Your guide to an eel-egant Thanksgiving

At last. We’ve been waiting for it for awhile now, and tomorrow it’s finally here. Yep, the Saints are taking on the Cowboys.

It’s also Thanksgiving. A day when we gather with relatives to give thanks to God for many things: for our health, for our blessings, for not having to see these people more than once a year.

The first Thanksgiving was celebrated at Plymouth Colony in 1621, which many of you may recall from your high school American history studies. Or from watching, “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” on Channel 10 the other night.

That brisk November day marked a giant turnaround for the Pilgrims. They had spent the previous year struggling and starving for food. That’s what happens when you neglect your crops and spend all your time dressing up in fancy black hats and elaborate belt buckles.

Fortunately the entire colony was saved, all due to the generous help of a local Indian from the nearby Patuxet tribe. His name was Squanto — a strong, proud man who worked on the nearby reservation dealing blackjack. Once his shift was over, he’d saunter down to Plymouth Colony to give the “pale faces” important survival lessons, such as how to grow corn, where to hunt for deer, and how you should always double-down on a 10 if the dealer’s up card is nine or less.

He also, according to actual Wikipedia pages, helped the Pilgrims with the first Thanksgiving feast by showing them “the best places to catch eel” and teaching them to grow crops such as beets. And looking back, his help couldn’t have come at a better time for the struggling colonists. For they were malnourished, weak and barely getting by. Then, suddenly, just as they were about ready to die of starvation, here comes Squanto—  appearing like an angel from heaven — offering them a hearty helping of eel and beets, to which the Pilgrims responded: “Um, thanks, but I think we’ll stick with the starvation thing.”

That’s because nobody likes beets. Yet somehow over the years, they’ve remained a Thanksgiving tradition in many families, including mine. My Grandma Woods brings pickled beets to our yearly feast. And they’re pretty good, too. At least that’s what I hear. Unfortunately, I’m unable to eat them, due to the fact I was born with a rare beet-related genetic defect in which the mere taste of beet in my mouth activates the gag reflex. (Join us in the fight for a cure.)

Although my brother and the other grandkids weren’t born with my defect, they (for some reason) don’t seem to like her beets either. One can only assume this means they don’t truly love Grandma — something she should probably keep in mind when it comes time to write the will.

My point is that historians say that beets and eels were a major part of the first Thanksgiving. In fact, many of them say turkey wasn’t even served at that initial feast. Those of you who are in charge of cooking this year’s turkey can understand this. It takes a lot of work to cook one. Personally, I’ve never prepared a turkey before. I wouldn’t know where to start. Plus, the part where you manually put stuffing inside the bird has never appealed to me. If I wanted to spend a morning inserting my hand into an orifice, I’d become a TSA agent.

I’m just glad the whole “serve eel for Thanksgiving” thing never caught on. It probably wouldn’t work nowadays anyway. I don’t care if you have the homemaking skills of Dixie Burmeister and Annie Payne combined, if you ditched the turkey and, instead, trotted out a serving tray full of a large bug-eyed stuffed eel, you’d terrify your guests.

Little nephews and nieces would scream. Aunt Madeline would have a heart attack (again.) Adult relatives would make some flimsy excuse about having to go. You’d be left all alone, with nothing but a giant pot of mashed potatoes, a bottle of chardonnay, and football on TV.

In other words, the perfect Thanksgiving.

E-mail Steve Beauregard at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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