IS THERE A NEW THANKSGIVING BRAND?
Let's face it.
There will be food.
There will be blood.
Thanksgiving is a holiday that is forever connected to food, more food, and even more food.
And this year, it'll also be connected to rampant intrafamily animosities about politics.
It is recommended that during the meal, all the family's firearms be kept locked in the gun safe, the combination changed to something only mother knows. (And no, she should not be allowed to carry her pink camo Lady Derringer under her apron.)
STILL, THERE WILL LIKELY BE MORE FOOD THAN GUNPLAY
Is anything more uniquely American than the consumption of mass quantities as celebrated in the late 1970s by the SNL's Beldar, Prymaat and Connie Conehead?
Force-feeding oneself mass quantities of turkey and carbs in the name of thanks and remembrance is the kind of thing that could happen only in the U.S.
And in part, that mass consumption is due to the cornucopia made possible by the 20th century food industrial complex.
About a year ago, Fortune magazine gave us an article on "The History of America's Favorite Thanksgiving Brands."
IT READS LIKE A WHO'S WHO OF CORPORATE FOOD GIANTS
The list represents a series of entrenched products that seem almost like a holiday menu cliché:
BECAUSE 100 YEARS AGO, EVERYONE WAS A LOCAVORE
They just didn't know it or have a silly portmanteau to describe it.
Or so we're told by locavore foodie Mark Bittman, who wants us to eat more locally, seasonally and sustainably.
I live in Utah and this time of year, I should be eating more poached sagebrush.
Mr. Bittman's position is that (in my likely wildly inaccurate Reader's Digest logline), by definition, food is something that must nourish and sustain--and most products in a supermarket fail that test.
Personally, as a sometimes junkavore, I find the nourishment and sustenance properties provided by Pringles and beer to be greatly underrated. Even if Pringles do not resemble anything found in nature. At least not since the disappearance of Idaho's great potato slurry swamps of the early 1800s. But I digress.
SO, IF EVERYONE IN THE EARLY 1900S WAS A LOCAVORE...
...what did a thanksgiving menu look like?
What To Have For Dinner, a 1905 Fannie Farmer cookbook, is good enough to provide a glimpse with this Thanksgiving menu:
And if you live in mountainous northern Utah, trust me: there are no oyster beds, cranberry bogs or chicken-pie farms. Locavorism is out the window.
THAT MENU ALSO SOUNDS AS EXPENSIVE AS IT DOES FESTIVE
This can't be what an average family was putting in the table a century ago. It must've been quite dear.
Not to mention turnips, or oyster anything, would have produced a high quotient of whining and grumbling in our house.
(Personally, I love oysters and turnips now. But like many of us, Blaine Parker version 1.0 was a product of the standard suburban American menu that eschews anything challenging the meat and potatoes paradigm.)
A 1900 issue of Good Housekeeping reigns it all in somewhat with this menu for a budget:
Well, even if the Good Housekeeping core customer was a locavore by default, this menu is starting to sound somewhat similar to that from Fortune magazine's Thanksgiving brand champions. Except that it seems unlikely that in 1900, any of the ingredients were processed.
BUT 21ST CENTURY ALT THANKSGIVING IS BEGINNING TO REAR ITS PIERCED AND TATTOOED HEAD
Not everyone likes turkey and stuffing.
The vegetarians and vegans among us will skewer the whole idea of turkey.
The self-diagnosed gluten intolerants proclaim a pox on bready stuffings.
Epicurious provides a glimpse into a crumbling tradition of turkey dinners.
One vegetarian family doesn't allow themselves sugary breakfasts, so they prepare a huge stack of pancakes.
Another anti-turkey contingent celebrates each year with a meal from a different nation. Their favorite theme is Mexican. "We usually start the meal with fresh Topolo margaritas and ceviche. For the main course we've made chile-bathed sweet potatoes; charcoal-grilled corn with cream, cheese, and chile; pork- and fruit-stuffed chiles in white walnut sauce; and braised short ribs with chiles de árbol, white beans, mushrooms, and beer. For dessert we make a version of a key-lime pie and chocolate flan."
WHOO, LOOKING FOR THAT DIGESTIF AGAIN
And maybe a Tums.
Now, if you subscribe to the Thanksgiving revisionism that's out there, maybe you believe it's a good idea to blow out the whole idea of turkey traditionalism in favor of something that offers nary a nod to the Pilgrims of Plymouth Plantation and their Native American turncoat buddy Squanto. A pox on turkey! Get the whole clan ratcheted to the gills on sugared-up tequila cocktails and then feed 'em beans!
Hello, a hangover full of farts.
Well, here's another fly in the cranberry ointment.
According to Wiki-So-It-Must-Be-True-Pedia, "The first documented thanksgiving services in territory currently belonging to the United States were conducted by Spaniards and the French in the 16th century."
Following the footnote citations provided therein, it becomes apparent that Spanish Catholics at St. Augustine and French Huguenots at Jacksonville both predated the pilgrim festival of thanks in Plymouth. (It also didn't snow there in Florida, and they probably had better college football games.)
AND THEN, OF COURSE, THERE'S THE POST-ELECTION THANKSGIVING HELL
It's still November and the pain is fresh.
Thanksgiving offers all kinds of fun when rolled up with the traditional family members who look askance at the contemporary non-traditional lifestyles.
The family homestead often doesn't provide designated safe zones.
Dad doesn't bother with trigger warnings.
And when his daughter's wife with the facial tattoos and forehead piercings brings along their newborn vegan baby of color, all bets are off for a peaceful meal that doesn't devolve into a festival of tears and bile.
Not that tears and bile are anything new at Thanksgiving.
It just comes with different issues, all shiny and new.
THE THANKSGIVING BRAND IS AS IT ALWAYS WAS
It is the single most popular and most traveled holiday of the year.
Regardless of how you celebrate it, it remains a festival of food and remembrance.
It also remains a time for families to air their drunken grievances over a hearty meal with a huge carbon footprint.
Yet somehow, we all continue to celebrate it with minimal trips to the emergency room and only a modicum of gunplay.
Traditionalist or revisionist, gourmet or not, however you choose to celebrate, have a fabulous feast .
We're thankful for the health of our family and friends. Our clients, too.
And we at the screed are also thankful for you, dear reader.
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
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Blaine Parker is prone to ranting about any and all things related to brand. In many ways, he is a professional curmudgeon. While there is no known vaccine for this, the condition is also not contagious. Unless you choose it to be so.