the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock, Thanksgiving has always been a day of gratitude
for our many blessings, a day of family, friends, and mashed potatoes. But now
the government is interfering in our lives yet again.
They have decided
to add yet another fear to the long list of things they tell us to be scared of:
holiday food. We'd be more inclined to believe the current government's fear list
if they put themselves at the top of it.
Unless you're planning to eat
your Thanksgiving meal in Baghdad, Kabul, or Guantanamo, it seems a waste of our
hard-earned fear to follow the government's instructions about holiday food preparation.
Do they have to get into everything? Well, yes, apparently they do. They're sending
out the Turkey Police to Big Brother our kitchens.
instructions should be filed along with their pamphlet on How to Save Money, of
which they claim to know 66 ways, and which they'll sell you for fifty cents.
The smart money's on people who start by keeping the fifty cents.
USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service and the FDA's Office of Women's Health
package on Holiday Food Safety, when preparing stuffing and gravy, we're given
another fascinating life lesson: wash our hands. What? As if we would not normally
wash them? Like we can finally get revenge on our relatives by mixing the stuffing
with snarky hands? Let's throw in filthy fingernails while we're at it. Maybe
we should just boil our hands before touching anything. I wonder why the fed stopped
there. They could've told us not to sneeze on the gravy.
attempt to frighten us by saying "If food is mishandled, you may have an uninvited
guest at your meal." I already know that. Uncle Sam always shows up wanting his
piece of the pie.
With almost constant warnings of anthrax, smallpox,
and unnamed odorless gases ready to be released by terrorists, a little bacteria
should be quite welcome. Besides, we already have grandpa's gases, which can hardly
be called odorless. It's a family tradition to seat our least favorite relative
next to grandpa at the Thanksgiving table. If he keeps it up, next year, he may
find himself seated at the little table, the one reserved for kids who might not
question what that noise was Grandpa made that caused their eyes to water.
government also discusses, in their what-not-to-do-at-Thanksgiving pamphlet, how
to avoid cross-contamination. What, plain contamination isn't enough to scare
us? Does contamination have its own lobbyist in Washington? They say we can avoid
cross contamination by "separating raw meat, poultry, and seafood from other foods
in the refrigerator, on the counter, or on the cutting board." How does the government
think we refrigerate our foods? By mashing them all together? Fine, then how about
coming over and having a beeken (combo beef and chicken) smothered in carp or
a tuna burger with a side of chicken livers swimming in sweetbreads? No thanks
guys, I'll stick with turkey.
As to our Thanksgiving turkey, the government
reminds us to stick a thermometer in it, and, though our current government doesn't
specify, they probably mean after it's dead. They offer "helpful hints on how
to safely thaw and roast our turkeys, along with suggested cooking timetables."
These must be politically correct birds because, in the old days before the government
took sensitivity training in order to not offend any of their potential pamphleteers,
the turkeys thawed in the fridge as the label advises, and were roasted according
to family recipes or even Julia Child's recipe.
Good old Julia, who once
dropped a chicken on the kitchen floor and baked it anyway. That's the spirit
of America. Improvise. It's fine if you want to take the government's advice but,
if you're uncertain about preparing your Thankgiving feast, you can also get help
from Butterball, http://www.butterball.com, which has menus, recipes, planning,
preparation, and serving tips.
The one thing to remember is common sense.
Don't nuke the bird, or blow it up on your barbecue, or think you can soak it
in hot water till it's cooked. Just keep it simple and follow the directions on
the turkey's label. Or maybe you can do things the easy way and finagle an invitation
to someone else's house.
Just remember two things: the part of Thanksgiving
where we give thanks, and that the only one who should fear Thanksgiving is the
Copyright Maggie Van Ostrand
Balloon In Cactus" November
7, 2008 column