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Thanksgiving dinner

Everyone, pretty much, is familiar with the origin of the main parts of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. There is the turkey, centerpiece around which all the ancillary foodstuffs will gather. It is well known that the custom of having turkey originated with the Pilgrims who, unable to catch much of anything, what with those big hats that gave them away in the woods and those big, clunky guns that took about 15 minutes to load, settled on the more easily procured turkey. The Native Americans happily traded turkeys for the wonders of the white man’s civilization; things like mirrors, beads, guns, small unwanted children to work their fields, and casino licenses. Sometimes the white man threw in extra stuff, free of charge, as a token of his appreciation. Leftover blankets from smallpox victims were a favorite.

After a while, the proximity of the white man became tiresome. They were always borrowing things and forgetting to return them, like the land. As a sort of joke, the Indians told the white men about delicious red berries that grew in dangerous bogs. Many of the Pilgrims perished in these bogs, presumably due to over exposure to water. It was much like bathing, a practice known to be dangerous.

Various potatoes and yams were customarily served with all meals back then. It was filler, much like that bread they give you in restaurants so that you don’t go away hungry from those meager portions with a sprig of parsley and a swirl of raspberry sauce designed to make it look like there is more on the plate.

Stuffing is more difficult to trace. One clue could be that when you make your own, the first thing you do is take perfectly good, fresh bread and make it stale by heating all of the moisture out of it. It is now totally tasteless so we add herbs and spices to our stale bread and mix in seasonings. Since originally old, stale bread was used, something also needed to be done to disguise the taste of mold. Since these early dinners were “pot luck” the Pilgrims learned early on that it didn’t matter what they brought to the table as long as they brought something. You could always disguise it with gravy.

After a while the Native Americans caught on and began bringing their own second best in the form of maize. Nowadays we feed this to our cattle or hang it on our doors for decoration. Nobody in their right mind would eat this stuff.

Nowadays, in the morning we watch the big parade, eat our dinner and then watch football, while the youngsters clean up. Finally, everyone sits down at the table again to enjoy arithmetic.

Who doesn’t like Pi?

Bill Abrams lives a Puritan life (of sorts) in Pine Plains.