Tuesday, November 20, 2012

family, gratitude, and good food

"Thanks God," is how a Turkish-American friend phrases that common English-language expression of gratitude.

No matter how you say it, we should all thank the Lord for our blessings during this holiday season and in particular on Thanksgiving, the only day of the year when Americans eat better than the French, as the late syndicated columnist Art Buchwald wrote in an often republished piece.

Indeed, it seems annually on Turkey Day most Americans are predisposed to a grateful frame of mind, but I don't think it is all due to the cooked bird, the green bean casserole, Mom's tomato pudding or those many sweets and dessert pies that traditionally top off the holiday feast.

There is another, beautiful reason to be thankful and I was reminded of it recently while driving to work. On that morning a radio personality on a country music station was inspired by a movie about the end of the world to ask listeners what they would do if they knew the world was going to end — tomorrow.

As for me, driving on Long Island, I told myself I would keep driving west all the way to Ohio to be with my family. Would I really? I thought for a minute about some clichéed debauchery in New York City involving that storied triumvirate of wine, women, and song. But no, not even Le Bernadin, a Victoria's Secret angel or Carnegie Hall could cause me to detour — although there is room for a pair of wings on the passenger seat. Earthly pleasures pale if there is no earth around.

Still, one could sense some trepidation on the radio personality's part, what kind of answers might his listeners come up with? Caller after caller repeated a common theme: they would spend those final hours with family. Some callers added they would cook for their family. But family was the unanimous sentiment. What else would you expect from country music fans? And it warmed my heart to listen to those everyday Americans admit, in that hypothetical way, their deep love of family.

I believe Americans are truly grateful on Thanksgiving, because most of us — the fortunate ones — spend the day with family.

My advice to those unable to be with loved ones: get your Mom's tomato pudding recipe or whatever you family's signature dish may be, and try to conjure family by preparing it yourself.

It likely won't taste quite as good, but it's still something to make you feel close. And you will "Thanks God" for that.

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