When I was growing up in Florida, there were five of us kids and two parental units in the house. My two oldest brothers, #1 and #2, always had a ton of friends hanging out at our place. Most years, these friends would be at our house for Thanksgiving, so we always had large family-and-friends Thanksgiving dinners.
Even though my mom wasn’t a great cook, she generally did a good job of making an abundance of food. Like I said, we had five kids in the house and a regular group of my brother’s friends eating at our place also. On Thanksgiving, there was always plenty of turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, the dreaded green bean casserole, and dinner roles. There was not, ever, enough mashed potatoes. I don’t know why. Maybe my mom didn’t like peeling potatoes.
So that’s the number one thing to remember this Thanksgiving: make enough mashed potatoes.
There was a time in the past when mashed potatoes were not a part of Thanksgiving dinner. Those must have been peaceful times. According to foodtimeline.org, the first Thanksgiving dinner for the Pilgrims had turkey, lobster, venison, waterfowl, cod, clams, and oysters. There was no apple pie. In those days, potatoes were considered barely suitable for animals. Oh, how far we’ve come.
One commonly cited statistic is that the average person eats about 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving Day. In 2012, a skeptical New York Times writer put that number to the test. She intentionally ate a large amount of Thanksgiving foods to see how many calories it all added up to. Here’s what she ate:
6 ounces of turkey (300 calories)
Sausage stuffing (310 calories)
Dinner roll with butter (310 calories)
½ cup of Mashed potatoes with gravy (140 calories)—only a ½ cup, seriously?
Sweet potato casserole (300 calories)
2/3 cup of green bean casserole (110 calories)—why would anyone eat this?
A dollop of cranberry sauce (15 calories)
Roasted brussel sprouts (83 calories)
One slice of pumpkin pie with whipped cream (350 calories)
One slice of pecan pie with whipped cream (550 calories)
The New York Times spread listed above comes out to 2,468 calories. That’s well short of 4,500 calories but a glass or four of wine has not been added to the total and presumably you would have eaten breakfast and lunch. Still, it’s just one day, so my advice is to enjoy yourself. Especially the mashed potatoes.
Besides eating, a big part of Thanksgiving Day is watching football. If you have the NFL games on TV and a large group of people in the house, it’s almost a guarantee that someone will notice that the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys both have games on Thanksgiving and that person will say something like, “Man, it seems like Detroit and Dallas played on Thanksgiving last year.” Yeah, you know what? That’s because Detroit and Dallas PLAY ON THANKSGIVING EVERY YEAR! It doesn’t take a genius to notice this. Of course, after this is noticed someone will inevitably ask WHY Detroit and Dallas always play on Thanksgiving. I’m here to let you know.
Way back in 1934, the city of Detroit had just acquired a football team. This team had formerly been based in Portsmouth, Ohio, and was known as the Spartans. When they moved to Detroit, they were renamed the Lions to match up with the team’s popular baseball team, the Detroit Tigers. At the time, Detroit was a baseball town and the Tigers had just played in the 1934 World Series.
The owner of the Lions, George Richards, also owned a Detroit radio station. The Lions were not drawing many fans so Richards had the great idea to play a game on Thanksgiving Day and convinced NBC to broadcast the game nationwide on 94 radio stations. It worked; the stadium was packed for the first time that season. They even had to turn people away.
The Detroit Lions have a long history of losing. In their history, the Lions are 503-616, for a winning percentage of .450. This is the 81st season that the Lions have played in Detroit and they have won more games than they lost in just 32 of those seasons (40% of the time). They haven’t won a playoff game since 1991 and haven’t won a Super Bowl since ever. In 2008, they hit rock bottom when they went 0-16. From 2007 to 2010, the Lions lost an NFL record 26 consecutive road games. If there’s anything Detroit is known for, it’s bad NFL football. Also, Eminem. And bankruptcy.
In 1966, the NFL worried that fans in Texas might not show up for Thanksgiving but it proved to be a huge success. The team broke its attendance record with more than 80,000 people filling the Cotton Bowl. Thus, a second Thanksgiving Day game tradition was born.
Since 1966, the Cowboys have missed playing on Thanksgiving just two times, in 1975 and 1977. Those two years, the St. Louis Cardinals football team hosted a Thanksgiving Day game but it wasn’t nearly as popular as it had been in Dallas. In fact, a local high school football game called the Kirkwood-Webster Groves Turkey Day Game was one of the reasons the NFL Thanksgiving game didn’t last in St. Louis. The Kirkwood-Webster Groves Turkey Day game had already established itself. Take that, NFL!
In 2006, the NFL decided that you can never have enough football on Thanksgiving Day so they added a third game in the evening. This game is not exclusive to any one team. In this year’s night game, the Green Bay Packers take on the Chicago Bears. This is the game that is most likely to be a blowout. This is the game you are most likely to fall asleep while watching. This game will be like mashed potatoes without the gravy, just kind of blah and unappealing. Well, unless you’re a Packers fan.
