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Hopping off the holiday gravy train

This year, starting with Halloween, I decided to under-deliver on holiday hoopla. This slacker system worked so well that I’m leveraging it for the upcoming holidays – I’ve even branded it Project HOLE – for Holidays of Lowered Expectations.

Here’s what Project HOLE looks like for Thanksgiving: Call placed to Wegmans on Nov. 13, dinner for 8-10 ordered – will pick up box with turkey, dressing, miscellaneous vegetables at 10 a.m. Thanksgiving day and throw it in our new oven. May even experiment with convection feature that I haven’t used yet; perhaps this will knock one hour off baking time and yield a moister bird. Then again, maybe Thanksgiving isn’t a time for freestyling with oven settings.

No one in our family (except Greg, and maybe my Mom) is all that crazy about the traditional Thanksgiving dinner. We are just not a turkey family, and I hate turkey. In fact, I’ve spent many a Thanksgiving at Chinese restaurants. A couple of years ago, we crossed the bridge to Niagara Falls, Ont., and went to Planet Hollywood so we didn’t have to deal with Thanksgiving. We fled our country on our own holiday to go to a place where restaurants offered a regular menu, not a Thanksgiving feast. We ate our burgers, macaroni and cheese, and chicken fingers with appropriate thankfulness and gratitude for our freedom of holiday choice.

Actually, I think Canadians are much smarter to celebrate Thanksgiving in October, which according to Nathaniel Philbrick’s Mayflower,* is likely when the holiday was originally celebrated. Then it’s more of a stand-alone holiday, not a countdown to Christmas.

I’ve actually gotten validation for my Holidays of Lowered Expectations from reading Mayflower. Turns out the actual original Thanksgiving celebration wasn’t served at a beautifully set table – people stood, squatted, or sat around fires and ate deer, birds of various sorts, fish, and consumed plenty of beer from their freshly harvested barley crop. They didn’t use silverware, except knives; they just ate with their hands. No pies, no cranberry sauce, no green bean casserole. Just people, fires, meat, and beer.

So if you really want to be a Thanksgiving traditionalist, forget about the fine china, sterling silver, the hours of shopping, cooking, and the preparations and decorations – lower your expectations and go tailgating at a football game – people, fires, meat and beer. Turns out we Buffalonians have been celebrating like that about eight times a year at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

(* Yes, I do read the occasional grown-up history book, even though I confessed to my fondness for learning history by reading children’s books. I would recommend Philbrick’s Mayflower – history is so much more complex and interesting than the simple myths we learned way back when. I would also recommend 1621, A New Look at Thanksgiving, a children’s book that takes a fresh look at the history of Thanksgiving, co-authored by distinguished Buffalo author Catherine O’Neill Grace and Margaret Bruchac.)


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