This Dave Barry column was originally published Sunday, November 21, 2004 in The Miami Herald
Thanksgiving is that very special holiday when we take a break from our hectic everyday lives to spend quality time with our loved ones, rediscovering all the reasons why we don't actually live with them.
But Thanksgiving is also a spiritual time of quiet reflection - a time when we pause to remember, as generations have remembered before us, that an improperly cooked turkey is - in the words of the U.S. Department of Agriculture - "a ticking Meat Bomb of Death."
Yes, it is a tragic but statistical fact that every Thanksgiving, undercooked turkeys claim the lives of an estimated 53 billion Americans (source: Dan Rather). Sometimes the cause is deadly bacteria; sometimes - in cases of extreme undercooking - the turkey actually springs up from the carving platter and pecks the would-be carver to death.
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The only way to be sure you've killed all the bacteria in your turkey is to cook it until a meat thermometer inserted into the breast melts, indicating that the turkey has attained the same internal temperature as the sun. "Basically, " advises the Surgeon General, "you want to be serving your family a 16-pound charcoal briquette." Even then you should keep a flamethrower handy.
Speaking of which: The "hot" new Thanksgiving culinary trend is to cook turkeys in big deep-fat fryers, which are hugely popular because they give guys an excuse to spend Thanksgiving outside drinking beer and messing around with a device that could potentially destroy an entire neighborhood. Now that guys have decided to become seriously involved in Thanksgiving food preparation, it's only a matter of time before they come up with a recipe for mashed potatoes that involves a grenade launcher.
Of course, not everybody is comfortable with the idea of eating turkeys, which are, let's face it, living organisms, like dogs, or celery. You may wonder: Is there a more humanitarian option that you can serve for Thanksgiving dinner? There certainly is: It's tofu, a semi-foodlike substance secreted by soybeans as a defense mechanism. Tofu can be used as a high-protein meat substitute, as well as a denture adhesive or tile grout. In its natural state, tofu is tasteless and odorless, but if you form it into a turkey-shaped lump, season it well, add gravy and bake it for two hours in a shallow pan at 350 degrees, you can also use it for minor driveway repairs.
Of course no Thanksgiving dinner is complete without the pumpkin pie. Here's an easy recipe for this delicious traditional dessert:
1. Using a dangerous knife, cut the top off a large pumpkin.
2. Inside you will find a mess of stringy, stanky, slimy pumpkin innards. Scoop these out and discard them.
3. Now discard the rest of the pumpkin, because the simple truth, obvious to anybody with half a brain, is that NO PART of the pumpkin looks, smells or tastes ANYTHING like so-called "pumpkin" pie. This is why nobody actually makes "pumpkin" pie; everybody buys it at the supermarket. The question is: What does the supermarket put in there? The Food and Drug Administration is investigating this, and according to one informed source (Dan Rather) "they think it's tofu."
But enough about food. Thanksgiving is not merely a time of eating until we are big fat bloated carbohydrate balloons lying motionless on the sofa watching the Detroit Lions while actual gravy oozes from our pores. Thanksgiving is also a time of giving thanks - as the Pilgrims did so many centuries ago - for the fact that the malls are open on Friday. Otherwise we'd have to spend another day cooped up with our loved ones, not to mention toxic levels of leftovers, and the number of domestic drumstick assaults would be even higher than it is.
But in all seriousness, I want to wish you a happy Thanksgiving. I personally am very thankful that I have readers like you who have terrific senses of humor and thus recognize that I am just "kidding around, " especially if you are in the turkey, deep-fat fryer, tofu or pumpkin-pie industries. Also, even though I have "poked some fun" at Mr. Dan Rather, I sincerely believe he is a great journalist and a credit to his home planet.
In closing, let's have a big group hug and join together in singing this traditional Thanksgiving song that we vaguely remember from childhood: Over the river and through the woods, To grandmother's house we go! The horse is reluctant, And we can relate, Because grandmother's house has that weird smell.