Posts Tagged ‘thanksgiving’

“We’re Gonna Need A Bigger Bandage”- by Alison Grambs


Every summer Americans gather ’round the television set to take in the Discovery Channel’s annual broadcast of Shark Week. From hour-long specials on the science of shark behavior (“that shark didn’t mean to eat that entire South African family. It was merely investigating…”) to extensive interviews with attack victims (“Dude! It had eyes as black as a doll’s eyes and I was like, dude! that thing just took my foot off!”) the arrival of Shark Week has always been something I eagerly anticipate. In fact, I react to news of a local shark attack with pretty much the same enthusiasm meth addicts demonstrate when their local drug dealer has a sale. After all, my favorite movie of all time is Jaws; and I’ve got a bevy of movie memorabilia to prove it.

Over the past few years, however, my interest in Shark Week programming has diminished. Dramatically. Even the promise of an episode revealing gruesome footage of real shark attacks and the semi-masticated limbs of their unsuspecting limbs doesn’t suck me in the way they used to.

You see, everything changed for me the day someone I love got attacked by a shark. 

If you saw my husband, you’d never know he had been bitten by a shark. It was Thanksgiving Day 2012, and unlike the Pilgrims and Indians at Plymouth Rock in 1621, my husband and I were fighting. The issue of contention was the fact that, due to my family’s holiday plans, Tommy, a die-hard Dallas Cowboys fan, was going to miss watching the Big Game on television. 

“What’s the big deal?” I’d replied, reminding him that a) he had gotten to actually GO to the game in Dallas the year before and b) we were recording the game.

No matter. Tommy simply could not be consoled. And for the next half hour or so, I was forced to watch my usually mature forty-something spouse throw what can only be described as an extremely juvenile tantrum. Stomping  around the apartment. Muttering under his breath. Shooting me dirty looks. Hissing a slew of four letter words that I’m certain the Pilgrims would not approve of. It did not matter to my husband that our ancestors had suffered far greater hardships back in 1621. Homesickness. Small pox. Inevitable starvation. Apparently, Tommy’s suffering was worse. More stomping, more cursing, and  more four letter words came at me. And just when I was about to toss Tommy’s special edition Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader Barbie doll out the window in a show of force, it happened…

Tommy, who happens to be quite tall, and happens to have a rather large head, made the mistake of moving his tantrum from the center of our living room to the perimeter of our living room where, dangling from a heavy duty hook and line of extra-strength fishing line, hangs a very large, very wide set of very real jaws from the mouth of a once very alive, now very dead, very big Bull shark.  

The jaws were a gift to me from Tommy a few years ago, and while we both acknowledged that hanging them from our living room ceiling might result in the untimely death of someone down the road, we just assumed that someone would be an expendable guest and happily went about hanging them.

So, there went Tommy’s giant head. Crashing into those very large, very sharp, very serrated teeth. For a moment, my husband did not move, nor did he curse. This was a bad sign. Then came the silence. Even more of a bad sign. Then the moaning followed by the awkward swaying to and fro of his body. Out of the dozens of large, sharp Bull shark teeth dangling from our ceiling, one of them had struck my husband in the forehead.

Part of me was horrified, (of course); but part of me was excited (of course). I mean, come on! I had just born witness to an actual shark attack. I thought back to everything I had learned during previous summers of Shark Week programming. Call 9-1-1. Demand an ambulance. Look for signs of shock. Stanch the bleeding. Ice any severed limbs. Contact the Discovery Channel to arrange for interviews. Hire an publicist.

As it turned out, there was, in fact, blood. To my disappointment, however, just a drop though. In fact, I draw more blood out of my own veins while shaving my legs every morning. Tommy’s shark bite didn’t warrant so much as a  bandage, although he did feel it necessary to purchase about five hundred over-the-counter ointments and salves from the corner drugstore regardless, just in case the wound ‘busted open’ and he was ‘in danger of bleeding out’.

Suffice it to say, Tommy survived the shark attack, rendering me inarguably unqualifed to put in that call to the good folks at Discovery Channel. Instead, the only call I got to make was the one to my folks in which I was forced to explain that we’d have to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on television, rather than in person, because, well, Tommy is injured. Alas, my parade viewing plans got ruined and Tommy got to watch the whole friggin’ Dallas Cowboys game like he wanted. (Guess Mom and Dad felt sorry for him almost dying and all.)

