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So long, and thanks for all the fish November 22, 2012

Posted by The Typist in Fortin Street, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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It is too easy to slur Columbus Day and ignore Thanksgiving, for fear of upsetting the neighbors. Today we sit down to celebrate the complete incompetence of European settlers to feed themselves and contemplate the gratitude they showed to their Native neighbors, to offer our thanks to their omnipotently paranoid god who blessed the casual erasure of humans and bison from sea to shining sea, to engorge ourselves on indigenous corn and potatoes and African yams without a thought to their origins, eat thick slices from the engineered breast of a native bird bred like Chevrolets in a feed house it could not survive without constant dosing with antibiotics.

There is nothing America cannot conquer, master and seek to improve if it but sets its collective mind to it. All that is needed is a willing bit of trickery over those less blessed than us and there goes the neighborhood.

Let’s just fess up and admit our model of a republic is Roman not Greek, that we are setting out to a gourmand’s banquet at which we will eat until we are barely able to bend forward and reach the bottle to pour yet another glass of wine. I am Orleanian to the bone and have no problem with this. The gods of my hearth are not cosmic, are small and indigenous to this place and take great pleasure in our banquet. They are the absent ancestors whose places we have taken at the table. I will give thanks not to a remote god but to the stooped-back women who picked the cranberries and the men who wielded the power knives of the slaughter house. I will wish them joy of their possibly-distant families, camaraderie over food as best they can manage, and a day of rest.


1. Joshua Francis Whalen - November 22, 2012

great article, over all, but I must (really, it’s a compulsion, I have no choice in the matter) correct your attribution of yams to africa. The Sweet Potatoes served on Turkey Day are NOT true yams. They are sweet potatoes, and their origin is native american. Taxonomically, they are much closer to the common potato & the morning glory than to the afro-asian yam. I know it’s confusing, but details matter. TIA!


Mark Folse - November 22, 2012

I got the same way about buffalo and bison after living in the upper plains for ten years. And its more apropos in a way if it is indigenous.


2. Foxessa - November 22, 2012

One hopes you will have herculean enjoyment as you set up this herculean task!

Love, C.


3. samjasper - November 23, 2012

Beautiful. Thank you. I’m finding it harder to get enthused each year, particularly with my daughter and grandson so far away. As a former Native American history major, I’ve contemplated all this for a long time, often as I was stuffing the bird in the not quite dawn of the day.

I’m considering going elsewhere next year and avoiding it altogether, although I have to admit that leftover turkey is a great thing.


4. Joshua Francis Whalen - November 23, 2012

Well, you know, left over Turkey is what the holiday is all about. This was the time of year when you brought in the last harvest, and when the hunting season ended (not mandated by law but by nature – birds fly south, big game hibernate, hunting in snow is dangerous and difficult), and to gather together to try the first of the season’s preserves (cranberry sauce) and tubers (sweet potatoes), and cook the hell out of every available bird before it spoiled (turkey) and put the stew pot that would feed you all winter on the fire for the first time the day after (stewing allowed perishable food to be kept edible all winter through constant simmering), it’s what the final harvest festival is all about in every culture. It would be nice to drop the stoopid lying pilgrim story and talk about the more ancient reasons for the things we do at different times of year.


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