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The pie is in the oven, and after three and one half exhausting hours of toil in the kitchen, I’m ready for the final push tomorrow. So I thought I’d stop and tell you all about the importance of doing this puppy up right.

For you see, there are basics to this holiday that need to be adhered to if one wishes to claim that one has “cooked” a Thanksgiving extravaganza. Fail here, and you are a lightweight at best, and a total fraud at worst. But then, your family may be willing to accept that from you.

First, lets attend to the menu. Now, for sure, menus vary across the land, north south, east and west. We don’t know what to think of those weird places Alaska and Hawaii, I don’t know if they even know about Thanksgiving yet.

That said, there are certain requirements. Turkey is essential. As is mashed taters and gravy. Dressing is required, squash or sweet potatoes and of course cranberry sauce. There are two possible pies that must be made, pumpkin and/or mince. Beyond that, the sky is the limit. Feel free to add anything that is considered “traditional” in your family.

Just for starters, for years, Thanksgiving wasn’t well, itself without green peas. Don’t ask me why, but it wasn’t. Now I would consider it a failure should I not have caramelized pearl onions on the menu. (I said I was eclectic way back at the beginning of this blog so don’t be surprised.) You no doubt have your own “essential” such as green bean casserole, or jello salad.

This is a particularly forgiving (HA,HA) holiday. Dressing can be made in myriad forms. In the South they use cornbread, in the North, white bread. In the gulf region oysters are common. I do a weird one that is sorta Italian, having mozzarella cheese, pine nuts, and Italian sausage in it. It is to die for. People do all sorts of things with sweet potatoes or squash. They are baked as is, roasted in rings, pureed, nutted, marshmallowed, just about anything goes. So you see, you have plenty of room to improvise and to stand out in your family.

Now to the cooking. This is what separates the boys from the girls, the amateurs from the pros as it were. Now if you are the type that hates to cook, and has been unable to secure any invitation anywhere for you and your band of badly tempered and behaved kiddos; if your hubby refuses to get out of his sweats even for company, well then maybe you have to attempt the meal on your own. There are means of “cooking” and I do use that term loosely, without much effort. Read fake meal.

First you start with a turkey breast rather than the whole bird. Follow the freakin’ directions and be prepared for a boring piece of dry meat. And of course, the kids should not expect to fight over the leg since there won’t be one. Now, potatoes. Opt for the boxed fake mashed ones that you pour into boiling water and you get this icky paste called “potatoes.” Or, I hear tell they have “partially” cooked potatoes though I have no idea what they are good for. A can of “turkey gravy” will be necessary, since turkey breast give off nothing you can create a gravy from. Read chalky,clawing, gummy, and barely edible.

Surprise,they also have sweet potatoes in a can, if the thought of baking a damn sweet potato is too much for ya. Cover it up with the usual mini marshmallows and it will visually pass inspection. Of course we all know that rolls come in a can that you bang against the corner of the kitchen counter. And the dough boy is cute.

Cranberry sauce comes in a can, either in jellied form or whole berry. If you are trying to fool guests (good luck with that), then opt for the whole berry. And the pie? Oh that’s easy. Either Mrs. Smith, who undoubtedly had a Mr. Smith with no taste buds, or let Walmart make it for you. You know you feel comfortable with that right? Tell yourself that it tastes the same. Some Readi Whip or Cool Whip to top it off.

You should get that puppy on the table in less than one hour by my figuring. Not bad, but as I said, even taking the food out of its “store” containers won’t do much to convince anyone that you made it. Course some people have a very loose definition of what constitutes “cooking.” If applying random heat to anything is cooking, then, I guess you qualify.

The rest of us laugh at such efforts of course, and look with sadness at children deprived of real Thanksgiving fare. Since the whole high point of the day is food, it really is unforgivable to cheat don’t you think? But then I suppose there are people who find the day only a prelude to getting off to sleep in the shopping center parking lot from 3:00 am onward until you can place your life at risk when they open the doors at 6:00 am.

I certainly hope that these past days have given you some idea of how this holiday is celebrated properly. I hope you enjoy yours if you live in the US or even if you don’t but would like to share the experience from Bangladesh or the Russian Steppes. I don’t know if you can get the ingredients easily or not, but hey, I’ll give credit for effort.


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