Now I realize that the fact that the fact that my husband was, in fact, attacked by a shark should have me tuning in to Shark Week like gangbusters all these years later. But the incident actually had the opposite effect on me. Truth is, I’m bitter. Thanksgiving Day 2012 was our one shot at getting on Shark Week. Lightning doesn’t strike twice, people, and the chances of my husband ever being attacked by a shark again, be it in the ocean or our living room, are pretty much nil. A

Three different abodes and five years later, those Bull shark teeth aren’t even on display anymore. Neither of us can bear to look at them. For Tommy, the mere sight of them causes PTSD. For me, the mere sight of them causes DGOSWPTSD (Didn’t Get On Shark Week Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.)  They’re crammed into a storage container on our terrace along with the air mattress we use for camping. The same air mattress that, oddly enough, deflated last week on our camping trip due to a small puncture wound in its casing. 

Hmmmmm. Wonder if the folks at Shark Week would want to investigate?





As many of you know, the days leading up to Thanksgiving this year were a bit tense for me.

Compared to what other people are struggling with right now, my personal crisis – that being my mother’s decision to not serve turkey for Thanksgiving dinner -was minute, of course. But still, it was a rough week. I had bird on my mind every minute of every day. The legs I would not be snacking on… the wishbone I would not be snapping on. The thought that neither brown gravy, nor mashed potatoes, would be sliding down my throat was hard on my psyche, and harder still on my tummy.

But alas, Thanksgiving arrived yesterday, and much to my chagrin, the feast my mother served up was nothing short of delicious. I say chagrin because this means yet another notch in my Mom’s ever-expanding “I’m Always Right” belt, and another notch in my own “It’s Really Annoying That Mom Always Ends Up Being Right” belt.

The dining room table was decorated like something out of a Martha Stewart catalogue – replete with Native American -themed pottery and place mats and candles my parents have collected over the years during their many camping trips out West. And everything I ate, from the controversial Native American Pumpkin Chili served up to perfection with all the fixins, to the soy-based egg nog, to the butternut baked squash, the homemade cornbread and beer bread, to the corn dish side – well, each and every bite was pure heaven. Mom topped off the meal with what has to be the cutest dessert ever- mini ice cream sundaes of soy-based ginger and pumpkin ice cream served in mini pumpkins she had carved out by hand.

And as my husband and I bowed our heads as Dad led the traditional Grace – and we each took turns sharing what we were most thankful for, I realized that, despite all my whining and complaining this past week, I was actually thankful for my parents pardoning that damn turkey. It forced me to open my mind up a bit on all matters poultry related. And maybe even in a spiritual sense as well.

I have no idea what the Pardoned Turkey we didn’t eat on Thanksgiving is doing right now. Not sure if it’s roaming the prairies of the Great West, or hanging in a pen with a bunch of other pardoned turkeys in Queens somewhere talking about its Christmas plans. (God knows the organic kidney beans and pumpkin in Mom brutally killed for her ‘famous’ Native American Pumpkin Chili sure as Hell won’t get that chance.) Well, whatever that turkey is doing, my gut tells me it will go on to do something great with its life now. Something to earn the gracious reprieve my mother bestowed upon it in a Saving Private Ryan kinda way. (A thank you card wouldn’t kill ya, Pardoned Turkey) Well, whatever he/she does, I hope it lives a good, long life and doesn’t get run over by a Mac trunk while crossing the road.

So, in honor of all the birds that ‘got away’ this year – I’m reposting a poultry-related piece of mine that was in the New York Times “Metropolitan Diary” section this summer. (

Fly! Fly! Fly away, you brave little winged creatures of the feather!

Dear Diary:

Third Avenue bus pulled over by frantic man on street. Explains he must retrieve friend’s escaped pet bird from roof of bus.

Bird Sitter begs Alarmed Driver to let him climb on top of bus to rescue pet. Driver says no, too dangerous.

