Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving, Happy

It is a good holiday, I warrant. Granted, it is built upon historical misprision, but it has its offering that we can honour, has it not?

I recall the scope of American history, as taught to me. You know, Columbus discovered this country, and that was really neat, then the Pilgrims came over, and that was really neat. Nothing much mentioned about the time between those really neats. After the amicable Pilgrim/Indian detente, we suddenly learn that Indians are our enemy, surrounding that hero Custer and annihilating his troops. Et cetera. Any reasonable scan of these ‘facts’ would leave you wondering but the real story is how mythic proportions are so important to the national concept that these stories stay bound in the psyche. It is like Whitman working overtime.

The antidote, it comes to me, is such like In the American Grain, which casts a doubting, acerbic eye on the given facts. Williams had his enthusiasms but was a relief from the doctrinal side of Whitman.

Anyway, not for me to school thee, Reader, on this, I am just recognizing the rotten parts. I want to speak of the good parts, too.

Our plans were to have Thanksgiving just ourselves. Not to be insular, but that we have not had our own celebration in years. We were looking forward to the chance. Friends, however, in a similar predicament invited us to dinner. They are pared down to just three, their eldest son being away in college, and their families spread across the country. We decided to split the meal.

Beth is the genius for cooking grand meals. She was in charge of the turkey, dressing, gravy, and her should be famous squash soup. I have done Thanksgiving meals but it is not my cooking strength. Beth started in on the bird around 9:00, same time as the Macy’s parade began.

The parade is one of those holdovers from my childhood. I remain interested in it, as part of the Day. I think the first thing that I saw was some theatrical clutter from the Broadway production of omg Annie. How do people put up with these exploits of grim production? The fakeness is plangent, which is one thing, but it is celebrated, which is quite another. I mean, phoniness as a defense I understand, but how do you turn it into a glory? Welcome to Macy’s.

So okay, there was that set piece, which appalled Beth. I simply savoured yet another Pure Product of America, Incorporated.

The hosts of this spectacle were 2 from the CBS morning show. I do not watch that or any morning show. The woman was Latina, which allowed her to reference that she was Latina. The guy was a dull plum. The deal is that Thanksgiving is a celebration of our diversity, yet it is also a dedicated study of but one strand of heritage. Turkey yes, but with plantains or matzo balls or lasagna or…

So these two were directing traffic, which consisted of a steady flow of actors in to hype their latest projects, more Broadway inanities,  occasional glimpses of marching bands, longer views of floats, and some scripted banter with the crisp projection of wet toast. At first I was switching to the NBC version of this, but found no escape, so I stayed with CBS.

Early on, we were thrown to the Hard Rock Cafe, for a song by Reba McIntyre. She looked a bit refurbished but she is likeable, with that weird C&W genuineness that Dolly Parton has. I do not think that she or her band were lip syncing it, unlike all the Broadway crap.

There was an antic moment with her band. The bass player, who looked very bass playerly, was going all groove guy. In his funk transport, he swung his bass around, nearly hitting the pedal steel player, who kept replying to these infreactions with mystified stares.

The production streamed by for three hours, and I was there for it all, tho not with full attention. The best float was the last: Santa’s. It spanned two vehicles, and consisted of a village scene above which flew a sleigh and reindeer. Nifty engineering and it looked fine. Bravo. Sitting next to Santa was a little girl that I guessed was the producer’s daughter. Unlike all the other children in this and all the other floats, she was not laughing or excited, just sat there primly. You could imagine her complaining that she was cold or that she wanted hot chocolate. I am of course extrapolating.

Well that was it for Thanksgiving tv. No football. We carted over our contribution to the dinner around 3:00. PLUS a California Chardonnay, a South African Cabernet. Never did open the German wine…

Years ago, while working for a wine business, the possibility of importing South African wines opened. Sanctions had been lifted. I at first thought this was terrible, an exploitation. It turns out that all three of the wineries that we imported were signatories to an agreement to reject apartheid, provide all workers with proper working and living conditions, and generally be benign businesses. There was no such thing in California at the time, and we know that Ernest and Julio were far from gracious towards the migrant workers upon whom their business depended. The wines of RSA are wonderful with a heritage there of some 3 centuries. Don’t miss them if you can. I guess I digress.

So the meal was as it should be. Our hosts with their traditional corn pudding, which I had never had before, and us with Beth’s squash soup, with a sparkle of orange zest and spices. Plus all else, and desserts.

Post-prandial music was an array of country sorts of music, the highlight of which was a recording by Allison Krause and Robert Plant. I never was a fan of Plant with Led Zep, tho I get why he shrieked, what with having to compete against pyrotechnic Page, and the heaviest handed drummer this side of Buddy Miles. His oeuvre is quite varied, and his singing is too. With Krause he sensibly sings in support, and does so generously. Surprisingly pleasing music to me, surprising because it was outside my usual earful.

And Beth wanted, still, to do a dinner at home, and we had already ordered a small turkey, so we boot up again today… I can now report, in update, that this second turkey done well as well. And I made an apple/blackberry tart via Martha Stewart, complete with leaf shapes (of crust) on top.

Happy Post Thanksgiving!

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