I like to think that the Pilgrims and American Indians at the first Thanksgiving fretted about the guest list beforehand and complained about the food afterward. That way, the grousing, bickering, and nitpicking that Jessica and I do during the holidays would not fall into the category of, say, Malcontents or Ingrates, but instead into the category of Traditionalists.


Aspects of the first Thanksgiving in 1621 were different from, and decidedly better than, our current celebration. First, it was held in October, not November. October is a much better month for a feast than November. The harvest is fresher and the weather is milder. Because it just makes sense, I propose they move Thanksgiving to October where it belongs and move Halloween to November.

Not only that, I propose they make it longer. The first Thanksgiving was held over three days, not just in an afternoon. The guests dined not only on wild turkey, but on geese, ducks, venison, lobsters, oysters, and fish. The contemporary Thanksgiving of a couple of hours over a dinner of a domesticated turkey and maybe a processed ham is lame by comparison. My proposal is to bring back the three-day Thanksgiving. We could phase it in gradually, going to two days first. I'm flexible.

But I believe that there is one thing we shouldn't change: carping. I imagine that, being human and all, the Pilgrims and Indians, at the conclusion of their three-day gorgefest did what we do today - critiqued the meal.

"Can you believe how dry the white meat was?" I imagine an Indian saying to a friend as they walk home through the woods among the fading colors of fall.

"Thank goodness for gravy, if you know what I'm sayin,'" the friend replies. "Oh, and what was that lime-green rubber thing?"

"I think they called it a Jell-O mold."

"A what?"

"Some European delicacy, I guess."

"With delicacies like that, no wonder they left home."

Meanwhile, a Pilgrim, leaning back in his favorite hard chair and watching a game of Catch a Rock outside his picture window, calls to his wife in the kitchen.

"Could you believe that corn pudding stuff?"

"I thought it was pretty good."

"Good? It tasted like mush."

"Oh, sweetie. Everybody makes mush. The Italians, for example, they have mush. Risotto, they call it. And what about our bangers and mash? Mash by any other name is still mush."

"But with corn?" he says. "I think they liked having some good English cooking. By the way, hon, good Jell-O mold."