Another holiday in the field.

mike salovesh (T20MXS1@MVS.CSO.NIU.EDU)
Thu, 22 Dec 1994 23:44:00 CST

Somebody said "holiday stories from the field." I hope nobody minds
a Thanksgiving story . . . from 1960, in case you wonder.

Way, way back when the Highlands of Chiapas had anthropologists all
over the place, primarily from Harvard, Chicago, and Stanford, we
all decided it would be nice to try to approximate a Thanksgiving
dinner. Turkey is native to the area, so that shouldn't have been
a problem. Squash, too, is native--but it really didn't seem to be
a good base for pumpkin pie. We decided to substitute lemon pie.
Sweet potatoes on the side actually turned out fine.

We had a gorgeous dinner, with Ruth Adams (Mrs. Robert M., if you
don't recognize her) and Roberta Montagu as chief cooks. There were
only a few "little" problems:
1. Somebody managed to steal most of the turkey's breast meat while
leaving the skin intact. (Much of our meat course used up
Bobby Montagu's emergency supply of mortadella, which was made
by a German butcher in San Cristobal de las Casas on an irregular
schedule we never figured out. Italian sausage from a German
butcher in backwoods Mexico . . . par for the course.)
2. There weren't enough lemons available to make enough pie to go
around. Ruth had the genial idea of creating a new traditional
dish, also based on a local ingredient: tequila pie. Actually,
it was godawful, but if you ate enough you stopped noticing.
3. Although the Harvard crew was famous for being able to produce
passable martinis (in chilled glasses, yet) in the middle of the
jungle, the Chicago folks were in charge. We drank Ocosingo
manhattans, made (as I recall--but I really recall little of
what went on when I drank those things) of Ron Bonampak from
the Pujiltic sugar mill and some kind of rotgut that came in
bottles that had a "Vermouth" label but no other relationship
to anything like vermouth.
4. Again and again, the production of the kinds of things we all
envisioned as a "real Thanksgiving" ran into the bottleneck of
the total unavailability of some simple, key ingredient. There
was no sage for the stuffing, for example; fresh cinammon bark
is wonderful for practically anything else, but it just doesn't
make it for candied sweet potatoes (and what passed for marsh-
mallows didn't work, either--and they didn't toast too well,

It all turned out to be the most screwed up Thanksgiving dinner in
history--and the Thanksgiving I remember more fondly than any other
in my life. What made it right was the wonderful people.

Which, of course, is what holidays are really about.

Merry Christmas to all!

-- mike <>