One of the things I like best about living in a metro area this size is the way the various ethnicities assert themselves. Columbus, while no tank town, is (or was) a place where a certain mushy pan-European generic culture stamps out the details of what it means to be, say, of Greek heritage (except during Greekfest). Fort Wayne’s foundation of German bloodstock eclipses all but a few other early-immigrant groups. (One of these is the Macedonian community, but they sort of stamped themselves out by invading the restaurant trade, where they proved excellent hosts mainly by offering what you like, not their own tastes.) The preceding is obviously a little like painting a portrait with a whitewashing brush, and I’ll disavow all of it soon enough.
But I’m always pleased to do my holiday shopping here and see details of old-country culinary culture I thought had been long-forgotten — Easter cakes made in the shape of a lamb, corned beef by the truckload for St. Patrick’s Day, paczki for Fat Tuesday, kosher-for-Passover Coca-Cola, tamales at Christmastime in Mexicantown. Of late the big meat mall at Eastern Market is selling chitterlings by the truckload. Every vendor is having a special, and hand-lettered signs are everywhere. (No one can agree on a spelling: chitterlings, chittlins, chit’lins, chittins.) It seems to be a seasonal thing, although whether it’s connected to Thanksgiving, Christmas or cold weather in general is hard to say. (I should learn to check the Google first — it is, indeed, a pan-cold-weather-holiday thing.)
I recall a passage from “Gone With the Wind” (the novel) where Scarlett, in the grip of post-war hunger at Tara, finds herself fantasizing over the bounty of years gone by, when at hog-killing time the results would be shared from the big house to the slave quarters. Obviously the white folks claimed the ham and bacon, but there was offal — the chitterlings, maws another other queasy-making parts — for the Negroes. It’s always interesting to me how many cultures still eat the foods of poverty and deprivation long after they no longer need to. (Someday I’ll publish this as a scholarly thesis called, simply, “Lutefisk: WTF?”) Personally, I think nothing short of starvation would get me to eat a pig’s intestines, but like Barack Obama and gay marriage, I’m always willing to be persuaded otherwise.
Thanksgiving is a great blank canvas for ethnic cuisine in general. I stood in line behind a black woman in September who was buying a bushel of assorted greens at a bargain prices, and told the seller she would cook and freeze it all for Thanksgiving. One of my favorite Sopranos episodes is the one where Paulie Walnuts lays out the typical Italian-American Thanksgiving feast, starting with antipasto, manicotti, “and then the bird.” So maybe chitterlings have a place there. All I know is, if you’re interested, they’re having lots of sales downtown.
Thanks for all the birthday greetings yesterday. The day was pretty average for my own natal day, which I’ve de-emphasized in recent years. I got a chocolate-raspberry cake, yum, and Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.” Which I asked for. A good day.
Despite my brief sojourn as a sports copy editor, I didn’t know why so much attention was being paid to whether the disgraceful Lions would sell out Ford Field for their traditional Thanksgiving game. (That’s because my time reading sports copy ended when I stopped being paid to do so.) They finally did, barely, probably by handing out tickets to the homeless guys who panhandle on the freeway ramps. Now I know why: If they don’t sell out, there’s no TV broadcast, and that — the broadcast — is an important part of many Thanksgiving traditions, not only here but around the country. So, whew: We can still watch the Lions on TV tomorrow. At 0-11, they’re playing the Titans, who are 10-1. There was some hope Tennessee would win last week, so we’d get that symmetry thing going: 0-11 vs. 11-0. That would be the last symmetry such a matchup would yield, as the Lions suck so badly this year they need a new word for it, and the score will probably be 425-3. You can watch the game on TV, or let Detroitist live-blog it for you.
Maybe if he’d said “asshole” and “tyrant,” he could have killed the guy: Dubious Seattle Times story tries to draw a line between a heckler and the collapse last week of U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey.
Have a good weekend, all. I think I’ll take tomorrow and Friday off — unless the mood strikes me otherwise. I expect we’ll be seeing “Twilight” at some point, even though I’d rather take Kate to see “Milk.” Anyway, we won’t be seeing “Australia,” although I loved Hank Stuever’s capsule description via his Facebook status: “It’s a movie about Hugh Jackman’s chest, and some other stuff around him.” And what a chest!
Be thankful for something tomorrow. You know you have a long list.