Real Cooking

I predict that, soon and very soon, a cry will ring out throughout this land. America will find its voice and the inner turmoil that has been rumbling in the guts of the people will be finally unleashed in one huge, collective groan.

Americans from California to North Carolina will have had enough. They’ll finally just be fed up.

And the pronouncement of the people won’t contain words like “Bush” or “Gore” or “Florida.” There will be no mention of chads, either pregnant or hanging. No, the people-pushing back from the Thanksgiving table-will be lamenting: “Ohhh, I ate too much.”

Should happen about two o’clock (Central Time Zone) on Thursday afternoon.

I doubt if CNN or MSNBC will cover the story.

Throughout history and around the world, there have been celebrations of harvest and thanksgiving. The ancient Egyptian, Chinese and Hebrew people all celebrated by resting from their labor, feasting and thanking their respective deities for another year’s blessings of daily sustenance. It’s nothing new, this idea of giving thanks…and doing so with one’s mouth full.

Yet, we Americans seem to think we have the market on what we call, with a capital letter, Thanksgiving.

Since 1863, when Abraham Lincoln made the holiday official, people all over this great land have been celebrating the end of the harvest season with a table laden with food and humble prayers of gratitude.

I can only imagine what the prayers of those who were celebrating the first “official” Thanksgiving might have contained.

Entreaties to God asking for healing in a nation scourged by war?

Petitions to the Great Healer for the recuperation of a son, brother or father felled by gangrenous wounds or killer dysentery?

Appeals to the One who said, “love your neighbor as yourself” begging for the abolishment of slavery?

Makes our little situation in Florida look somewhat more manageable. The country, although seemingly politically divided, won’t be torn asunder. Life will continue and turkey will be eaten.

And not just turkey, oh no. For what is Thanksgiving without all those yummy side dishes and desserts that we Americans traditionally consume along with the holiday bird?

Who can resist creamy mashed potatoes swimming in gravy or golden yams with their brown crusty marshmallow topping?

Rich stuffings made from a secret family recipe and cranberry salad tart with apples or sweet with cream will grace many a table come Thursday.

And pie…glorious pie. Who can say no?

We revel in the gluttony. The nation, as a whole, approves-even applauds-this traditional day of pigging out. It’s a reminder of what we have, the abundance that this country enjoys.

With our bellies full and our eyelids drooping in sleepy contentment, most of us will count our blessings and be thankful.

But let it not go unnoticed that for some this holiday might mean something altogether different from the traditional view of turkey, family gatherings and Plymouth Rock.

For in this land of wealth, are those who will go to bed hungry tonight.

In this land that celebrates family, there will be at least one table with an empty seat, vacated by a dear father who recently passed into Glory.

And in this land that lives by the standard that every person is valuable, on Thanksgiving Day, the Native People of America will observe the National Day of Mourning.

The day places an emphasis on the respect that existed between the Wampanoag People and the Pilgrims of Plymouth and how over the following years that peace was destroyed by the subsequent violence and discrimination suffered by Native People across America.

Last year, on Thanksgiving Day, my family and I were in London. As it happened, our final stop that day was a visit to Harrods Department Store, where I trotted the kids through the stores famed Food Hall.

And there, between the steak and kidney pies and the legs of lamb, were turkeys dressed for Thanksgiving. Nearby stood a table laden with cranberries and pumpkin pies; food for the expatriots living among the Brits.

When we finished shopping, we caught the subway at rush hour. As we rode, pressed together with what seemed half of London, the woman next to me, recognizing my American accent asked where we were from. She and her husband were from Massachusetts originally but were now living in England for the next few years.

We had a good talk as we rode from Knightsbridge to Piccadilly. I told her I was surprised to see the Thanksgiving display at Harrods and she told me that even her local Safeway was featuring everything for a traditional American Thanksgiving meal.

“The world is getting smaller,” I said.

“We’re having a bunch of friends over on Saturday for dinner-turkey and everything. Our English friends help us celebrate Thanksgiving and we help them celebrate Boxing Day. We learn from each other. It’s great.”

Her station came up and as she stepped from the train she squeezed my arm and said, “Happy Thanksgiving”.

And a Happy Thanksgiving to you.

* * *

I often use this recipe at this time of the year when pumpkin is so popular. It comes from the Hillsboro Mennonite Brethren Church’s Feast of Goodness cookbook, submitted by Paula Jost.

Pumpkin Pie Cake

4 eggs

1 (29 oz.) can pumpkin

1 (12 oz. can evaporated milk

11/2 cup sugar

2 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. ginger

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1 yellow cake mix

1 cup butter, melted

1 cup chopped pecans

Mix all the ingredients except the cake mix, butter and nuts. Pour into a 9×13-inch pan. Sprinkle with cake mix and nuts and then drizzle melted butter over top. Bake at 350 for one hour (no longer). Refrigerate. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

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