Al Batt: Enjoy your cranberry sauce, watermelon pickle sandwich

Published 9:00 pm Tuesday, November 24, 2020

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Tales from Exit 22, By Al Batt

This year it’s turkey, stuffing and masked potatoes.

I remember another rough patch at Thanksgiving back when Grandma was still living. We had a small turkey that year. There was a message tied to one of its legs. She didn’t worry about finding the perfect turkey. She knew it didn’t exist.

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James Beard, the late chef, said, “Food is our common ground, a universal experience.” I know many people would love to build a time machine and travel back to the first Thanksgiving in which someone was going to make green bean casserole or creamed onions and slap the recipes out of the cook’s hand.

To prepare for Thanksgiving, serious chowhounds train by increasing the number of silverware-lift repetitions they do. A friend served a vegan meal last year, hoping that would diminish the crowd this year.

Tom Porter, an elder of the Mohawk Nation, said that when the world was created, our Creator told us, there was one thing we must do before all others — to give thanks. Give thanks for everything and everyone. People became forgetful and stopped giving thanks. As a result, things began to go wrong. I try to find the good and praise it. I try not to think about what I want, thinking instead of the good things I have and be grateful for them. I try.

Try that. Taste this. A turkey in its unnatural habitat of dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy is avowed to be nourishing for both the stomach and the spirit

I’m thankful for many things. My list is endless but here’s a bit of it. I’m thankful the turkey didn’t burn down and that I don’t care how anyone pronounces “pecan” as long as it’s followed by “pie.” I’m thankful for aglets (sheath tips on the ends of shoelaces), that I have enough toilet paper and I can draw a hand by tracing a turkey. I’m thankful I wasn’t standing in front of the nose of (insert your least favorite politician’s name here) during the election campaign, that I don’t wear a belt buckle the size of a football helmet and Kool-Aid doesn’t come in plaid. I’m thankful I know so many people who deserve huzzahs, that the world has room for buffoons like me, I’m able to recycle hugs into smiles, and that I don’t live near a leaf blower.

Thanksgiving was at our place but my family lived in the far removed, so we needed to hop into a car to go places for other things — some of which took forever to get to. The rumble of road noise and the sway of the car made it hard for a little boy stationed in the backseat to stay awake. An FM radio that played in both the a.m. and the p.m. wasn’t in the cards for us or the car. Mom listened to “Kitchen Klatter” a program for homemakers (produced by KMA in Shenandoah) on the AM radio while Dad favored the farm reports from WNAX from Yankton and old country music featuring all the Hanks (Williams, Snow, Thompson and Locklin). Or if I were lucky, a baseball game. The wobbling car still tried to rock me to sleep, but I found it easy to stay awake during a baseball game. We went here and there, and we always came back. The car seldom broke down, although it demonstrated a hesitancy to start. There were occasional flat tires my father changed at the speed of a polished pit crew thanks to a lifetime of practice. That gave me a chance to shine by holding a light or fetching tools. We didn’t need a GPS because we didn’t go to many places we hadn’t been to before. Directions were given by how far destinations were from the nearest paved road. I’ve spent countless hours in automobiles, planes, ships, trains and buses. I’ve enjoyed that time, but nothing beats traveling with those you love, even if you doze off. If I close my eyes, I can hear the laughter in that car. Each moment dripped magic. Sadly, all those good people who traveled with me in that car have shuffled off this mortal coil. To my parents and my siblings, who I’m thankful for in every way: When I look up, you are there.

I am thankful that even though the world might be out to get us, it hasn’t gotten you or me yet. Happy Thanksgiving.

Al Batt’s columns print every Wednesday in the Tribune.