Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Succotash, Anyone?

The only thing I'd like to say about Thanksgiving is that I'm sincerely thankful I will not be eating succotash or venison or trout or johnny cakes this year. That, dear reader, is what I ate for Thanksgiving dinner last year at a very festive Let's-Pretend-That-We-Just-Arrived-on-the-Mayflower Thanksgiving Extravaganza. Aside from the noticeable lack of Native Americans at the table, the dinner was designed to replicate the original Thanksgiving dinner glorified in 5th-grade history books. And I thought the whole purpose of recording history was to ensure that history doesn't repeat itself. Alas. What do I know? Lucky for me, though, last year's reliance on 17th-century American food staples was just "for fun" (translation: educational experience). Everybody went home that night to their microfiber recliners, bowls of kettle corn, and flat-panel television sets and fell asleep to visions of black Friday ninety-nine-cent digital cameras dancing through their heads.

For too many, though, the post-Thanksgiving reality is harsh. I think of some of the men and women I recently read about in Underground America, a collection of narratives from undocumented immigrants. They live on leftover chicken livers from the processing plants that employ them. They sleep in storage units and send their five-dollar-an-hour wages home to their destitute and aged parents abroad. Remarkably, though, most of them say they are not sorry they came: "It's still better here." They have hope for their children and for the opportunities that lie ahead.

I imagine the original Thanksgiving diners, immigrants of another type, had similar feelings. They weathered harsh conditions and built homes on an unfamiliar landscape that threatened to swallow them into oblivion. They lost children and contracted diseases, and yet they survived. More importantly, they could sincerely say, "It's still better here."

And it was.

I guess I wouldn't mind eating succotash every once in a while to remember that.


  1. I loved this post. I tried to comment several days ago but it wouldn't allow me, for some reason that I am sure is totally my fault!