Giving thanks with Roz Chast

A Roz Chast New Yorker cartoon from 11/22/10, “The Last Thanksgiving” — how could I possibly please them all? — and now her cover for the latest (11/26/18) New Yorker, “Thankfulness”, for the Technology Issue of the magazine.


The title is a play on the first Thanksgiving, referring to the 1621 celebration at Plymouth involving Pilgrims and American Indians. But after the Thanksgiving dinner pictured above, there will be no more — at least, not with this crew.

The cartoon illustrates one feature of the archetypical Thanksgiving meal: relatively large numbers of ill-assorted guests, who rarely (if ever) otherwise gather together. Not visible in the cartoon: a mind-boggling amount of food, in large quantities, with a gigantic roast turkey as its centerpiece.

In principle such a spread provides something to please everyone, but that plan can go awry — if some guests find certain dishes actively revolting (some people are done in by the pervasive scent of roasted turkey), or if there’s pressure for everyone to sample everything or to take second or third helpings.

So much can go wrong. For illustrations of the possibilities, see the Thanksgiving episodes of American situation comedies on tv.

In my various households we struggled to downsize the celebration and make it looser and friendlier. The turkeys got smaller and smaller, and eventually they were dismissed from Thanksgiving (and Christmas) entirely, but appeared instead in weekend family meals in the inter-holiday period (where their main culinary value, as sources of left-over turkey for other dishes, could be maximally exploited). This took some years, however. Our records of meals show that in 1969 and 1970 in Columbus OH we were still roasting Thanksgiving turkeys, with 8 at table (more on this below),

(#2) “Thankfulness”: tech time for the holiday

Note on the concurrence of events. November 22nd is St. Cecilia’s Day, on which we celebrate the power of music; see my 11/21/11 posting “Saint Cecilia”. Then the date was darkened by the assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22nd, 1963. So now these occasions come always linked.

And this year, it’s also Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving food postings. A compendium of postings on ths blog about food for Thanksgiving, with personal notes:

— on 11/18/11, “The Food Issue, with pesto”, with Adam Gopnik’s suggestion that the centerpiece dish for the holiday should be turkey with pesto and Calvin Trillin’s opinion that it should be spaghetti carbonara

on 11/24/11, “Thanksgiving meals”:

For some years, Ann Daingerfield Zwicky and I usually had some kind of roast for Thanksgiving (but mostly chicken, lamb, pork, beef, or veal, rather than turkey, which we cooked at other times of the year). Then when it was just Jacques [Transue] and me, I branched out — a couple years, a smoked turkey by mail, then a variety of experiments, eventually settling on my new favorite, posole (pork and hominy stew…)

on 11/24/11,  “Turkey improvisations”: things to do wth left-over turkey, esp. Turkey Tetrazzini and the Hot Brown Sandwich

on 5/2/12, “Old recipes II: milk pie”, on Pa. Dutch milk pies / tarts as an essential part of Thanksgiving

on 10/24/14, “Familiarity”, on Stove Top Stuffing

on 11/27/14, “Thanksgiving crunch”, with a note on sugared cranberries, and:

As for Thanksgiving cranberry sauce, my household has always provided its own crunchy stuff (not the homogenized achingly sweet cylinders from a can). From an on-line recipe that calls for sugar, water, and fresh cranberries, cooked until most of the berries have burst; plus optional additions: chopped pecans, orange zest, raisins or currants, blueberries, holiday spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice)…

on 11/26/15, “A non-traditional Thanksgiving dessert”

The classic dessert for Thanksgiving is pumpkin pie, which I have no enthusiasm for. After that, pecan pie, which I adore. And then, I suppose, apple pie, though in this case I prefer elegant French versions over sturdy American ones.

