When I was a kid my mom had this tradition of killing us for Thanksgiving. With food, I mean. Tons of it. We always started the meal off with wicked-good clam chowder. And that usually filled me up good and tight. But then came the salads, which included cranberry jello and (brace yourself) avocado jello. I know. Seriously. But it was weirdly good, in a tasty green glop-ish kind of way.
Then you had your turkey, stuffing (with the chewy unrecognizable bits that I'm still sort of traumatized over to this day), mashed potatoes, gravy, and candied yams. All followed by pumpkin pie. I think. I can't remember pie, actually, but there probably was some.
Anyway, this one year in Maryland we were invited to some friends' house for Thanksgiving dinner. And I remember being SO excited. This had never happened before. And they weren't just inviting us; they were inviting lots of people, so there was bound to be a sugarboatload of food. New stuff. Things I'd never tried before. Things that weren't green and jiggly. Don't get me wrong, I did like my mom's T.G. Dinner. But New Stuff? How do you not get excited about that?
We went to the house and it was ca-rowded. I had to be pretty young because I just remember a lot of belt buckles and ladies 1970's-dress ties. I also remember barely being able to see over the top of all the food on the table. The place was elegant: dark colors on the walls and brocade table cloths fill my memory. I remember the adults milling around above, and me resting my chin on that sideboard of food passing out in anticipation of it.
Then it was time to eat. I slipped in and out of the adults like an Indy-500 qualifier PILING it on my plate; turkey, potatoes and gravy, about nineteen-hundred black olives, mustard pickles, carrots (I avoided yams which, at the time, I was sure had been invented by really old people with no teeth or taste buds), jello with sour cream on top, and rolls. Rolls and rolls and rolls. Then I found a chair and inhaled the whole lot. Heaven!
I lay there moaning for a bit, then started in again. And after all that, the desserts came out. Whoa! Every pie under the sun, including this really funky one that was sort of brown and had tons of little bits of things in it. Never seen that before. So I ate my fill of pumpkin and apple and something else that I can't remember. And I was pretty sure I was going to burst and it was almost time to go home, but I had to try the brown pie with lots of little bits in it. So I did.
And that, boys and girls, was my first ever taste of mincemeat.
Hmmm. Not sure about that one. It was good. Kind of. Maybe. Needed to take another bite to be sure. Mmm, I thought it was good. It was supposed to be. This was Thanksgiving At A Friend's House. Everything was good. So I kept eating. Eventually it would get good, right? Eventually. At the last crumb I still wasn't sure. But later on, my body made the decision for me.
We drove home and I was curled up in a ball in the back seat praying to die. I had been thoroughly turkeystuffinggravypie-ified, and was heading down the path of full-on bodily dysfunction. Really. Was. Going. To. Die.
Need I tell you that my Thanksgiving Dinner of Fabulousness returned on me that evening? Probably not. But it did. Very soon I was relieved of my incredibly rich and bountiful epicurean experience, in a way that I'm sure my pilgrim-forebears had not been.
Bleah. It was terrible. But *sigh*, what a relief.
So, my Thanksgiving message to you this year is this: Go gather with friends and family. Help cook. Sup on a bounteous offering of every good thing this earth has to offer--including today's leftovers. Enjoy the wonderful camaraderie and cheer of your blessings and of the season.
And this, above all: Partake Not of the Mincemeat.