Bird Sitter steps in front of bus defiantly. Bus cannot move. Bird Sitter shouts, “That bird must be saved!” Peering out the window from my seat, I am inspired. Lone man staring down city bus — an ornithological Tiananmen Square.

Passengers split into two factions: those on Team Bird — MUST SAVE BIRD! — and those on Team Gripe — BIRD MUST DIE SO BUS CAN GET MOVING!

I join Team Bird out on the street. Offer Bird Sitter my umbrella. Alarmed Driver calls dispatch for advice. Crowd of passers-by gathers around bus to assist Bird Sitter as Freaked Out Bird stares down from roof.

Local Shopkeeper provides ladder and broom. Stranger and I steady ladder as Bird Sitter ascends side of bus. Freaked Out Bird flutters just out of reach. Repeatedly.

Bird Sitter begins cursing all things feathered. Freaked Out Bird feels ashamed. Flies off bus and onto nearby building fire escape. Relieved crowd disperses.

What will become of the winged thing? And did it have a MetroCard?

Back on bus. I feel smug. Team Bird people cheer; Team Gripe people gripe.

Suddenly, at front of bus, a third type of New Yorker emerges: Team Driver. Folks who fear for Alarmed Driver’s now-jeopardized job. Not his fault that bus was brutally violated by a six-inch bird! They will testify on his behalf! Alarmed Driver appreciates that. I am ashamed. Had not thought of Alarmed Driver’s awkward position during bird mutiny.

Three types of New Yorkers, divided by a beak. Did I pick the right team?

GUEST BLOG- “DEAR MR. & MRS. GRAMBS” – By Cheryl Sternman Rule, with intro by Alison Grambs

Dear Napoleon Fans,

By way of introduction to the following Guest Blog by award-winning food writer Cheryl Sternman Rule, here’s a little background…

When I was set to graduate from LaGuardia High School (the performing and arts school forever immortalized in the film and TV show, Fame) I had two choices: either pursue my drama studies at a theatrical conservatory, or focus on an academic education at a regular college. A bit burned out after four years of rolling around the floor in a leotard and tights, chanting “How now brown cow” and pretending I was Kate Hepburn, I decided to devote the next chapter of my life solely to academics, and eagerly accepted a spot offered to me at Haverford College.

No. Not Harvard. Haverford. (This happens a lot)

Haverford is a gem of an intimate, private liberal arts college tucked along Pennsylvania’s Main Line. Founded in 1833 on a campus so picturesque you could mistake it for a movie set, the college operates on an academic and social Honor Code, promoting the basic tenets of Quaker philosophy: be kind, be fair, work hard, think of others, and don’t fight. (Pretty much everything the acting community is against.) It is an institute of higher learning that uniquely (and refreshingly) focuses not only on the student as a student, but on the student as an individual – a valued contributor to society. It quietly demands that its attendees be thoughtful, not just about their education, but about the world around them.

In other words, Haverford students give a damn.

My father is a Haverford alumnus, and although technically of the Episcopal faith, he embodies all the superb Quaker qualities Haverford represents. He is kind, fair, conscientious, propelled by a sense of moral duty to the world around him, and thinks of others before he worries about himself. (Except, of course, when there’s a new tech gadget out on the market. In that case, stay out of his way or God help you- that man will mow you down to get it first.) After graduating class of ’63, I’m proud to say my dad went on to become a respected news writer working in various mediums of the business. And he always spoke so highly of his alma mater. So, it was with great pride that I set about following in Dad’s footsteps as an English Literature major. Delving into the works of post-modernist writers at the campus library (until I got bored and fell asleep.) Attending lectures by renowned authors and writing my thesis on Joseph Conrad (until I got bored and fell asleep.) Taking Faulkner-esque strolls by the famed Duck Pond (until I got bored, and tripped into the duck pond and nearly drowned.) Yes, I emulated everything my father had told me about his college experience. As far as how I fit in at Harvard….I mean Haverford… well, in some ways, it was an ideal match. I very much relished in the scholarly atmosphere on campus as well as the strong sense of community that came with being a Ford. And in hindsight, I believe Haverford marked a lot of important firsts for me. My first time living away from my parents. My first time having to set my own schedule and work out my own problems. My first time managing my own budget. My first time having a real boyfriend in a real relationship (I had dated River Phoenix in my dreams all through high school- but then he upped and died so I considered that a breakup.)

