North Carolina and enjoy much of the same delights. There are no more cigarettes at the table. Some of the stories are different as the story tellers have also changed. And for some reason football is too often replaced by an all day marathon of some tool or gadget show on television. But it doesn’t matter. I can sleep through anything. And the fun of family is the same.

Yep, Thanksgiving is it. A lot of people prefer Christmas. But Christmas is really just Thanksgiving with the added stress and hassle of shopping. It is most of the same people with much of the same food and a lot of the same stories, games, and laughing, but with more stuff to pack into the cars and less money left in the bank. No thank you.

Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not trying to hate on Christmas. The lights are nice and I enjoy seeing everyone, but Christmas can’t hold a peppermint stick to Thanksgiving.

I’ve noticed that a lot of people on social networking sites have been spending November sharing a daily expression of what they are thankful for. I’ve also noticed that after about 10 or 12 days, fewer and fewer people are keeping up with it. That is totally understandable. After family, friends, good health, maybe your faith, and a few select creature comforts, it’s hard not to slip into more trivial things just to maintain the daily posts. “I’m thankful I was able to sleep in this morning.” Awesome. Thanks for sharing.

What am I thankful for? I’m thankful for a lot of things; my family, my friends, my health, my home, my memories. I’m thankful that this diffilcult year is almost over and will soon be gone forever. But most of all, I’m thankful for the fact that even though betting on hope has almost never paid off, I still have some. And today, I hope all of you have a Happy Thanksgiving this week.

Do it for me. It’s MY favorite holiday.

Don’t eat too much though. You don’t want to be too sluggish to head out late-night and trample a stranger for a good deal on that gadget/toy/whatever that no one really needs. Happy Holidays.

OH SHIT! IT’S TIME TO EAT! (c’mon, it is almost the holiday season after all)

Today is the thanksgiving potluck lunch at work. It’s the usual. There is a sign-up sheet of what people are going to bring. Those less comfortable in the kitchen race to claim paper plates, utensils, sodas, cups, or anything else that can be quickly purchased and requires no cooking. Then there are the people with their favorite recipes for pasta salad, chili, green bean casserole, and other delights guarantying that there will be the proper over-abundance of food.

And like all holiday meals, there will be no shortage of sweets represented. We do love sugar around the office.

What Thanksgiving dish am I bringing? Quinoa and Black Beans. Hey, what were they expecting from the guy that’s been bringing a mixed green salad for lunch every day for the last seven years? Buffalo chicken dip?

I was admittedly not a fan of Quinoa the first time I tried it. I believe “textured air” was my initial response to what I thought was a very light and flavorless food. But I was converted as I was repeatedly shown just what a great vehicle it is for so many flavors ranging from citrusy vinaigrette dressings to simple herb combinations, or just sautéed vegetables. And it’s a high protein, high fiber super-food. I was slow to get it. But like everything else, even though I’m slow, I do eventually get there. This was my first time actually cooking it.

I started by doubling this recipe (click), but with the following changes: I added two diced red bell peppers to the onion/garlic sauté. I rinsed the quinoa before using it to reduce any bitterness. I used about half as much black beans and cayenne pepper (though if I was making this for myself, I probably would’ve added pureed chipotle pepper). And I added two cans of fire roasted tomatoes at the end with the beans and cilantro, but drained them at the beginning and used that juice together with broth to make up the liquid required to cook the quinoa. Oh, and I mixed in the juice of two limes at the very end as well.

I think it turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself. And if it’s not a huge hit at work, I’ve got a ripe avocado and crushed red pepper flakes just waiting to be stirred into the leftovers.

Happy Thanksgiving.