Now for something completely different: dried fruit compôte, intense and easy to cook.

on 11/26/15, “stuffing, dressing, filling”, with the Thanksgiving turkey

on 11/27/15, “Canned cranjellyfish”, on cranberries for Thanksiving; Ocean Spray cranberry jelly; Mama Stamberg’s cranberry relish

on 2/25/17, “Posole verde with chicken”

on 10/20/17, “A processed food flavor”, on pumpkin spice

on 10/25/17, “Revisiting 10: Dare, sweet spice”, on pumpkin spice

on 11/23/17, “Two Thanksgiving meals”, on vermicelli Singapore-style (with shrimp) at Tai Pan in Palo Alto; and Taco Bell’s turkeritos

on 10/27/18, “The holidays of our lives”: 10/26 as National Pumpkin Pie Day and National Mincemeat Day; mincemeat; pumpkin bars

on 10/29/18, “63 years of green beans, mushroom soup, and fried onions”: Dorcas Reilly’s green bean casserole

And now, just in, Sami Alim on Facebook, exulting over a “PRE-Thankstaking Day meal with bomb-ass seafood gumbo, sweet & spicy jalapeño wings, fried catfish, delicious greens & baked shrimp mac n cheese”, from which I extract the gumbo:

(#3) I’m thinking that gumbo is a fine idea for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving dinners 1969 and 1970. From the notebook that Ann and I kept for several years. (In ADZ’s handwriting except as noted.)

Thanksgiving Dinner, Nov. 27, 1969

[Ann, Elizabeth, and me, plus:] Guests: Nancy [Stampe], [OSU linguistics professor] David [Stampe] & [their son] John Stampe, the Grosus [Alex and Mariana; Alex was then a grad student at Ohio State]

apéritif wines: sherry, Dubonnet, vermouth

— hors d’oeuvres variés: nuts (peanuts, dry-roasted almonds & pistachio nuts), blue cheese stuffed celery, marinated artichokes and mushrooms (courtesy of Nancy) … spinach & blue cheese

Nuits-St-Georges T. Lardet 1964 ($3.03)

— turkey w/ sausage stuffing … chestnuts & celery … broccoli & lemon butter … scalloped oysters … bread (Nancy’s) … cranberry-almond sauce … gravy

— green salad w/ watercress & fennel

— choice of desserts: plum pudding & hard sauce; pumpkin pie & whipped cream (Nancy); dried fruit compote & vanilla sauce

[AMZ’s handwriting] Remarks: oysters excellent, ditto salad. Plum pudding (Gourmet Nov. ’69) great, but needed baking instead of steaming. Fruit compote superb (NY Times Green).

Dinner: Nov. 26 (Thanksgiving)

[Ann, Elizabeth, and me, plus:] Guests: [OSU linguistics professor] Mike & Jonnie Geis, Greg & Pat [Lee, both grad students at Ohio State], Jacques Transue [also a grad student at Ohio State]

— dry-roasted hazel nuts … various drinks and cocktails

— chicken broth with sherry

Lichine Graves ’67 ($2.29) … Château Carbonnieux ’64 ($4.11)

— roast turkey w/ oyster dressing  … buttered broccoli … onions & celery amandine (G[ourmet]. Menu) … turnip casserole (Greg’s) … cranberry sauce (Jonnie’s)

— tutti-frutti ice cream … chocolate fruit cake (Gourmet, Nov. 1970) … light plum pudding (Greg’s) … (cold) tutti frutti sauce &/or hot brandy sauce

Marsala – fruit – coffee

Remarks: Broth v. unexciting; not worth repeating. Turnips a bit bitter, but well sauced. Broccoli slightly overdone. I may have left the sugar out of the cake, which is an exceptionally easy recipe; if so, it’s still pretty good without sugar. Greg’s pudding excellent; sauce too alcoholic. Cranberry sauce excellent. [AMZ’s handwriting] Better wine very much better in direct comparison — complex and somewhat flinty, not at all sour.

3 Responses to “Giving thanks with Roz Chast”

  1. Geoffrey Steven Nathan Says:

    Surprised to see so many names I know and some of whom I’m still in touch with.

  2. Robert Coren Says:

    Re St. Cecilia’s Day: I see that the 2011 article mentions Benjamin Britten’s Hymn to St. Cecilia, but does not mention the fact that Nov. 22 is also Britten’s birthday.

  3. [BLOG] Some Friday links | A Bit More Detail Says:

    […] Zwicky shares some Thanksgiving holiday cartoons by Roz […]

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