On the flip-side, however, I suppose, in some ways, I was a bit of a fish out of water at Harvard… I mean, Haverford. Between my wacky show business background, my irreverent sense of humor, and a mouth that never stopped flapping, well, I’m fairly certain the Admissions Department fantasized about rescinding their offer and shipping me off to the University Of People We’re Having Second Thoughts About. That being said, despite our differences, Haverford embraced me, and I continue to embrace it with the fondest of memories. Just like the teacher for whom we secretly harbor the highest of admiration because he/she was hardest on us in school, I firmly believe the colleges we attend are an invaluable component of our general life experiences. And in ways we may not even realize for decades to come, the collegiate life experiences we acquire help determine the course of our respective futures. For it is in college that we learn so much about ourselves – our social strengths, our academic weakness, and, perhaps, most importantly, how to stretch a microwaved bowl of Chef Boy Ardee into three meals.

That being said, those of us bonded by the black squirrels and Quaker code of honor that marked our collective four years of studies on campus, now do our best to apply a bit of the Haverfordian way to everything we do. Fords are special that way.

So, it was with great joy that I recently received an email from a classmate of mine, Cheryl Sternman Rule, an award-winning food writer and all-around cool woman. ( Although we didn’t know each other well in college, I’d always liked Cheryl, and was happy when our paths recently crossed again while she was on a book tour for her cookbook, Ripe: A Fresh, Colorful Approach to Fruits and Vegetables. (One of the Top 5 Cookbooks of 2012- Vegetarian Times) Cheryl is a wickedly funny and engaging writer who ended up marrying an equally funny and engaging Ford by the name of Colin Rule, with whom I had the pleasure of performing in the campus funk band. (Colin performed, I sort of just squawked and wiggled) And she has kindly obliged me by contributing the below Guest Blog, an open letter to my parents entitled, “Dear Mr. and Mrs. Grambs”.

Typical of the Haverford breed, Cheryl came through for me just when I needed her most – a voice of culinary reason as I battle against my parents’ cruel decision to not serve turkey for Thanksgiving dinner this year. ( The letter is not only delightfully witty, but replete with cooking insight and that inimitable Haverfordian hint of diplomacy and class. So, during this, the season of giving Thanks, I extend my deepest appreciation to Cheryl Sternman Rule for leaping to my blog defense in this ongoing Grambs turkey/chili debate with her distinctive culinary expertise, eloquence and wit. She did so despite the many writing duties she is juggling on her own end – including her award-winning blog 5 Second Rule, which features all sorts of fascinating foodie delights, including some wonderful posts about Cheryl’s recent trip overseas where she explored the cuisine and hospitality of Israel.

Cheryl has built a wonderful career in the world of culinary writing and travel that makes her fellow Fords so very, very proud. So read her most noble post below, and then do yourself a favor and click your mouse over each of the links I’ve provided to visit Cheryl’s website, blog and book info. Trust me, you’ll be wiser (and hungrier) for some time spent with my dear classmate.

Sincerely Craving Turkey,

Alison Grambs
Haverford Class of ’92

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Grambs:

So you’re serving Alison chili.

On Thanksgiving.

That’s cool.

You know what I’m eating?


And here’s why.

I like turkey as much as I like flossing, but change at the holidays is never good.

Give me change in January, in March, in July, and in my pocket, but on the third Thursday of November, I want predictability.

This means a fat bird, slightly dry, with puddle-colored gravy.

I don’t want a fried turkey, or a steamed turkey, or a turkey brined in some fancy salt from the Isle of Blerg.

I don’t need Brussels sprouts capped with vanilla foam, or yams sprinkled with chestnut dust.

I don’t want pecan pie wrapped in a spun sugar cage or reimagined as a super-cute, thimble-sized version of itself.

And I certainly don’t need a new method for cranberry sauce.

Here’s how you make cranberry sauce: boil cranberries, sugar, and water – look!

You’re done and you’re welcome.

