I toast considerations for stemming the tide of man-made climate change and of slowing the melting of ice caps; I offer up a "Whoop-whoop!" to the victories over drought, wildfires and endangered species, and relish in the warm new green-alternative menu being served up in Washington. I'm thankful for the oncoming cornucopia of change. But for some dumb reason, while I'm a thankful person and feel wickedly blessed -- I'm just not crazy about Thanksgiving. It's just too much work for so little payback. It's a holiday with its own personal, familial carbon footprint (which, in fact, it is- but that's for another column).
A dazzling massive feast worked for the early colonists of Plymouth... conceivably that's why they did it in the first place. The Pilgrims had set sail on a tiny vessel called the Mayflower, seeking independence from religious persecution by the British. With a payload of necessities packed into the belly of a primitive craft, they set off on a pilgrimage to begin afresh in new unknown land. (To be sure, their trans-Atlantic voyage was riddled with infirmity, malnourishment, icky weather, sea-sickness, and a great deal fewer hospitality soaps and complimentary shoe-shine kits than the QE II!)
As school textbooks tell us, in 1621, the Pilgrims' first shindig was in celebration of the gorgeous changing colors of the fall season, their appreciation for the bounty they had harvested, a gratefulness for having survived the unforgiving nature of nature in the American North East and an indebtedness to the Native Americans who -- no doubt - helped them survive (while in return, the colonists introduced them to sexually transmitted illnesses and exposed them to unknown and deadly viruses! Information conveniently omitted from those textbooks).
With a presentation of old world chow in a precious new world -- paired with entertainment and worship -- the Pilgrims gave thanks to and with their local Native tribesmen. Thus was born an American tradition.
Traditions and memory play magical roles in how families celebrate holidays, Thanksgiving notwithstanding. And somehow, each year, household upon household thinks it has to look like the lovechild of Norman Rockwell and Martha Stewart to be a success. Good guess those earliest of feasts weren't nearly as fancy as our current versions. Today, many folks reserve the "good stuff" for company at holiday time. Once a year we haul out the heirloom silver, china and crystal (No, no, no...'goblets' aren't baby turkeys!), and the linens that great aunt So-and-So embroidered.
If your family is anything like mine, then you know how much work preparing all these rarely used treasures can be: polishing tarnished silverware; unwrapping, cleaning, rinsing and drying the "heirloom" set of Royal Doulton with the hand-painted periwinkles; soaking the crystal glassware; laundering and ironing those stupid fussy linens, etc. Like most hosts, you'll pull out all your finery and do whatever you need to do to make it all shiny and picture-perfect.
Often recruited to help with these tedious chores, your offspring, parents and siblings might not always appreciate all the effort. But your "adopted extended family" of guests are sure to be impressed--and they're who really matter, right? So sign up the kids to help, pray that they don't break or chip anything, and do whatever else is needed to prepare the table while also trying to prepare that blasted bird without over or under-cooking it.
In my opinion, at Thanksgiving, the only thing worse than a dry turkey is a dry turkey presented on a tarnished silver turkey platter. However, if it's your culinary skills that could use improvement you'll need to get good cooking advice elsewhere. From me, you'll get eco-recommendations on how get that platter clean and shiny as new. So if your bird is burnt, at least it'll get carried out of the kitchen on a sparkly and polished tray. To make this happen, all you'll need is a box of baking soda and some aluminum foil and any silver you want to come clean.
Line your kitchen sink or a large wash bucket with the heaviest aluminum foil you can find. Load up the silver you intended to hand polish, making certain that each item touches the foil liner. Cover the entire contents with boiling water and simply add a cup of baking soda. Even if the only baking soda you have on hand is that box that's been lurking in the back of the fridge for the past five years, it doesn't matter - the stuff still works for this magical chore. The tarnish literally jumps from the silver to the foil in almost no time at all! For heavily tarnished spots left behind, simply make a paste of water and baking soda and gently polish the remaining surfaces 'til they shine. It's a completely safe chemical reaction that won't damage your precious silver heirlooms or foul the waterways the way harsh, toxic commercial polishes might.
As the Psalmist said,"...Come unto his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise." Now I'm pretty certain that they weren't speaking about the food court at the mall - though how thankful I would be if they were - that's where I'd rather be this Thanksgiving - eating hot dogs, french fries and sticky buns. Yum!