Channeling my inner Cliff Clavin, and other thoughts on Thanksgiving.
Tough Day for Turkeys
By Edward Cone
News & Record
Let’s say that on Thanksgiving Day you notice that your spouse is giving you a certain disbelieving look as you help yourself to another piece of pie and another glass of wine, or as you forage in the refrigerator for leftovers just a few hours later.
If you have been married for any length of time, you know this look. In your house it may involve a raised eyebrow, or widened eyes, or a characteristic tilt of the head. Nonverbal communication is important, especially when you have company for dinner, which we are scheduled to do in volume on Thursday.
In this case, though, the look of spousal disbelief is not a problem. You can relax, because you have science on your side. Research shows that people tend to chow down as the days grow shorter.
As one study from Georgia State University puts it, “Even with modern heating and lighting, seasonal rhythmicity of food intake persists in humans and is a major influence on eating that may act by suppressing satiety mechanisms.”
Which is to say, we are built to eat more in the fall, and we don’t feel as full when we do it. Our behavior is an instinctive response to ancient, animalistic imperatives. Winter is coming, and we must prepare. Thanksgiving and the long season of caloric excess that follows are rooted in biology, as well as culture, so you are not really a glutton; you are just someone who is very much in touch with his natural self.
Explaining this to the assembled family will make you sound like Cliff Clavin, the know-it-all mailman from Cheers. This is a small price to pay for extra pie. Besides, some of us are used to sounding like Cliff — speaking of which, did you know that John Ratzenberger, the actor who played him, had a small role in the movie version of “Ragtime”? It’s true. I watched “Ragtime” right after having seconds on ice cream the other night, and right before looking up studies about seasonal caloric intake on the Web.
At some tables — all right, at our table — blaming atavistic nutritional habits for your heavy hand on the gravy boat could lead to an attempt at thoughtful discussion about the power of reason and the human capacity for overcoming animal urges. This is the moment when I will start discussing Virginia Tech football with my brother-in-law’s people, who are of that persuasion. “Beamer did it again, didn’t he?” I’ll say. “I thought those Hokies were done! Please pass the squash casserole.”
This year will be the first time we’ve hosted Thanksgiving since we were newlyweds, living in Paris. Back then, I had to explain to the butcher in my not-very-good French what Thanksgiving was — fete de la moisson, or harvest feast, is what I pieced together from the little blue and red French/English dictionary that we relied on in those pre-Internet days. We bought canned yams at Fauchon and filled our tiny apartment with ex-pat Americans and somebody’s Gallic boyfriend, who picked his nose. Ah, memories.
Since then our family gathering has moved from my mother’s house to my sister’s house, and now, to accommodate the social schedule of our college freshman, back to Greensboro. Over the years we’ve lost loved ones to age and illness, watched the babies grow up into young adults, walked the dogs on unseasonably cold days and unseasonably warm ones. We’ve roasted turkeys and fried turkeys and eaten turducken. It never gets old.
And I’m telling you this … why? Because I hope you substitute in your own stories and characters as you read it, or take any good feelings it inspires in you to share with people beset by hard times, and that no matter how much you agree or disagree with me on the issues I usually write about in this column, that we can, at least virtually, raise a glass and give thanks together this week.
No problem if you want seconds.
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