All week I was complaining about Thanksgiving dinner, because I couldn’t see what was so special about it. I mean, turkey’s pretty flavorless and mashed potatoes are just sort of meh. And for me, if I am going to use all those calories on dessert, there better be some chocolate—chips, sprinkles, swirls, mounds. Don’t come at me with some vegetable-y (read pumpkin) pie and expect me to salivate and beg for your recipe. People, pumpkin is a vegetable. I thought this was America, where people liked to eat decadent, over-rich processed foods. Pumpkin pie is a humble and communist dessert.
So, that was the gist of all my tweets, when I wasn’t busy railing against gratitude like Jan Brady railed against Marsha.
But, something happened on Thursday. It was like that moment in the Wizard of Oz when the black and white images turn Technicolor (which is right before that super scary Lollipop trio sings that creepy song). I am pretty sure the sea change in my opinion of Thanksgiving can be attributed to one thing: Gravy.
Ya’ll, my mom didn’t like gravy, so we never had it. Sure, I saw those Swanson’s cans in the Tom Thumb, but it was just something that we didn’t eat, like Circus Peanuts (the candy—remember?) or beets. If your mama doesn’t cook it and set it on the table, then it’s not part of the memory. (I would say that Dad could have cooked it too, which is true, but this was 1970 so easy on insisting on progressive family structure. Don’t judge. We were doing our best in suburban Dallas.)
Yesterday, I liberally ladled gravy. Gravy changes everything. Suddenly, my turkey was moist and had a burst of earthy, salty, fatty flavor. And those meh potatoes, came to life as I made a little hole for my gravy to rush into. I totally forgive my mom for hating gravy and not making it, but you have to think that someone like me who grew up with a Thanksgiving menu that consisted of (1) turkey, (2) green beans (not casserole, just green ass beans), (3) Pepperridge Farm dinner rolls, (4) cheese grits, and (5) and a green salad– could be forgiven for not “getting” Thanksgiving dinner. Oh, my mom also hated stuffing and cranberries so I never had them until I was in college.
And we never EVER had pumpkin pie for dessert, so that pie that is the cornerstone of so many others’ memories never made an appearance in mine. I think my mom thought it was “country,” so we usually had a mud pie. You know mud pie, right? Chocolate pie crust (store-bought), a carton of coffee ice cream dumped into the crust, then covered with Hershey’s chocolate syrup and Heath’s Bits O’ Brickle. Topped, of course, with Cool Whip. It was all very American and store-bought. (And it was fucking delicious, if very, very bad for your blood sugar.)
So, after communing with gravy yesterday, I get it. I really do. I am sorry for all the bad things I said about the meal. The only downside to the new-improved Thanksgiving meal is that I believe I consumed approximately 5 times as many calories. It was worth it, but it’s hard to pretend that those great flavors and textures came from something innocent like soy or sprouted wheat.
But, that’s why I just made an all-Cher running mix and plan to lace up and go see the country side here in Wisconsin. Off I go, powered by gravy and a new-found love of the Thanksgiving feast.