Searching for the gastronomically rewarding among edible symbols

Some wag once said, “Eternity is two people and a roast turkey.”

In The New Yorker, Calvin Trillin has campaigned for years to have the national Thanksgiving dish changed to spaghetti carbonara, pointing out that nobody knows if the Pilgrims really ate turkey at that first Thanksgiving dinner, but “The only thing we know for sure about what the Pilgrims ate is that it couldn’t have tasted very good.”

For a meal at a National Council of Teachers of English convention, which always occurs right before Thanksgiving, Alice Trillin guided five of us to a Chinese restaurant.

In The Man Who Ate Everything, Jeffrey Steingarten writes, “Edible symbols are rarely gastronomically rewarding,” noting that turkey meat is nearly always bland and stringy.

At our house we reduce turkey stress by sawing the bird in half, leaving half for another day. For those seeking variety, in How to Cook a Moose, Kate Christensen offers recipes for moose bourguignon and jellied moose nose.

The day after Election Day, the New York Times offered political analysis and then, signaling new concerns, “The Best Vegetarian Thanksgiving Looks As Good As It Tastes,” positioning an ornate ombré gratin as the centerpiece, a dish taking three hours to produce. Small wonder the editor calls it “theatrical.”

Exhibiting a certain lack of culinary sophistication, the Microsoft Word policer wants to change “ombré” to “hombre.”

Twenty-one newspaper staff contributed recipes for favorite side dishes, ranging from macaroni and cheese to smokey mushrooms with pomegranate sauce, ginger beer-glazed butternut squash with greens, three variations of Brussel sprouts and three kinds of pie: Cranberry Curd, Bourbon Pecan, and Brandied Pumpkin.

The Washington Post newsletter Book World speculates that Frankenstein Was a Vegetarian: Essays on Food Choices is sure to make the Diagram List for Oddest Book Title of the Year. It makes my list of a fun read for pointing out that “Stressed spelled backwards is desserts,” which leads to the Old Farmers’ Almanac pronouncement that November is Banana Pudding Lover’s Month. Go figure. Surely, we can doubt it will replace pumpkin, with or without the bourbon.

At press time, Monday Munch cooks, along with making their own holiday plans, were still working on Charlotte Senior Center menus. Go to the website for updated info. You’ll also find menus for Thursdays Grab & Go meals. And give thanks to our wonderful kitchen volunteers.

Remember: this is the season for Arlo Guthrie and “Alice’s Restaurant,” a terrific listen while you’re preparing all that food —

You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant.
Walk right in it’s around the back
Just a half a mile from the railroad track
You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant.