Thanks a Lot Or Happy Bird Day

06:02 November 03, 2014
By: Phil LaMancusa

The consensus is that I eat one meal a day. That meal starts when I wake up and continues until I brush my teeth with bacon-flavored toothpaste before retiring; I’m joking about the toothpaste (creative license and all that), but you get the picture. My mother swore that my first word was related to food and that word was “MORE!” My daughter says that I’ve a hunger of the soul. I say, “If eating was a crime, I would have to plead insanity; I’m crazy about food!”

Perhaps that’s what led me to the food service industry and also perhaps why it was so easy to leave my last job when they stipulated that I’d have to work on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Christmas you can have, but what sort of Philistine would make a body leave hearth and home to feed a bunch of unfamiliar people dinner on Thanksgiving? People should have homes of their own and ought be there! I could see if you’re homeless—and I’m all for putting in some hours feeding those less fortunate—but to consciously venture forth for Thanksgiving dinner instead of cooking and eating at home? That’s just so wrong on so many levels. Besides, if you don’t want to go the distance, you can always find a potluck in your hood or local pub or fellow workers’ houses (you know, the time-honored “orphan’s Thanksgiving” meal?). 

I was Executive Chef of a large, urban hotel at one point in my career, and not only had to work on holidays, but also had to ride herd on an all-you-can-eat, fixed-price Thanksgiving buffet for 1,200 to 1,500 people who ate like locusts…starving locusts. The buffet table was literally 125 feet long and food was put out on its entirety and replenished from 11 in the morning until 9 in the evening. Talk about appetites. The people who come to Thanksgiving buffets are no less than professional eaters, and I got to know and hate most of them.

I no longer work on Thanksgiving. I stay at home and cook for me and mine (all two of us). 

And…guess what? It’s a tradition of ours not to eat turkey on Thanksgiving; it’s our way of not taking part in the wholesale slaughter of a species for economic masturbation. I’m not casting aspersions on the millions of households that gleefully take part in this mass carnage; I just wait until Old Tom is unsuspecting before my personal assassination occurs. It also helps that Girlfriend is vegetarian.

So I cook. Sweet potatoes with maple syrup, creamy mashed potatoes, sage dressing, mushroom gravy, roasted parsnips, turnips, rutabagas, baked acorn squash with sweet butter, baked apples with cinnamon, oven-browned Brussels sprouts, gingered carrots and buttered green beans. Dinner rolls, sweet tea and a pie or cobbler for dessert. Girlfriend makes baked cheesy asparagus, homemade ice cream, opens the cranberry sauce, sets the table, lights the candles and graces me with her presence (we compete for cleaning and putting up leftovers). We generally eat around 2 and again around 6:30 (somewhere in between there’s snacking, a nap or a walk). 

About the cranberry sauce. Let it be known that I have made cranberry sauce from scratch, cranberry relish, cranberry chutney and cranberry compote; however, when it comes to our table nobody, but nobody, does it better than Ocean Spray. We buy a can of the whole berry and a can of the jellied. Nothing compares to when you open the can and carefully slide that sucker out whole with those rings and everything. Slice it and watch those ruby waves fall like silken dominos (you know what I mean!). 

Quite naturally, we know what this holiday is all about and we do pause and reflect, not only on our great good fortune that fate has let us live and prosper for another year, but also on dear friends and family who, for one reason or another, cannot be with us. Mostly because we didn’t invite them. Or because they’ve moved too far away, bought the farm, are in jail or got a better offer elsewhere. Whatever; it’s fine with—and more food for—us. We’re the type of couple that would rather be in each other’s company than elsewhere; just ask our therapist. 

I’m happy to note that one positive thing we learned in counseling is that we’re two very different people who just happen to enjoy each other’s company more than anyone else’s. No slight intended. 

Hope you have someone that you can say the same about on this Happy Thanksgiving! 

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