By David Gewirtz
Those of you outside the U.S. might not be aware of a little tradition we have here: Thanksgiving. According to our grade school classes, Thanksgiving is a holiday that came about when those wacky Pilgrims finally had a bountiful harvest, held a celebration, and gave thanks. The historical reality is far more unclear, and very definitely subject to interpretation. A quick Google search of "thanksgiving" and "meaning" turns up more crap than you'd believe.
Besides, nobody cares. That's not what Thanksgiving really means.
In America, Thanksgiving means parades, football, families, and food. The last two, of course, are the challenge, and here's where my very short survival guide comes in.
I, like most folks, have fond memories of family Thanksgiving celebrations. But for years, they somewhat overwhelmed me. Often, we'd be joined by far-flung relatives whose names I couldn't remember. There'd be hugs from old people who shouldn't be allowed to hug without first getting a safety certification. And while there was plenty of food, there was never pizza.
It took me well into my 30's to develop two techniques that, when used together, never fail to make Thanksgiving enjoyable to me, and surprisingly enjoyable to those around me. The key, however, is to use these techniques together. Either, used alone, will often result in disappointment, or -- worse -- more chicken soup than your freezer can possibly hold.
Technique 1: It's all about the dark meat
You may or may not like turkey (what are you, a communist?) and you may or may not like dark meat. I love dark meat turkey and I'm not really a fan of white meat. The first half of David's Patent-Pending Thanksgiving Survival Program is to make the day all about dark meat turkey.
Nothing else and no one else matters.
Your mission, above all, is to get to the celebration and to get the dark meat before anyone else can. If you have to hockey check your great aunt to get that haunch, do it. If you have to blockade the kitchen door, do it. Whatever it takes, get yourself that plate full of dark meat (and maybe some gravy).
Here's how this part works. First, getting the dark meat means you'll enjoy your meal. But having that as your mission means you'll know what to do and what to say to every family member in attendance. Every action on your part is measured by whether it gets you closer to acquiring or consuming the dark meat.
Once you've finished the meal, of course, it's perfectly reasonable (and even accepted) to take a nap, watch a game, or fire up that Xbox you've been praying your cousin still has.