The journey the average Southern dad must take to arrive at his annual Thanksgiving meal is one filled with roadblocks and relatives. But with some effort, he can successfully navigate it.
Today, dad drives the family vehicle to a destination that mom negotiated in advance. But once upon a time, there was hope.
When dad was a kid, his parents loaded his sister and him into the backseat of the Buick and everyone went to grandma and grandpa’s house. It was an annual pilgrimage (pun intended) that led to amazing home cooking (including pie) the Cowboys playing on TV, then more pie.
Kid: “Dad, why do we always have to leave home on Thanksgiving and Christmas?”
Dad: “It’s a tradition, son. Moms and dads and their kids go to grandma and grandpa’s, just like grandmas and grandpas did when they were little.”
Kid: “So, when I grow up, my kids and their kids will come to my house and I can stay home then?”
Dad: “That’s right, son. Here, grab this green bean casserole and load it into the car.”
Kid: “I hate green bean casserole, dad.”
Dad: “I know, son. I do too. But today, pretend that you like it. When you grow up, you can stay home and refuse to eat green bean casserole.”
But, there should have been some clarification regarding how much ‘growing up’ had to be done before going over the river and through the woods became someone else’s job.
Husband: “Honey, why do we always have to leave home for Thanksgiving and Christmas? When can everyone else come to our house instead of us having to travel?”
Wife: “It’s a tradition. Moms and dads go to everyone else’s house, just like they did when they were kids.”
Wife: “That’s right. Here, grab this green bean casserole and load it into the car.”
At least when you were a kid, no one worried about how many calories were in a Thanksgiving meal. Gluttony was practiced freely, openly, and without guilt.
Today, we have to hear the obligatory holiday news report of how fattening the average Thanksgiving meal is.
This year’s estimate: Between 3,000 and 4,500 calories. That’s according to The Calorie Control Council.
I don’t know which is worse. Still having to leave home or being told that tofu is preferable to turkey.
The worst part is neither one. It’s the fact that we have a Calorie Control Council.
Since CalorieControl.org felt it necessary to tell us about the sins of enjoying good food, let’s see what the numbers actually say.
Four slices of roasted turkey has about 190 calories and 6 grams of fat. That’s not too bad. But, ham seems to be. Three slices of Porky is around 345 calories and 21 grams of fat.
If you’re in the South, you may find that a wise man in the family smoked a brisket. It’s a good compromise at 291 calories and 15 grams of fat for three slices.
What about that carrot-raison salad that Aunt Nelda only makes during the holidays? Just one cup of that has 419 calories and 30 grams of fat.
And they told us to eat our vegetables.
Eggnog is something I always look forward to. But according to the calorie cops, we should avoid eggnog. One cup of that (and a cup isn’t much) has 439 calories and 19 grams of fat.
What about dessert? Well, hands down, my favorite is pie.
In a previous column I used this space to argue (successfully, I believe) that pie is better than cake. And there’s no better time of year to enjoy pie than at Thanksgiving.
Every woman in the family shows up with their favorite recipe for a different pie. And that’s a good thing. The tough part is trying to beat the other men in the family to the pie table.
Much like my definition of a cup of eggnog is different than an actual measuring cup (I prefer a 55-gallon drum), a slice of pie is different for me than it is for some of the other fellas in our brood.
Wife: “Where are you going?”
Me: “I’m going to get pie.”
Wife: “You haven’t touched your green bean casserole. You can’t have pie yet.”
Me: “I’m a grown man. If I want to skip green bean casserole and head straight to the pie, I can.”
Wife: “No you can’t.”
Me: “Why not?”
Wife: “Your brother-in-law just got the last of it.”
With nothing left except mince pie (different from mincemeat pie), the husband decides to skip dessert. Besides, according to the pie patrol, mince pie is too fattening. A slice (one-eighth of a 9-inch mince pie) has 434 calories and 16 grams of fat.
It’s looking more and more as if I’ll never be able to stay home for Thanksgiving. Also, regardless of where we go each year for the holidays the menu selection continues to narrow. That is, if I read and follow the Calorie Control Council’s recommendations.
So, I’ve made a decision. Next year, I’m going to give up something.
©2021 John Moore
John’s new book, Puns for Groan People, and his books, Write of Passage: A Southerner’s View of Then and Now Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, are available on his website – TheCountryWriter.com, where you can also send him a message and hear his weekly podcast.