The Public Eye

printed 11/29/2019

Those of us who are still upright after Thursday's avalanche of food will be delighted to know that, in terms of fat and caloric intake, Thanksgiving dinner is like eating 16 slices of pepperoni pizza. This is according to busybody nutritionists with pasty complexions, courtesy of a diet based on "101 Recipes for Clear Broth."

What they don't understand is that Thanksgiving is when you eat things that ordinarily would never enter your mind or occur to any normal household cook were it not for this special occasion.

How many people, for instance, come home from a hard day at work and say, "Gee, I could really go for something topped with those little marshmallows?"

That isn't likely, which brings us to the point: how did these Thanksgiving eating traditions come to be?

It's difficult to believe that when the Pilgrims were about to sit down for that first feast that their Native American buddies wandered into camp and said, "Behold, starchy white friends with funny hats who will one day send us packing, the great Indian spirit Mr. Puffy has blessed us with a bountiful harvest of marshmallows."

Just as unlikely is that one of those lucky Pilgrims immediately thought, "Wow, when we invent green Jell-O to go along with that, were going to have one heck of a tradition."

Somehow, though, green Jell-O and marshmallows (with slivers of carrot for color) have found their way onto the holiday menu, at least among my relatives, who are known for whipping up stuff so difficult to identify that we always have a card next to the centerpiece that says, "Floral Arrangement. Don't Eat!"

Like casseroles, for instance, which are the duck blinds of cookery. They hide whatever's in them so you unsuspectingly swoop in without knowing exactly what you're in for: "Great pineapple casserole . . . Whoa! Is that an oyster?"

But you eat it anyway, because it's Thanksgiving and it's your job to eat everything so you won't hurt anyone's feelings by saying things such as, "Sooooooo, do you still have a cat or what?"

It was the same back in the Pilgrims' day. We can only imagine what would have happened if on receipt of the bounty of the Indian spirit Mr. Puffy that the Pilgrims reciprocated by saying, "Here you go, boys, this comes from one of our great spirits, The Green Giant. We call it string bean casserole."

They try it and say, "Ugh," and the trouble starts. So, had everyone not been polite and gladly eaten both the Indians' marshmallow surprise and the Pilgrims' string bean ala Campbell’s mushroom soup, we would all be sitting in England on the fourth Thursday of November eating boiled beef and watching rugby on the telly.

We should be thankful for that. But more importantly, we should be grateful that this initial celebration was not attacked by the marauding nutritionists of the time.

"Gravy?" they would say. "You don't need no stinking gravy." The rest, as they say, would be history.

Reprinted from 2014, thankfully.

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