Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Radically Different Thanksgiving: Revolution, Terrorism and Pies

I've never been a great fan of Thanksgiving, except for the part attractive to all academics -- a big break before we start the Christmas push. When I was a kid, it was one of those endlessly long days where my reading was repeatedly interrupted for the sake of dreaded family activities. N and I usually celebrate it by staying home together, or by going to the movies. Rarely do we spend this holiday with any member of our very extended family, although I do remember one large, memorable Thanksgiving dinner where a small nephew wept inconsolably when the turkey was presented. "I wah-hah-hah-hah-hah-hah-hah- ant chicken fingers," he hiccoughed wetly, at the top of his lungs.

But this year N is abroad working on a project. En route to her final destination, she got stuck in Bangkok, where protesters have launched an all-out effort to dispose of their current form of democracy and replace it with another form of democracy that some of us see as more restricted and the protesters see as less corrupt. The parallels here to the post- Reconstruction south in the United States, a period which lasted about 80 years, seem unavoidable to me. But perhaps no one has explained it in as much depth as I need to dismiss that comparison.

The changes proposed by this middle-class movement, as I understand them, would include reversing reforms that had expanded the influence of the poor in the electoral process and strengthening the role of the monarchy. Because part of the strategy has been to throw a wrench into Thailand's primary source of revenue, the tourist industry, the protesters have occupied the international airport (where, speaking of Thanksgiving, they have set up facilities to cook delicious Thai food, according to the New York Times.) All flights in and out of Bangkok have been cancelled until the government either falls or does not fall. Having someone dear to you in the middle of a possible coup d'etat or what is beginning to look like an equally vigorous counter coup, is worrisome. But at least my dearest friend and boon companion is not in Mumbai, where things have turned truly horrifying in the last 24 hours. Expect updates over the next few days on this unfolding story from Chapati Mystery, a blog that will often tell you what the major media can't pull themselves together to know or care enough about in South Asia.

So on this Thanksgiving, can we thank the Bushies for dealing so effectively with terrorism, and for their unstinting efforts to spread democracy around the globe? Thank you George. Thank you Dick. Thank you Rummy. Thank you Condi. Let's send them all a pie -- and you know where to put it, My Friends.

But don't think my holiday is ruined. Partly this is because, stereotypical Tenured Radical that I am, I do not have an elaborate need to celebrate the failure of Plymouth Colony to go the way of Roanoke colony. My family of origin tended not to make a big deal of Thanksgiving either, aside from interrupting my reading. The Mother of the Radical (MOTheR) is Canadian and while she did her part, she couldn't get entirely revved up about celebrating the harvest on the wrong day. In addition, eating was not a competitive sport at my house, so the idea of a day devoted to planning and executing gluttony had no real appeal. This prepared me well for growing up and becoming educated to the notion that Thanksgiving has a pretty seamy past. Click here to access a ceremony that marks Thanksgiving as one of the holidays commemorating the end of indigenous sovereignty in North America, and while you are there, sign a petition to free Leonard Peltier.

And yet, I will be celebrating friendship this year with my work-family from The Castle, and giving thanks for the fact that to date the economic crisis has been managed at Zenith with a salary freeze, a few budget cuts and the addition of a few extra lucky winners in next year's freshman class. Several days ago, in response to my inquiry as to what I could bring to this festive event, I received the following reply:

Your assignment, Mr. Phelps, should you choose to accept it is to bring pies to the Thanksgiving dinner. Scrumptious creations from either your own kitchen or a Shoreline bakery would be most welcome. If you prefer to bring something else, the Secretary is willing to negotiate. If you are caught or killed in the completion of your mission, the Secretary will disavow all knowledge of your actions.


Mission Impossible Force.

Now everyone knows that Historiann the Queen of The Dessert is the blogger you want cooking for you (although I wish to god at this point that she were the Queen of Thailand and taking an active role in negotiations to open the airport and restore democracy.) But not everyone can have Historiann over for dinner on the same day, can they? So I went diligently to work. And thanks to the New York Times Cookbook and Chris Kimball, guest chef on National Public Radio's Morning Edition yesterday, two pies are sitting on my counter. My pies have a tendency to look like they fell from the Ugly Tree, but they taste delicious, which is really the point about two seconds after people start slicing into them. And - speaking of terrorism -- one thing they won't do is explode, as Dr. Victorian's pie did, when left on a live electric burner by mistake in its Pyrex dish just prior to serving the Holiday Dessert That Will Never Be Forgotten. Who knew Pyrex exploded with a horrific bang when exposed to extreme heat? Furthermore, if there is a pie holding the dish down and compressing the explosion, the dish sprays glass shards horizontally at waist level. Hence my deduction: that the pie itself can be a weapon of mass destruction. If you see any stray pies lying around the house this holiday, eat them immediately to avoid further mayhem. This is an order.

Ah well. Pie or no pie, at least we have more democracy in the United States this November thanks to Barack Obama and the Democratic National Committee. I am actually thankful for that.


AcadeMama said...

Wishing N safety on her continued travels and return home.

Ahistoricality said...

If you see any stray pies lying around the house this holiday, eat them immediately to avoid further mayhem. This is an order.

Aye, Aye, Sir, Maam!

Safe travels to all, and lots of pie!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link--and congratulations on your pies! I made the Port Wine Bleu Cheese ball from the same program, and it was good. It made a mammoth cheese ball, however--depending on how many people you're entertaining and/or how badly you miscalculated when to put the turkey in the oven, you may not need a pound and a half of cheese ball.

Thanksgiving chez Historiann included 4 historians who were fortunately (and just barely) outnumbered by a grandparent, a pediatrician, and 3 children. I hope yours was grand!

Profane said...

"If you see any stray pies lying around the house this holiday, eat them immediately to avoid further mayhem. This is an order."


Permission to enter food coma?

Susan said...

I am totally confused by the Thailand stuff: on the one hand, I agree with your analysis, but I also think there is this weird thing slightly reminiscent of fascism (or maybe just Berlusconi, to use a contemporary comparison) where a guy who owns most of hte country becomes the one who is going to do more for the poor. So the corruption issue is not completely wrong.

I hope N gets out of Bangkok soon, though.