Show me someone who doesn’t love Thanksgiving and I’ll show you a sad, skinny, salad-eating scallywag who’s no fun to be around and, worse, probably ran in the 5k turkey trot. Who needs that kind of joyless happening on such a cheery day? Thanksgiving is about eating what we love. Take me for example, I love vegetables and on this blessed holiday, I eat my fill; carrot cake, zucchini bread and pumpkin pie. Bring it!
The initial Thanksgiving was 1621, and while the Pilgrims’ first autumn harvest celebration might have been plentiful, I doubt it was truly mouthwatering. I mean, did they have sugar, the substance of all things hoped for? They probably had mostly corn, onions, carrots and peas. I’m not bashing those nutritious edibles, but who’s ever said, “I can’t wait to go to mom’s, she can really lay out a sumptuous spread of vegetables.” No, Thanksgiving is about calories, carbohydrates and maybe a smidge of protein. It’s been said the Pilgrims roasted deer, geese and ducks. I fix a turkey because I couldn’t be content without dark meat drenched in gravy. Not all folks’ thighs can find a place for extra chub. I’m so lucky.
In 1789, President George Washington “proclaimed” a Thanksgiving holiday for Nov. 26. Then in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln announced that the nation would celebrate “officially” on this date. Apparently, Washington was just foolin’ around, Lincon made it real. He’d probably had a taste of salted caramel apple pie and stated emphatically, “That’s it, Mary, we are making this every year, and when I say, ‘we,’ I mean you.”
Roosevelt moved the holiday one week earlier, believing it would bolster Christmas shopping. We don’t know if it did, but we do know the morning after Thanksgiving, we wake up shocked, just shocked, that Christmas is right around the corner. Retailers endure Thursday, to get to the blessed, cash-crammed, Black Friday, arriving with hordes of people acting out the wild, wild West.
Food is really important to me no matter the day, but there are a few dishes that totally set my heart aflutter, like pie. I feel pie says, “Be happy,” but there are people whose favorite grub isn’t pie, which is a little hard to take. I never felt I was a picky eater until I saw what some presidents put down their throats. Instead of calling them dunderheads, we’ll politely say, “Their basket of apples had tipped.”
President James Madison loved ice cream, but not just any ice cream, he loved his wife, Dolley’s, oyster ice cream. God in heaven. Pretty sure, I’d rather lick strychnine.
Benjamin Harrison’s favorite meal was terrapin. It was a dish only the elite had the opportunity to enjoy, and he had it served as the main course for festive dinners. To the rest of us non-upper crusts, it’s turtle soup, and not being choosy, I’d probably like it, but a feast bestie? If it doesn’t contain caramel, it’d hold no magic for me.
James Polk could have been a friend of mine since he liked pie, but he always asked for vinegar pie. Vinegar pie? That would be concocted by closing your eyes, reaching into the pantry while saying, “I’m gonna make a treat with the first thing I touch.” As long as there’s brown sugar involved, I could probably get it down my throat.
Andrew Jackson loved Blancmange, a French, gelatinous dessert, thickened with cornstarch and milk. I’m sorry to tell you, but I can’t eat lime Jell-O with carrots, so anything with the adjective “gelatinous” tends to give me the shivers.
Chester Arthur, the 21st president, succeeding James Garfield after his death, liked muttonchops. Yes, real honest to goodness mutton. I’d forgotten President Authur, and now I know why I’d dismissed him. If you’ve ever had mutton, you’ll never be ok again. If not ingested at surface-of-the-sun sizzling, it sticks to the roof of your mouth and only a crowbar tied to an ax handle, can tear it loose. It also has an odor that will stay in a breathing orifice until, I don’t know, maybe you eat some vinegar pie. Lamb-yes, mutton-not for all the sheep I can count.
Not all the presidents’ had bad taste in culinary fare. James Buchanan, 1857-1861, loved butter so much he’d eat it right out of a 3-quart brass kettle. Be still my wildly beating heart. I’d have birthed his babies in another life. My kids would say, “You could’ve, you were the same age.”
Trena Eiden [email protected]