POSTED ON NOVEMBER 21, 2012:
Okie Thanksgiving: Food and Football
Mozzarella for one, a celebration of manhood for the otherGiving thanks with a little ItalyThanksgiving: A man's holiday
Thanksgiving is, of course, the opportunity to reflect on the how our lives are enriched and blessed by the people in our lives, and just the general goodness that we often overlook in our day-to-day lives. This age-old American tradition began long ago with the pilgrims and Native Americans sitting down and sharing an infamous meal -- or so we are told as children. But mushy sentiments and controversial (almost fraudulent) history aside, we all know what Thanksgiving is really about -- the FOOD! I see nothing wrong with valuing the food a bit more than seeing your annoying cousin or getting your cheeks pinched by your great-aunt. Food in so many ways really is family. That same great-aunt may make the best darn pumpkin pie in the universe and this is the one time of the year you get to have it. But where a pumpkin pie and turkey may be the norm for one family, it may be cannolis and raviolis in another.
My Thanksgiving is a snapshot of the Okie-Italian-American experience, with deep roots in the Krebs-McAlester area. Sure, we always have the obligatory turkey and pumpkin pie. But there are no carrots with ranch dip to snack on before the big feast -- no, no. Instead there is always a heaping antipasto platter with mozzarella, Munster and parmesan cheeses, hard salami, prosciutto and a delicious olive salad. And as the turkey arrives, it is also accompanied by a big plate of spaghetti and raviolis, covered with gravy -- not turkey gravy, mind you, but the decadent red sauce that my mamooch (Italian great-grandmother) simmered and stirred with loving care.
Another unique side dish that accompanied the meal at my great-grandmother's house was polk salad and scrambled eggs. The combination of these bitter greens (which she grew and picked herself in the backyard) embedded in a fluffy scrambled egg wasn't always a favorite of mine as a child. But now, I appreciate and crave that flavor, and not just because it's delicious. It's also a taste of nostalgia -- the smell of garlic bread, the sound of my vivacious family, and the feeling of belonging in this crazy little family of mine.
My papaw would always raise his glass of chianti and say, "la vita è bella!" He was right. Life really is beautiful. Cheers to you and yours, no matter how you celebrate.
Everybody loves Christmas. The caroling, the presents, goodwill towards your fellow man, jingle bells, Santa Claus, all that stuff. Yes, I get it. Theoretically, it's a joyous time of the year, but I'm a father with two teenagers who really like electronic gadgets, i.e. the expensive stuff, so excuse me if I do not have the same enthusiasm as I used to have when I was a kid. However, there is one holiday that is tailor-made for men. No, it's not the Fourth of July, even though that's a close second (it's the only day men get to blow stuff up). I'm talking about Thanksgiving!
The food alone makes Thanksgiving the best holiday ever. Smoked turkey, baked turkey, ham, dressing with giblet gravy and cranberry sauce, collard greens, hot rolls, mashed potatoes, sweet potato pie, banana pudding, cakes, lions and tigers and bears (oh my!). I'm getting hungry just thinking about it.
On top of that, Thanksgiving is the gift that keeps on giving for one reason -- leftovers. How is that not a selling point? You would be surprised how many delectable dishes you can come up with using turkey. It is also the one time of the year that my wife actually looks forward to doing some major cooking. Every year around this time, when I walk by the kitchen and I see her wipe the sweat from her forehead as she gently places a huge turkey in the oven, I fall in love with her all over again.
Then there's football. What's not to love about a holiday that gives you gargantuan amounts of food along with the NFL? Nothing, I say! Thanksgiving is the only time of year when you can eat like there is no tomorrow, lay back on the couch, unfasten your pants, watch football, and no one judges you. In fact, this behavior is encouraged.
I do not leave the house and I don't even get dressed up for Thanksgiving anymore. I throw on a t-shirt and some sweatpants and cheer for whatever team is playing the Dallas Cowboys. If any of my family or friends wants to visit, they are welcome to come by the house, fix a plate, and have a seat in front of the flat screen. If they decide not to come by, that's okay too. More food and more room on the couch for me.
Unlike Christmas, I don't have to worry about buying presents or receiving lame gifts from my relatives and pretending like I like them ("Oh, wow, socks ... again ... thanks.") Just for the record, once you get past the age of 18, the quality of your Christmas gifts are dramatically decreased.
Thanksgiving is the holiday where you don't show your family appreciation by how much money you spend, but on how much time you spend with them. Okay, so there are no Thanksgiving songs. So what! Christmas has become too commercialized anyway. Thanksgiving keeps it real! It's all about family, friends, food, and football. It doesn't get any better than that.
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