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Source: Tales of the Giving

I willingly profess Thanksgiving to be my favorite holiday. It has no pretense. It has no hype. And every year it reminds me to be thankful for what I have.

After speaking with some of you out there, I found that the actual Thanksgiving meal may have some awkward moments seeing family and friends that you possibly only see once or twice a year, maybe by choice, maybe due to geography.

As a Public Service, this week’s Wedwand, will provide some valuable tidbits to help you through your Thanksgiving celebration dinner.

Given the current state of affairs, and to keep the peace, it is advisable to avoid such topics as religion, politics and how the heck the Cubs could sweep the Mets during the regular seasons then get swept themselves in their most vital playoff series. If that topic comes up, just remember to say, “Wait until next year” like you have been saying for the last 107 years.

So, you’re at the dinner table and there’s this awkward silence. This is when you say, “Uncle Dean, please pass the green bean casserole. Uncle Dean, when you’re done drinking the wine directly from the bottle, would you pass the green bean casserole?

No, not like a football pass, just sort of hand it off to Aunt June and she’ll get it over here.”

As you spoon the casserole to your dish, start softly singing, “Happy birthday to you…” then casually interject, “Did you know this green bean casserole recipe is 60 years old today?”

The table of guests will stop stunned and look at you unbelievingly.

You continue to impress and say, “Yep, 60 years ago, in 1955, Dorcas Reilly of the Campbell Soup Company led a team of cooks charged with coming up with a recipe that was quick and easy with ingredients that people had on hand. The result is what I have just scooped on my plate.”

Some may actually applaud. Some may silently sit and admire your acumen. Uncle Dean may call for a toast and hoist the wine bottle to his lips.

It is absolutely true that this side dish staple of Thanksgiving was indeed invented 60 years ago as described above.

But if you want to have some fun with Uncle Dean, pull him aside after dinner and whisper, “I totally made that up. The holiday’s favorite side dish was invented quite by accident when the Durkee tribe was out picking green beans with the Pilgrim Campbell family and fell asleep before the original Thanksgiving in 1620 and their combination harvest baked in the sun resulting in the green bean casserole.”

One more pearl to break the ice at the dinner table. This time you lead in with, “Please pass the cranberries.”

Now cranberries will come in many forms at Thanksgiving dinners. Sometimes, it is an elaborately prepared whole berry dish. Other times they are served the traditional way as at the original Thanksgiving Feast of 1620, straight from a can with the can ridges visible.

Either way, as the cranberries are making their way over you say, “Did you know cranberries are grown on a marshy, sandy soil called a Bog? The night before harvest, the Bog is flooded with up to a foot and a half of water. The next day a water reel shake the berries loose and the cranberries float to the top and are harvested.”

Over the chorus of ooo’s and ah’s from the dinner table you continue, “The cranberry, the concord grape and blueberry are the only three fruits that have their origin in North America. The Pequot tribe originally called them “ibiimi”, meaning bitter berry. That’s why Uncle Dean seems to be muttering ibimi ibimi ibimi. He means pass the cranberries.

Early German and Dutch settlers called them ‘crane berries’ since when they flower, they appear like the head of a crane. Ergo, cranberry as we know them today.”

The table erupts into applause and scattered smiles and everyone’s now happy at dinner.

So there’s a few helpful hints to help through awkward dinner table silence on Thanksgiving Day.

Enjoy the day, say “thanks” once or a hundred times or so cause it’s the day to do it. Signing off with the Wedwand Thanksgiving Anthem:

Thanks to you for reading!!!

Cover photo is a Google Image search for Green Bean Casserole. My how many variations.

Shameless plug on posts from 2013 and 2014 Thanksgiving Posts if you care to read:

I ran into an old friend exiting a movie theater at the multiplex this weekend past. Coincidentally, we both had just seen the movie, My All American.

It’s a football movie, the story of Freddie Steinmark, amidst the backdrop of 1969 and the Game of the Century between Texas and Arkansas. Freddie played for Texas.

The narrator in another football tear-jerker movie, Brian’s Song states, “Ernest Hemingway once said ‘Every true story ends in death.’ Well, this is a true story.”

Likewise, so is My All American. There were tears shed when I saw it.

I hadn’t seen Al in a while, but I recalled him being the biggest Texas football fan from Chicago when he was in high school in that 1969 season and it was no surprise to see him at the theater on the opening weekend of the movie.

“Whatcha think? I asked.

“The story’s a classic. The football scenes were amazing. Some dance movie may be nominated for best choreography. This one never will, but they choreographed the key plays in the key games just the way they happened. Almost like a football dance scene. For a couple hours there, I lost myself and went back to the time.”

Feeling like I just stepped out of a time warp myself, I nodded. “What about the portrayal of Steinmark?”

“Can’t say,” Al said. “I never knew him and I wasn’t there. But, maybe there WAS a clean cut kid or three out there back then in the sixties. Those weren’t the ones who got glamorized but maybe they’re the ones who should be remembered too.”

“The critics don’t seem to think so. They said the character lacked depth.”

“Depth? Hmp. Screw the critics. They also said some of the dialogue was too cliché. Coach Darrell Royal was the king of southern football coach cliché so how the hell ya supposed to portray him without some of his pearls. You never lose a game if the other team doesn’t score.”

“Three things can happen when you pass and two of them are bad,” I retorted.

“We’re gonna dance with who brung us,” Al countered.

“He’s not very fast, but Elizabeth Taylor can’t sing.”

We laughed.

After a post-chuckle pause, I asked, “How the heck did you become a Texas fan?”

Al paused, smiled as he reflected and said, “When I was a kid, I was a sports nut. Watched every game, read every newspaper article and when I went to bed I threw out ten pennies and a dime on my mattress and made up football plays. All sorts of different things no one ever tried. The dime was the quarterback. Should been a quarter, but I was a rebel back then,’ he said with a slight smile.

“I made up a formation that looked like this.”

Al pulled a pocket full of change from his pocket and laid it out on a bench.


“And the dime made you a Texas fan?”

“Not even,” Al mused. ‘So I was watching a game one Saturday in 1968, the Texas Oklahoma game at the Cotton Bowl. And the announcers were raving about this brand new formation the Texas Longhorns had. Nobody ever ran anything like it before that and nobody could stop it. They called it a wishbone. I looked at them run their plays and thought, ‘Hey, I invented that in my bedroom in the 5th grade.’ So they became my team.

You see sometimes you envision things and you don’t know why the vision even came into your head, but when you see it happen, when you see it come life, well, you gotta embrace it. So, I became a Longhorns fan. Then to see it on the silver screen years later.” Al lingered on the thought.

He put the change back in his pocket, glanced at the clock and said, “Good seeing ya. Gotta run.”

“You too.” I replied. Then as an afterthought I asked, “Hey Al you always carry that kind of change around.”

“Nah, just brought it along to remember my dream, didn’t think I’d have a chance to tell the story. Sometimes, you never know.”

Al went along his way.

As I headed to the parking lot, I reached into my pocket and found 18 cents in change. I wondered if that was enough to start a dream.