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  • Writer's pictureMarc Johnson


Wouldn’t you know. I’m just about to get into full Thanksgiving mode and word breaks from England, where they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, that my favorite celebrity chef – Nigella Lawson – is being accused of serial drug abuse. Cocaine, no less.

Nigella? Really?

Generally, I expect that the biggest news to break during this, my favorite holiday, is the by now completely-to-be-expected story of how some good ol’ boy down in say, Beaumont, Texas – Texas leads the nation in this you may not be surprised to know – has torched his car port when he plunked the still partially frozen Thanksgiving turkey in a pot of over hot oil. Boom.

I can hear the resulting conversation: “Boy, that sucker took off! Glad the Dodge wasn’t under the car port. Where’s Bubba?”

By the way, the Beaumont Fire Department held a training exercise this week to alert the Texas fryer brigade that hot oil, frozen turkeys and alcohol don’t mix. Throw in a little bad blood with a brother-in-law over the outcome of the Texas v. Texas A&M football game and we’re talking insurance claims. Almost makes me long for a seat at the Cheney family Thanksgiving.

But, seriously, I do love Thanksgiving. It is the most American of holidays and a holiday that has its origins in the right kind of thinking – giving thanks. I’ve also long thought that Thanksgiving was doggedly resisting becoming just another excuse to troop to the mall and rack up credit card debt, but I can apparently give up on being thankful for that.  The morning paper carries a K-Mart ad announcing that the store will be open at 5:00 am Thanksgiving day. Macy’s, WalMart and many other big box merchants have joined K-Mart in unceremoniously dumping the once sacred tradition of being closed on one day of the year where Americans really ought to stay home and enjoy each others, or at least conspire together not to burn down the car port.

I understand the nature of capitalism, just as Pope Francis does, and that the period from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve is a critical period for many retailers to make it or break it for the year, but 5:00 am on Thanksgiving? Will Thanksgiving now become just another shopping crazed day on the over indulgent road to the post-Christmas sales? Will Denny’s next be offering a turkey dinner to go that you can eat from the comfort of your shopping cart at Best Buy?

I’m sure the Jesuit pope wasn’t thinking specifically of America’s over-indulgent consumer culture (or was he) when he wrote in his latest Apostolic Exhortation, “We have created a ‘disposable’ culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the ‘exploited’ but the outcast, the ‘leftovers.'”

Words to contemplate on the way to K-Mart in the pre-dawn hours.

Thanksgiving hold special memories for me – Mom’s deft touch with the turkey and gravy, my brother being home, a Detroit Lions game in the background, a special year when two college basketball players joined us for dinner and more recently friends, family, good cheer, too much pie and plenty of love with the leftovers. And, yes, I have a roasting pan overflowing with things to be thankful for this year.

Thanksgiving can’t possibly get better by making it the biggest shopping day of the year, but ultimately only we shoppers have the power to convince the big box guys that some things are too important to turn over to door busting specials. If we stay away, nap on the sofa, help mom with the dishes, play Scrabble with the nieces and nephews, watch an old movie or, heaven forbid, read a book, the guys at Shopko will conclude – it’s the nature of capitalism after all – that opening early on the day after Thanksgiving is still the way to go.

In the spirit of the season, by the way, I am officially suspending judgment on whether the British celeb chef Nigella was getting through what sounds like an awful ten year marriage to Charles Saatchi with the help of something a bit more exotic than turkey breast stuffed with Italian sausage and Marsala-steeped cranberries.

For her part Nigella says the drug abuse charge is nonsense and like all good celebrities she took to Twitter to thank her fans for standing by here. Many said they would bake something in a show of solidarity. That’s the spirit.

I’m standing by, too, and for two reasons. The drug charge is, after all, being made by an ex-husband who we last heard from with his hands around the chef’s throat and, after an exhaustive review of Nigella’s website, I didn’t find a single recipe for frying a turkey.

Happy Thanksgiving. Eat well, take a nap, go for a walk. There are other days to shop, really.

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