Thanksgiving and How We Got Here

Today I remember a different Guthrie song from a different Guthrie.

It has become a tradition for many to play Arlo Guthrie’s Alyce’s Restaurant on this day, but I have another song in mind.

Men at Lunch

Today, as Americans give thanks for all that we have, we are thanking those who helped us along the way. That includes native Americans, and those generations of Americans who opened their doors to immigrants from China, Japan, Poland, Russia, Italy, Ireland, Ukraine, the Viet Nam, India, El Salvador, and a great many other places. Almost nobody who lives in America can say that they are in some way native, and nobody can say that America hasn’t benefited from those to whom we opened our doors. I am the great-grandson of a woman who came here as a 14 year old girl, fleeing horrible conditions in Eastern Europe. Good people found her clean lodging and got her a basic education, such that she was one of the only ones in her family to have survived the Holocaust. Her story, my heritage, is far from unique, and it is the reason that the Statue of Liberty is not incongruous with the American Century.

It horrifies me that our government knew that it had no means to track the thousands of immigrant children who are in our care. I encourage my friends to give a thought to these children, and their welfare.

Throughout the 20th century, isolationist bigoted forces always needlessly feared immigrants, whether it was the numbers of Chinese who had completed the railways, or Japanese Americans who were imprisoned. Always there has been some fear of our brothers and sisters south of the border. Somehow, until recently, we always knew that our relationship to Central Americans was one that we all valued, both culturally and economically. That our laws didn’t take this into account has been a singularly unjust abuse of the our brothers and sisters. Even as I write this, President Trump wants to declare Mexican gangs terrorist organizations, not to keep us safe, but to instill more fear of immigrants.

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I commemorate today not with a song by Arlo Guthrie but with one written by his father Woody in 1948. To borrow a statement from someone else, it is an absolute travesty that the song Deportee is still relevant today. While Guthrie wrote it, a great many people have sung it, including Arlo, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, and Bob Dylan. These people have served as the conscience of America.

And so as we are enjoying our feasts, let’s remember those we have cast out.

Pumpkin Pie: I’m a bit screwed

Thanksgiving is coming, and so here in Switzerland I felt like making a pumpkin pie today.  Yes, it’s not actually Thanksgiving, but I could either celebrate it before or after, so I’m doing both.  Here’s the thing about pumpkin pie: because it really is an American dish, some of the ingredients are really American.  My favorite recipe is Libby’s, but my wife and daughter both were not thrilled. But it also has two other problems, one of which is difficult to avoid.  Libby’s calls for condensed milk and canned pumpkin.  There is absolutely nothing to be done about the canned pumpkin part.  Anyone who knows anything knows that you just get a can of pumpkin for pumpkin pie, because quite frankly, we all have better things to do than to chop, bake, skin and mash a pumpkin, and probably the wrong pumpkin at that.  The catch is that here in Switzerland, apparently they don’t, or they simply don’t eat pumpkin.

So that leaves the condensed milk.  Some recipes call for it, and some call for cream cheese. This year I tried a recipe from the Joy of Baking, which merely calls for cream.  It makes a very light pie, but the spice doesn’t bowl you over.  Quite frankly I found it a bit meek.  But this is precisely what, I think my wife and daughter liked.  Also, this pie isn’t too sweet, which is something I like.  This is a Martha Stewart recipe.  Are they all so middle-of-the-road?

Anyway, Happy (early) Thanksgiving, America!