I’m not a curmudgeon.

I just think if we can eat sandwiches every day and stew all winter long, if we can sip wine at 5pm and coffee every. single. morning, it’s not too much to ask that we non-vegetarians pony up a turkey once a year.

If it’s good but not great, or if we screw it up, or if our oven dies midway through, who cares?

Ten minutes after the meal we grab a stockpot, throw in the carcass, toss in some onions, and make soup to sip for the next three weeks.

Turkey soup lines the gut like the softest of silks, prepping it for the royal icing and peppermint bark lurking right round the corner.

So Mr. and Mrs. Grambs?

Let the White House pardon the Thanksgiving turkey.

You pardon the chili, and give your daughter some bird.

Respectfully yours,


Cheryl Sternman Rule is the author of “Ripe: A Fresh, Colorful Approach to Fruits and Vegetables” (Running Press, 2012) and the voice behind the award-winning blog 5 Second Rule.


“NO THANKS-GIVING” by Alison Grambs


I’d like to report an incident of child abuse.

I am the child. And I am being abused. You see, last year I was the victim of an egregious and flagrant act of neglect when my mother, the matriarch of the Thanksgiving meal at our abode, promptly, and without warning, announced she would not be serving turkey. Instead, she had decided it would be wonderfully ‘fun’ and ‘probably more historically accurate’ to serve Native American Pumpkin Chili. I argued that this was a travesty of justice! Completely unacceptable! I threatened to boycott Thanksgiving and then withhold all her Christmas gifts if Mom did not reconsider. But Mom, ever the smart and highly educated one, retorted with an onslaught of highly intellectual justifications for this unexpected culinary change. I squawked. I screamed. I stomped my feet. I begged her to reconsider. But Mom remained firm in her stance that Thanksgiving should be about Pumpkin Chili.

So distraught was I at the news, that I published a story recounting a bitter dispute for all the world to share. ( And to my shock, I received a mix of emails from friends and colleagues – some supporting my pro-turkey position and offering to sneak me turkey on the side; and others declaring my mother a heroine for bravely going where few Thanksgiving chefs dare to go… and asking for her friggin’ recipe. Clearly, my mother’s pumpkin chili stance had struck a universal chord. And while I must admit that the chili turned out to be quite tasty, and our Thanksgiving was, in fact, as joyous and warm a family gathering as it always is, I have, for the last eleven months, held out hope that my very public airing of my no-turkey grievance had all but guaranteed me a giblet-filled Thanksgiving dinner this year.

Turns out I was wrong. (Just like I was wrong about my theory that down pillows are called ‘up pillows’ Down Under.)

I have just been informed by the prettier of my two parental units that, once again, there will be no turkey among our Thanksgiving spread. Worse yet, it seems Dad’s hopped on the ‘turkey is for suckers’ bandwagon – chattering on and on to me last night about how much he is looking forward to Mom’s now ‘famous’ Native American Pumpkin Chili. I guess their road trip out West this summer, into the heat and history of the Badlands and Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, didn’t help my cause. Apparently, ‘everyone’ out West eats Pumpkin Chili on Thanksgiving. And that there are starving children in Africa who would give anything for a taste.

Whatever. All I know is that I’m being forced to swap out the proverbial carving knife in my life for a ladle, and I’m pissed. It seems Mom and Dad have gotten it into their gung-ho ‘let’s get back to the root of our history’ heads that the best way to pay homage to the Plymouth settlers and their Native American hosts is to humiliate and starve their beloved only child.

And all this child abuse has me thinking about how different things might have been if someone screwed with the menu at Plymouth back in 1621:

Pilgrim #1: “Hey, pass the cornbread, will ya?”

Pilgrim #2: “Sure. By the way, love your hat.”

Pilgrim #1: “Thanks. Made it out of the hull of the Mayflower.”

Pilgrim # 2: (turning to Mrs. Pilgrim #2) “Wow, honey. This cranberry sauce is exquisite. Did you make it from scratch?”

Mrs. Pilgrim # 2: (Blushing) “Oh, well, now aren’t you kind, honey. Yes, I did. Spent the last six months gathering cranberries for it.”

