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Turkey time

Posted: November 8, 2012 4:38 p.m.
Updated: November 9, 2012 5:00 a.m.

It’s hard to believe Thanksgiving is upon us once again and I’ll be the first to admit I’m elated. The fourth Thursday in November has always been my holiday of choice. Waiting to see if Santa has pleased all the good boys and girls under our roof weighs heavier on the stress-o-meter than does the debate on how dry my turkey is. Make no mistake, as the meaning of Christmas is at the absolute top. Thanksgiving tends to be, for me, a bit more calming in a loud, laughter-induced kind of way. Its focus is somewhat more streamlined -- gratitude, family and friends, football, and food. On this day, for most of us, there seems to be several essential objectives including those of giving thanks, eating tactless amount of food (i.e., 3,000 calories) and later enjoying the collegiate and national league games being served up. There is no doubt I will be in front of the customary Dallas Cowboy’s game Thanksgiving afternoon, a long-standing tradition of 44 years.

Traditions -- our inherited patterns of thought, action, and behavior. Thanksgiving Day is a time where many of our family traditions are celebrated, and quite honestly, I believe the day could potentially fall apart if some of these decade-long customs weren’t carried out. Strict rules apply here folks, and it’s not worth the agony to veer from their unyielding performance. Trust me. I speak from experience. There are many elements that if lined up correctly can turn our homes in to a scene from “Miracle on 34th Street” or inadvertently in to one from “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.”

Many of us would agree these Thanksgiving traditions are centered around the meal, more specifically around the food. What each guest brings and exactly how their dish is prepared can have enormous impact on the rest of the dinner. Really it can. Did my aunt prepare the stuffing according to the Berry family recipe? Did my brother bring canned cranberry sauce -- you know the dark red Jell-O-like congealed can of cranberries or did he bring the homemade cranberry sauce, the time-honored recipe from my grandmother? Who makes the best stuffing? Kathy or Robin? Not keeping with the celebrated family favorites could risk disownment. Well, maybe being banned from the tribe is a slight exaggeration but people travel hundreds of miles to enjoy this one meal so we better get it right. Some may see this excessive attention on the food ridiculous; others will spend days preparing for the feast and love every minute of it. Over the years, we all have stories of un-thawed turkeys, AWOL turkeys, undercooked turkeys, and charred turkeys. We have stories of recipes gone bad, ones that turned out good, and gratefully, ones that receive Aunt Katherine’s seal of approval. So many details to consider. I believe the gravy to be one of the most important factors in any credible Thanksgiving feast as good gravy can cure almost any turkey ill. It can make the driest of all Toms taste better. At the end of the meal, the execution of a classic like apple or pumpkin pie with a mound of sweet cream can serve as a peace offering after any cooking disaster. 

Thanksgiving is a day when families come together, often in large numbers. This can be stressful, or not depending on whose rules you follow -- the fun side of the family’s or the “other” side’s. Do you follow me? We can also learn from the following advice: when hosting, start serving drinks the minute your guests arrive, no matter the hour because remember, Thanksgiving is not a time to judge…. While many are gearing up for an enjoyable day, others are dreading those awkward family encounters -- the great aunt who has a little too much wine or the cousin who reveals a dark secret over dessert and coffee. Next comes the moment in the day where the overeaters meet the couch. Let the games begin. Many will go straight from the table to the TV and watch football until the bitter end. Others will brave the traditional family football game -- the event where middle-aged men pretend to be Heisman-bound in only a few plays. We’ll have the Uncle Joes lining up against the cousin Bills with a year’s worth of bragging rights. The game doesn’t always end pretty, but it will end and there will be a winner at least until next Thanksgiving. 

Whatever Thanksgiving Day brings for each of us -- the good, the bad, the sometimes ugly -- we can all agree that amongst the laughter and the tears, we are brought together and for that we can give thanks.

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