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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Tradition, Damnit

My friend Andy Irwin claims that when he was growing up, his mother's idea of a traditional Thanksgiving meal was the McDonald's drive-thru for the McTurkey and Dressing Burger and a cranberry milkshake.

I recalled this story when Nancy and I were shopping in Costco and came across this: a complete turkey dinner in a box, mashed potatoes, gravy, the works.  Just thaw it out then heat and serve.  Sounds almost good enough to eat.

The problem with this concept - although I predict it will sell like hotcakes - is it misses the whole point of Thanksgiving.  What, I ask you, has happened to tradition?  The tradition of Thanksgiving isn't about eating turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, etcetera; it's about cooking turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, etcetera.

And within this larger sacred tradition, there are other smaller, but equally sacred traditions.  The turkey and dressing will be somewhat overdone or else underdone.  (The real purists insist it be both: bloody raw in some spots and scorched black elsewhere.)  Something will catch fire and fill the house with smoke.  One of the cooks will cut herself chopping onions and require a bandage.  In fact, you can get the essential ambiance of Thanksgiving without turkey and dressing at all: just fill the house with smoke and bandage your hand.

Everyone will eat their fill and then some, no one will even notice there's a little blood in the beans and onions, no one will complain that their slice of turkey is a little bloody or else carbonized, and the only person who will be dissatisfied is the cook.  Afterwards, half the family will veg out in front of the TV and the other half will play a board game, the rules and essential pieces to which have long gone missing, occasioning a jolly argument and some hurt feelings.

These things are tradition, damnit, and you don't go messing with tradition.  "Complete Turkey Dinner in a Box," forsooth!  Why, you might as well have a board game with the rules and all the pieces.

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