Category Archives: Slightly off topic…

The Untold History of Thanksgiving

Screen Shot 2017-11-21 at 8.26.54 AMIt’s important to remember the genesis of Thanksgiving, lest we all just start to see it as a stomach-stretching warm up for the actual holidays. The first Thanksgiving was a shared meal between the pilgrims and the Native Americans, one where they gave thanks for all they had and set the tone for who we are and how we celebrate today. It was the first step in our nation’s journey from gratitude to gluttony.

In order to make Thanksgiving a day to remember, they designed the meal around a bird that wouldn’t be roasted again, ever, for the rest of the year. Over the years our forefathers established entire family identities around how this bird was cooked: brined, herbed, slow cooked and of course deep fried. Some might say that the disagreement about the preparation of this bird was the spark that ignited the competitive American spirit.

The bird was to be complimented by starchy foods, and the more the merrier. These menu items introduced the concept of the nap to the New World, a concept that eventually grew into the food coma we enjoy today. The potato was a natural place to start, and over time the meal would also include stuffing, yams, and sweet potatoes. On what other day are you going to eat that many separate carbohydrates, all of which are masked as vegetables? Truly, we have much to be thankful for.

As years went by and elastic waistbands came into vogue, America took the leap forward to adorn the (already) sweet potato with butter and marshmallows, giving hope to all that we might one day earn the title of “fattest country on earth.”

On the third Thanksgiving, one pilgrim woman complained. She feared the change she saw in her village. Her children had given up scampering in favor of lumbering. Everyone was too tired to schlepp to the well, and very few villagers were using the outhouse. She insisted that a green vegetable be included in the Thanksgiving meal. The pilgrims gathered and discussed options with their Native American counterparts and came to the first ever compromise on North American soil: green beans would be allowed at the meal, as long as they were smothered in creamy soup and topped with deep fried onions from a can. Peace was restored in the land.

Americans invented the expression, “More is more.” In that spirit, dessert was added to this meal. The first Americans shared just one pumpkin pie, which was fine until they branched out and realized that nearly anything is delicious when mixed with sugar and baked in a pie shell. People began to argue about which type of pie to serve. They whined, “It’s just not Thanksgiving without a pecan pie!” Crowds nodded their agreement, adding that the same can be said about apple pies, rhubarb pies, chocolate cream pies and cheesecake.

That’s how it came to pass that in any Thanksgiving gathering there will be one full dessert per person. A pie for every pie hole. There’s an innate American need, fostered over hundreds of years, to try just a sliver of each and every one. Because, after all, we don’t want this cornucopia to go to waste. That would make us ungrateful and at odds with the very meaning of this holiday.

Other People’s Problems

Sometimes, when I’m busy not writing my novel, I daydream about finishing my students’ novels. My mind floods with ideas to fill in their story gaps. I dream up surprise endings and pages of snappy dialog. While driving the other day, I decided that one of my student’s characters should have a heavy suitcase at the… Continue Reading

Never Say Never

I’ve come to accept the fact that I should never say never. In fact, as I get older, it seems that every time I shun some activity with the words “I’d never,” I immediately go ahead and do it. Examples include getting my fourth grader his own phone, leaving my kids alone overnight and buying… Continue Reading

Wake Me Up When The Election’s Over

We’re almost there, people. The election is just over the hump of the weekend, and the end is actually in sight. I tend to like a salacious and horrifying story, the inner-workings of human drama. But there’s no thrill in this election. It just feels prickly and uncomfortable, like the angora sweater my grandmother bought… Continue Reading

Local Woman Gets Angry in Person

The other day I was stopped at an intersection, looking both ways as I’ve been told to do, when the woman in the car behind me started honking repeatedly to encourage me to take the plunge. I wasn’t in the mood for a fiery death, so I waited for the traffic to clear in both… Continue Reading

High School Commencement Speech – First Draft

It’s kind of weird how Rye High School hasn’t asked me to deliver this year’s commencement address yet. I mean it’s a month away and these kinds of speeches don’t write themselves. I’m local, I’m verbose, the price is right. And heck, I’m going to be there anyway. Assuming they’ve been calling my landline or… Continue Reading

When It Comes to Neighbors, Be Lucky

As published in The Rye Record on February 5, 2016 When I was a new mom, we lived in an apartment on 57th Street across the hall from an elderly man who smelled like soup. I remember him because of the soup, and also because of the wisdom he passed along to me on the… Continue Reading

They’re not Thoughtless. They’re Astronauts.

It’s funny when your kids start driving and noticing how frequently the adults around them don’t obey the traffic laws. Look, Mom, that guy didn’t signal. Look, Mom, that lady ran the stop sign. Again, I need to fill them in. I explain to my kids that it’s because these people are just a bunch… Continue Reading

Why It’s Impossible to Write a Good College Admission Essay

As published in The Week on June 25, 2015 As the parent of a rising high school senior, I’ve been to my fair share of college information sessions lately. The admissions officer always concludes with the same set of comments about the application: namely, that the college essay must capture your true and authentic voice… Continue Reading

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