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Volume 16, Issue 45 - November 6 - November 12, 2008
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Letter From the Editor


Are You What You Eat — at Thanksgiving?

We’ve had a lot of fun writing this year’s story on the Thanksgiving feast.

It started with sauerkraut.

If your roots are in Baltimore you probably grew up eating sauerkraut along with your turkey.

If your roots aren’t in Baltimore, you probably think that’s pretty funny.

Never mind. Somebody else is laughing about your Thanksgiving lime Jell-O or candied sweet potatoes or Ambrosia salad. Or the way you make gravy.

My husband’s family serves yellow cornstarch gravy on their turkey, made from the stock in the lidded roaster where they boil that bird’s meat right off its bones.

That’s not the way we do things where I’m from.

My mother’s superlative gravy was brown, made from the drippings of a roasted bird, thickened with flour and perked up with wine.

That’s not the way we do things, a niece told me, as horrified by my ways as I was by hers.

Dredging up and writing down our stories, we got to thinking we were onto something bigger than dinner table tales. This was cultural anthropology we were up to, or some such science.

We’d increasingly narrowed the circle of custom from national — the standard Thanksgiving meal; to ethnic — sauerkraut appeared on German American tables; to regional — sauerkraut migrated from the tables of Germans to Baltimorean tables of many ethnicities; to familial — things you did because your mother did them, who knows for what reason.

That’s how definitions are made, just as you learned in your college logic class — unless you slept through that lecture.

Even if you despised candied sweet potatoes or lime Jell-O salad or sauerkraut, and couldn’t wait to get away from home and never see them again, you’ve got a descriptor that tells you a bit about what your are — and what you aren’t.

So we’re actually writing about how tradition helps us define who we are. Isn’t that something?

It got to feeling like something was happening, as we dug through a lifetime of annual feasts for the story that clicked. Or peered into old photos of mostly forgotten times. (I even looked at long-abandoned dual-image slides from the 1950’s craze for stereoptical photography.)

It got to feeling like each of us on this quest was a little bigger, a little fuller, a little deeper for making it. We got to feeling like we were each part of a circle. Some parts we shared with lots of other people; other parts with only a few; and a few parts with only a very special few.

Our traditions got to feeling like a comforter. And in times like these, we need all the comfort we can get.

I hope our quest helps you appreciate your own traditions as you plan this year’s Thanksgiving feast. I’ll be pleased if you share yours with us as we have ours with you: editor@bayweekly.com

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