November 2012 home page

Rich Simons | 11th Street


Q: Thanksgiving is almost upon us. Do you have any special remembrances of Thanksgiving from your past? – J.C.

At my age, if I didn’t have tons of recollections of Thanksgivings past we would have to blame it on the Alzheimer’s.

My fondest memory, I must say (you will understand why I MUST say) was that Thanksgiving Day in 1958 when my wife Ruth and I became engaged. It was a classic New England winter and a fraternity brother had invited us to his family’s manor house in the Massachusetts countryside for Thanksgiving dinner. Outside a massive picture window, snow fell and carpeted its way through trees to a frozen creek below. Birds of the color you see only on Christmas cards played at the feeder. A fire roared on the hearth. Eggnog flowed. It was perfect.

I realize now that it would have been a marvelous story to pass on to our children that I seized the moment (irresistable!) to drop to a knee in front of the tableau in the window, produce a ring and “pop the question.”

Unfortunately, I learned a long time ago that it doesn’t pay to lie to the kids. A ring was placed on Ruth’s finger that night, it but happened long after the party, in my cramped little third-floor flat in the Back Bay area of Boston. Why the evasion and secrecy? Well . . . that’s another story.

Our most exciting Thanksgiving took place right here in Olde Del Mar, many years ago when we had (of course!) invited all the relatives and neighbors over. Just when the party had begun to roll the turkey in the oven caught fire! Next thing you know all the guests were crawling around on the floor trying to locate a telephone (pre-cell days) and opening all the doors and windows. Someone located the fire extinguisher. Words were exchanged about what kind of flavor that might impart to the bird. Mercifully we were somehow able to put out the fire. We approached with trepidation. Had the turkey been ruined? We tasted it. To our surprise, the meat was still moist and the flavor VASTLY IMPROVED! It was DELICIOUS. It was our first inkling that the best way by far to cook a turkey is to SMOKE it!

So that has been our Thanksgiving ritual ever since: we gather the family around the olde stove and flame our fowl.

The most depressing Thanksgivings are of course the ones where you have to go visit the in-laws. They all hate each other but they gather once a year to relive old times. “You always hated my pet frog!” “Well it was doing you know what in my sock drawer.” “Still you didn’t have to nuke it in the microwave.” “It needed sterilizing, stupid. And anyway you torched my tree house.” “It had cooties in it, booger-head.” “Kids, kids, that was twenty years ago.” “You always liked him more than me!” A door slams. “I’m never coming to one of these stupid things again!”

And neither should you. Avoid the in-laws and I’m sure you will have a memorable Thanksgiving, if you just remember to incinerate your bird. Of course you might also want to remember to invite the fire department over.


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