The Real Meal Deal of Thanksgiving

Marc Acito's photo box - for the real meal deal of thanksgivingAccording to the American Farm Bureau Federation, a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with your extended family only costs $43.47, which only seems possible if you outsource your meal to India. What's more, that figure doesn't include hidden costs like alcohol. Or Valium. Or therapy.Nor does it account for the 4,500 calories the average American will consume that day. Since the average American is already large enough to provide a refuge for condors, perhaps it's time to re-examine how we celebrate.

Due to the three D's -- death, distance and dysfunction -- my dad and I are on our own this year. Since neither of us like to cook nor spend time with other people's relatives, we're celebrating non-traditionally.

Or are we?

After doing some research on the matter, I've discovered that the Pilgrims didn't eat many of the dishes we consider "traditional." They had pumpkin, but no pie, because they didn't have flour for crust. They had cranberries, but no cranberry sauce. There were also no potatoes, sweet or otherwise, no bread, no stuffing and no butter because they had no cows.

In fact, they may not have even eaten turkey. The only first-person account we have of the feast says that the settlers shot "wild fowl," which could have been duck, goose or even swan.

More importantly for those of you who'd like to opt out of cooking, consider this: out of the 140 people at the first Thanksgiving -- 50 settlers and 90 natives -- six women did the cooking. Six. And the next year, the Pilgrims didn't even bother with Thanksgiving dinner, presumably because those six women were exhausted. Or dead.

It would be 50 years before anyone thought to celebrate the Pilgrims' feast. And nearly 250 years before it became a national holiday.

For the latter we can thank a 19th century overachiever named Sarah Josepha Hale. Hale was the editor of the leading 19th century women's magazine, a widow who raised five children alone, and published more than 50 volumes of work (including the best-known nursery rhyme in the English language, "Mary Had a Little Lamb"). I'm presuming she was also the kind of woman who didn't mind cooking for 140, because she somehow found time to write over a thousand letters to Abraham Lincoln urging him to turn Thanksgiving into a federal holiday. I'm sure Lincoln got so sick of her he said, "Someone just shoot me."

So my father and I have decided it's okay to celebrate Thanksgiving by eating the food for which we're most thankful -- macaroni and cheese. Prepared by a different D -- the corner deli.

And that, my friends, is The Upside.

(Are you having a non-traditional Thanksgiving, too? Please leave a comment about it below.)
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