Dec 1, 2009

American Thanksgiving Postscript

I had big plans about writing this post last Thursday. Actually on American Thanksgiving. Or at the very least, the day after. And here it is, not only five days after the holiday that inspired this post, but also a brand new month. Ah well, we all know what happens to best laid plans. So it's no wonder this mediocre plan fell by the wayside.


But I digress. Thanksgiving. In America. This is today's topic.


Here I go.


I've had the pleasure of celebrating American Thanksgiving in America twice in my life. The first time was in 1998. I was 18 years old, driving aimlessly around in my '83 Honda Civic station wagon. When I arrived in Massachusetts a very kindly, at the time unknown, relative took me in. She fed me, gave me a bed, and took me along to a massive Thanksgiving dinner. 


Thanksgiving? I said. But that was last month! 
That's when Canadian's celebrate it? was the reply. How quaint. But real thanksgiving is in November.


Twelve years later (and five days ago) I found myself in a similar situation. Down in California, staying with a family friend, and hey, what do you know! It's Thanksgiving! Once again my too-kind keeper was obligated to drag me to their holiday tradition. Oops!


These events, separated by over a decade and 3,000 miles, were surprisingly similar. Okay, so at one the conversation involved a law about what way dog houses legally had to face because if they didn't the multiple winter storms would fill the house with snow and kill the dog, and at the other it was 26 degrees Celsius and people were wearing shorts and flip flops. But other than the extreme weather differences, similar. Both involved dozens of people I didn't know. Both served a feast I couldn't fathom cooking. Multiple animal carcasses, trays of baked yams, mountains of stuffing and mashed potatoes. Cases of wine. More dessert than I could shake a drum stick at. Both had very kindly hosts that didn't bat an eye at a homeless Canadian crashing their family dinner.


Both served green bean casserole.


Have you ever had this? It is the weirdest concoction ever. You take green beans, mix with a can of cream-of-something, add a can of deep fried onions, smother with cheese, and bake. I didn't even know you could buy cans of deep fried onions. 


How was this dish invented? I bet the Vice President of recipes at Kraft went to it's chefs and said Get me a new recipe to put on the back of our creamy chicken soup by morning, or you're all fired! They were up all night, alternating shots of espresso and shots of whiskey. They passed out, and when the VP woke them the next morning the meeting went something like this.


VP: Well, what do you have for me?
Chef 1: Um...
Chef 2: We made a..
Chef 1: (Starts choking on a little espresso/whiskey backwash)
VP: Did he say casserole?
Chef 2: No.
VP: Damn! I love casseroles.
Chef 2: Yes! It's a casserole.
VP: Great! What's in it?
Chef 1: Um...
VP: Soup, of course.
Chef 2: Of course. And...
Chef 1: Beans!
Chef 2: Soup and beans! Yes, and...
VP: Cheese? I love cheese. There better be cheese, or your fired!
Chef 1 & 2: Cheese!
Chef 1: And, um...
VP: Yes?
Chef 1: Onions?
VP: Onions?
Chef 1: Yes?
VP: Those deep fried ones that come in a can?
Chef 1: Sure. Why not.
VP: It's brilliant! I'm sending it to our label makers right away!


And thus an American tradition was born. 


And then there is Black Friday. How great is this? A name like that you'd expect it to be commemorating some horrible historic event. The day the plague was unleashed in a biological warfare attack. Or something to do with the stock market crashing. 


But no, to Americans, this is a good day. A great day. The day after Thanksgiving. The ultimate day of sales. The kick off to a month of holiday shopping. On Black Friday stores open at 4am. People fight over bargains. This year a Walmart had to kick everyone out to avoid a riot. And this may be an urban myth, but I heard someone actually died last year trying to be one of the early birds to get a super extra awesome sale on something or other. Died shopping. That's hardcore!


No one admits to shopping on Black Friday. But everyone does it. You can see the guilt and extasy in their eyes when you bring it up. No, I'll be um...with my kids....


The day after Thanksgiving is also the busiest day for American plumbers. Who knew?

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