Our annual celebration of gluttony is upon us, as Americans give thanks for divine provenance placing us in a land flowing with milk, honey and Waffle Houses. As celebrations go, it is a bit mean flaunting our excess of food in front of the starving countries of the world where they might not be able to rustle up 10 different types of pie for dessert, but it is our time to shine.
Ask most Americans what their favorite holiday is and Thanksgiving is likely to hold the top spot. That’s particularly true in this part of the country where large family get-togethers are widely enjoyed — at least until Uncle Jimmy gets too drunk and stabs his youngest daughter’s baby-daddy with a broken beer bottle.
Thanksgiving is easily my favorite holiday of the year. For someone like me with no truly “functional” cooking skills, Thanksgiving comes with few responsibilities. Nobody’s going to expect me to cook a turkey — that would be ludicrous. And if I were on the hook for the bird I’d buy one for sure.
Same for any other side I might be asked to bring. That’s why Winn-Dixie has a deli.
The other great thing about Thanksgiving, as, say, compared to Christmas, is there’s no gift pressure or three months of lead-up commercials that make you homicidal. There’s no annual reminder of those lame reversible pants you bought her five years ago. There are no made-up characters you must convince children exist and then later explain how they don’t and watch the look of trust die in their little eyes. There’s no Turkey sneaking through the mail slot, or the ghost of Squanto leaving good children golden corn niblets in their pillowcases. No, it’s really all about the eating.
On top of all of that, there’s football. I’m a Cowboys fan, so my team always plays on Turkey Day. Now they’ve managed to smash in even more football into Thanksgiving Thursday, so it’s more or less a full day of stuffing your face in front of the tube watching sports and drinking. How bad can it be?
Over the years my family has pretty much just allowed Thanksgiving to be handled by the grandparents, meaning I’ve never had to deal with the pressure and work that goes into planning and preparing a Thanksgiving feast. They deserve a golfers’ clap for the hours of work that go into creating vast piles of leftovers.
While I know nothing of the pressure that goes into really creating a great Thanksgiving meal, I do know what it’s like having everyone depending on me to make Turkey Day magic. You see there was this one time … long ago.
My senior year in college my brother Matt and I found some excuse not to make the trek to Jacksonville, Fla. to my mother’s parents’ home. As we were both at Spring Hill and along the way, and my mother isn’t the type who would let two of her idiot sons eat Hardee’s for Thanksgiving, she dropped off an entire feast as they headed through town.
All I needed to do was heat it up. Pretty simple, right?
I lived off campus most of my time at SHC because of some small misunderstandings about what was deemed acceptable behavior in the dorms, particularly in the area of filling 50-gallon garbage cans with water. So I had a house I shared with two friends with similar misunderstandings. But as SHC did not have many students living in this circumstance, our house was frequented by students looking to do things such as drink beer out of kegs. Because we were kindly young men we let them, but the result was the house was not particularly clean.
In fact we’d all but given up on using the kitchen after one of my roommates, who knew very little about food preservation, decided to thaw out a very large bag of raw chicken on top of the stove, allowing juice to drip throughout. Subsequently the stove smelled awful and hadn’t been used much.
But I had the Thanksgiving dinner to prepare, so I waded in and started washing dishes and cleaning chicken juice out of the stove. Soon enough the kitchen was what passed for spotless at that time in my life.
My two roomies had gone home for the holidays, so Matt and I invited several other friends who would otherwise have been eating Hardee’s. While they all laid around our living room drinking beer and watching football, I was cranking up the oven and getting the meal heated up.
Like I said, the oven and stove had rarely been used, and never all four burners and the oven at once. She was really putting off some heat about the time everything started getting about to luke warm. That’s when I noticed the first one.
In the left-hand corner of the stove was a plastic clock that probably hadn’t worked in 20 years. Suddenly I saw something move inside the clock. It was a small black bug cutting figure eights across the face of the clock. In an instant he had about 10 friends. They were small cockroaches.
DISCLAIMER: If you are reading this at the Thanksgiving table or while eating leftovers, please put this article down and finish it later. (OK, the lawyers are happy.)
I figured there wasn’t much to worry about since the roaches were trying to get away from the heat, but still it wasn’t very appetizing. The number of roaches was multiplying by the second and becoming pretty noticeable. I also realized around this time that there was a small corner of the plastic cover cracked and missing — more than large enough for a roach to escape. And that’s just what they began to do once it looked like there were 1,000 in the clock.
I threw a dish-towel over the clock to hide the roach exodus as my guests wandered back and forth to get beer or snacks. At one point I started to shoot a bit of bug spray into the clock but figured it might make the green been casserole taste funny. By the time the clock emptied out, dinner was ready. I was reasonably sure no roaches had touched the food, and everyone was starved, so I served the feast without comment.
Everyone told me it was delicious. I took their word for it.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!