In lieu of football, some people like to go to the movies on Thanksgiving Day. According to an online survey, 34% of people said they are somewhat or very likely to go to the movies on Thanksgiving. My family never did this because we were usually so angry with each other after the mashed potatoes fight that we wouldn’t even consider going to the movies together.
For those who plan to go to the movies on Thanksgiving, here’s the Official MuelTrain Thanksgiving Day Movie Guide:
Creed--This is the seventh or eighth or 46th Rocky movie but, fortunately, it’s less about Rocky, who is now 69 years old, and more about the son of Apollo Creed, young Adonis Creed, played by Michael B. Jordan. When your name is Michael Jordan, you have to add an initial because there is only one Michael Jordan. This movie has all the Rocky elements, including a struggle, a love interest, and a shot of the Rocky Balboa steps in Philadelphia. I won’t give away the ending, but if you don’t know who wins you haven’t been paying attention to Rocky movies.
Victor Frankenstein--This movie has been called a “madcap, ultimately pointless bromance.” Daniel “Harry Potter” Radcliffe is in it. That’s about all I know because it sounds like a movie I will never see and I didn’t care enough to find out more about it.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 2--This movie has been out for a while. I didn’t see the first one and probably won’t see this one, but if you’re under 25 or plan to go to a movie with someone under 25, there’s a good chance this is the movie you will see.
Spotlight--Based on The Boston Globe’s Pulitzer-winning investigation of child abuse in the Catholic Church, this movie is best seen with people who still read the newspaper. That means people over 50. Here’s a little tidbit of information for people under 50: The Boston Globe is a newspaper. Newspapers are those black-and-white things sold at grocery stores. Some people have them delivered to their front door. It has all the same stuff that you can find on the Internet with your smartphone, but printed on large, unwieldy pieces of paper. Spotlight stars Rachel McAdams, who was incredibly attractive in The Notebook and Wedding Crashers. I preferred The Notebook version of Rachel McAdams because she’s a redhead and even though redheads have no souls, she’s absolutely beautiful. Spotlight also stars Mark Ruffalo and Michael Keaton. Mark Ruffalo seems like he’d be a cool guy to hang out with, maybe go to a ballgame. Michael Keaton played Batman in the 1989 movie.
Speaking of which, I now present the MuelTrain Guide To Batmans:
#5) George Clooney (Batman & Robin)--this was his worst performance since playing handyman George Burnett on The Facts of Life.
#4) Val Kilmer (Batman Forever)—has Val Kilmer done anything good since playing Doc Holliday in Tombstone? (“I’m your huckleberry.”)
#3) Adam West (Batman TV Series, Batman: The Movie)—Adam West was the most ridiculous Batman ever, but he seemed to know how ridiculous he was, so it was like he was in on the joke all along. He played Batman like he was trolling the audience. There’s something about him that is Shatner-esque.
#2) Christian Bale (The Dark Knight Trilogy)—I don’t know if Christian Bale actually had a mouth full of gravel when playing Batman, but it sure sounded like it.
#1) Michael Keaton (Batman, Batman Returns)—Known more for his comedic roles, Keaton surprised people with an impressive dark and brooding Batman. Of course, Jack Nicholson stole the show as the Joker (“Tell me something, my friend. You ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?”).
Brooklyn—The 1950s tale of an Irish immigrant finding love and life in a new land. According to Rotten Tomatoes, this film “tugs at the heartstrings as deftly as it satisfies the mind.” Nick Hornby wrote the screenplay for this movie. He also wrote the screenplay for Fever Pitch. Before you get too excited, this Fever Pitch is about a man “who’s romantic courtship clashes with his favorite football team.” And by football, they mean soccer. This is not the Fever Pitch with Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore, which was awesome. Rotten Tomatoes gives Brooklyn a 99% Fresh rating, but I think I’d rather stay home and watch football. Although, if I had a girlfriend, I would let her drag me to this movie.
If you don’t want to stay home and watch football and don’t want to go to the movies, then you might be part of the 20% of the population that goes shopping on Thanksgiving Day. If you are, then I can’t help you. For the MuelTrain, Thanksgiving is like Groundhog Day. On Groundhog Day, everyone watches to see if Punxsutawney Phil will emerge from his hole and see his shadow so that Bill Murray can tell us if there will be six more weeks of winter. For me, Thanksgiving Day means six more weeks until I go to the mall or Target or Fred Meyer. I don’t like shopping when it’s relatively calm, so I absolutely loathe shopping between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. It’s even worse than green bean casserole.
Anyway, whatever you do, whomever you’re with, whatever you eat, have a good Thanksgiving. And don’t forget to make plenty of mashed potatoes.