Pilgrim #2: “And this stuffing is fantastic! Also from scratch, sweetheart?”

Mrs. Pilgrim #2: “Yes, I spent the last six months gathering breadcrumbs for it.”

Pilgrim # 1: (leaning in to Pilgrim #2) “Quite a talented little lady ya got there. Mind if I borrow her for the night? He he.”

(Pilgrim # 2 punches Pilgrim # 1 in the face. There is a knock at the bush by the table as more guests arrive.)

Pilgrim # 3: “Sorry we’re late. Had a little trouble finding my bloomers in the dark. Hope somebody invents the lightbulb soon.”

Pilgrim # 1: “No worries. Sit down and feast with us!”

Wampagnoag Chief: (calling down the long table) “My people and I welcome you to our great land and thank you for inviting us to dinner. Now pass the turkey, will ya?”

(Awkward silence among the Pilgrims)

Wampagnoag Chief: “Helllllllllo?”

Pilgrim #2: “Um… um. How about some candied yams, Chief?”

Mrs. Pilgrim #2: “Uh… yes. Have some. I made them from scratch. Spent the last six months gathering the candies.”

Wampagnoag Chief: (looking around the table curiously) “Thanks, but not much of a sweets person actually. Just the turkey, thanks.”

Pilgrim 2: (scratching his head nervously) “Um… um.”

Wampagnoag Chief: “Yep.” (rubbing his belly with anticipation) “Been thinking about your turkey allllll year.”

Pilgrim # 1: (scratching his head nervously) “How ’bout I refresh your corn maize there, Chief?”

Wampagnoag Chief: “Nah. Not good for my ulcer. Just a turkey leg and some stuffing will be fine.”

(Mrs. Pilgrim #2 passes him the stuffing)

Wampagnoag Chief: “Great.” (taps his fingers on the table.) “Now just waiting on that delicious turkey you promised me.”

(Mrs. Pilgrim #2 passes him some cornbread, a baked artichoke, mashed potatoes and a cinnamon stick.)

Wampagnoag Chief: “Ma’am, that’s not turkey. What gives?”

Pilgrim # 2: “Well, Chief. It’s just that, well, the missus and I decided against serving turkey for this, our first giving of thanks.”

Mrs. Pilgrim # 2: “Yes, it takes about six months to baste, you know, and well, I just didn’t have time, what with all the gathering I had to do for the tiramisu dessert.”

Wampagnoag Chief: “But… but… but…”

Pilgrim # 1: (slides over a bowl of orange-colored organic slop) “How ’bout some homemade pumpkin chili?”

Wampagnoag Chief: (balking at the orange-colored organic slop in front of him now) “You’re kidding, right?”

Pilgrim # 2: “Tastes even better than turkey, Chief.”

Wampagnoag Chief: (Pushing the bowl of orange-colored organic slop away) “I’m not eating that. It looks like puke.”

(Mrs. Pilgrim # 2 begins crying as Pilgrim #1 consoles her by slipping his hand under her dress.)

Wampagnoag Chief: “You promised me turkey for dinner tonight. You P-R-O-M-I–S-E-D!”

Pilgrim # 2: “There’s two S’s in “promised.”

Pilgrim # 1: “Actually, I think there’s only one.”

Pilgrim # 2: “Oh please. What do you know. You’re wearing a hat made out of wood.”

Wampagnoag Chief: “I repeat: You promised me turkey. Just like you promised me your people would stop using our trees to hang up your wet clothes.”

Pilgrims # 1 and #2: (in unison) “Oh, promises shmomises. What’s in a promise, right?”

(They chuckle)

Pilgrim # 2: “Chief, I promise we’ll give you turkey next year. Promise.” (winks at Pilgrim # 1 and Mrs. Pilgrim # 2 who is reapplying her lipstick made of cherry juice and sawdust)

Wampagnoag Chief: (gets up and excuses himself from the table.) “No. A man is only as good as his word.”

Mrs. Pilgrim # 2: “Would you like some tiramisu to go, Chief?”

(Wampagnoag Chief flips all three of them the bird.)

Incidentally, the ONLY BIRD he got to eat that night back in 1621 !!!!!!!

See my point?