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Thanksgiving is a firmly established American Tradition. Along with the holiday season that follows, it has become strongly commercial in a professional sports sense and as a prequel to a spending cycle based on saving more by increased spending. Do you know anyone who has spent their way to prosperity? I don’t, but I know a few who got to bankruptcy proceedings that way, which I don’t believe left them feeling at all prosperous. Well anyway, that’s the way we do it, and whether or not I understand how it works, I watched in relative awe the number of cars streaming south from Canada on Thursday to be ahead in the line for big-box specials on what is called Black Friday, where black refers to positive rather than negative red numbers. Well anyway, it is not racist or religious, so we should be OK with it.
I saw the flow of southward cars because I was going opposite (more than apt for me) as a sort of “new” tradition because my former tradition of turkey and garlic mashed potato ending with pumpkin pie ran afoul of the usual bedevilment of human social activity: the other people involved. I forgive those who end a tradition by dying, the ultimate opt-out. But claiming a need for new tires as a travel excuse is akin to the use of a hangnail to duck out. Giving birth or undergoing chemotherapy are also acceptable excuses, but otherwise we should meet our social responsibilities as more important than attending a sale.
Anyway, I bucked the flowing tide of sale-crazed Canadians for a go at picking up a few cranberry pecan pies to give as holiday gifts. I did this for some years, but as you know, once a habit is dropped or lost it’s difficult to regain. But I tried. At the place I used to buy them, there was not a hint of such a thing, plus I had the delight of several workers looking at me like a deranged looney asking for something they had never heard of. This happens when you go into a store that may have changed affiliation, management, and ownership a half dozen times and has become something wholly different in the process.
No amount of persuasion or praising the virtues of cranberry pecan pie caused any of my worried listeners to hurry off and find one. They looked at me as if I made as much sense as a tyrannosaur asking for pink lizard meringue. I can fault workers today for very often not knowing or caring beyond a minimal window of performance, but part of me says I can’t blame them for not throwing heart and soul into a part-time job with as much hope of a future as finding a one-legged white-tailed buck with a dozen rack tines.
Now, I could have made the pies, but due to laziness, lack of ingredients, and poor planning, there was not time. And frankly, people are not awfully impressed when you tell them how good a thing would have been if you actually had it to give them. In the box of stuff from my mother’s kitchen there might be a recipe for this, but there’s a good chance there is not, because she did so much from memory and taste. My recipe would be this. Make or buy a pie or crumb crust. (In my case the crust would be scorched for a lovely smoky flavor because I rarely get oven settings right.) Instead of the full load of pecans in a normal pie, do a mix of nuts with dried cranberries. The clincher of the deal is to boil down maple syrup (this truly makes the pie heavenly) to replace the plain-old heavy corn syrup. That’s pretty much it, except for eating and then complaining afterward about how fattening it is. If concerned, an individual can try eating less and/or consoling themselves with assurances of all-natural ingredients. My standard there might be lighter than yours, because to me something like a banana is organic if it came off a tree. No pesticide would mean more bugs, would it not? Unless banana bugs are proven healthy, I don’t want any, but maybe it’s best to leave that line of reasoning for another time called never.
If you want the truth, it’s quite difficult to build a new tradition of driving to Canada to buy something no longer available and coming back empty except for some office paper and a small dash of insight. None of that sounds festive because it lacks the main ingredient of festivity. Um, you decide what that is, but I’d be pretty sure it is not giving others a recipe in place of a pie. The recipe will keep much longer and is far easier and less costly to give, but the effect is not generous or humanly warm.
Having spent a Thanksgiving divorced from former traditions, I took the tactic of trying to form a new tradition. As this requires human cooperation, I’m up against it from the start because I’m not all that cooperative myself and can’t blame others for bailing out, saying they need a root canal or have a divorce filing they must attend to. To figure out a new tradition, I looked to the past for clues. But good grief, what’s to be done with Mother’s tradition of insisting on a bird big enough to feed a bus load of refugees if they were stranded outside our house on Thanksgiving Day? Three weeks of leftover turkey is enough to strain any family to a chainsaw massacre. Even pets can take only so much of the stuff before revolt.
In quiet after a blank-page day, I realized that without turkey and sweet potato and pie and people, there was one fundamental thing I was and am thankful for. I am thankful for a nation that values freedom and diversity. But as Churchill warned, the new fascists will come as anti-fascists to destroy what they claim to defend.