The price of being food secure

Time to talk turkey, men: Thanksgiving dinner for an average American family gathering of 10 this year — according to the USDA — has skyrocketed yet another cavity-wincing 17 percent, from what was already a record-breaker last year. Remember way back in quaint 2020, during our first COVID Thanksgiving, when that uninvited bitch — Old Skull-&-Bones herself, Rona — pulled up a permanent chair to the table?

Well, in those good old days, a traditional roast turkey spread with all the trimmings (stuffing and gravy, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, etc.) cost $46.90. This year, that same meal tops out at $61 … to serve, we’re talking here, an entire family of 10!

Uhm, come again, Captain Smith? Yes, my thrifty Mayflower mavens, let us take pause here just a moment for a bit of third-rock-from-the-sun, reality-check genuflection. Now, I don’t know what parallel, imaginary incarnation of Plymouth Rock our USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) gathers its cost analysis data from. But, apparently, it’s a fairytale tableau of flying unicorns, Mamie Eisenhower in bangs and The Loretta Young Show looping continuously on all three stations.

What century are they in?!

Good pilgrims, here at Chez Howard $61 might cover serving 10 people, say, a green bean casserole — barely. Even were I to substitute snappable-fresh green beans and earthy mushrooms with just tinned Libby’s and condensed Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup via a can opener, and as for those crunchily-obligatory, crusted fried onions on top — gurl, we ain’t even gonna go there!

Meanwhile, according to the USDA’s pithy spin, “Food insecurity does not necessarily cause hunger, but hunger is a possible outcome of food insecurity.”

You don’t say? Whoever would have guessed that other possibilities besides plain starvation could also be a “possible outcome” of not having enough money to buy food? At least our Native Americans eventually took pity on those starving, religious Mayflower zealots.

But where has our own empathy gone? To the high-dudgeon irony nowadays of absolutely no one, dietary studies show that food-insecure adults may be at risk of (believe it or not) obesity. You don’t say?

And here’s another good guffaw for you, my sweet readers, complements of our U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ attempt to define what hunger is: “The term ‘hunger’ refers to discomfort, illness, weakness or pain caused by prolonged, involuntary lack of food.”

No! Say it ain’t so that nearly 30 percent of Americans, here in our year 2022, are now experiencing regular, daily food-insecurity? Folks, it’s a brutal bottom-line: Just randomly point to any three given strangers at the mall, and one of them will be wondering where his next meal is coming from — yes, in America!
Now let us get ravenously right to it, shall we?

Dear Howard: I’m taking my new boyfriend home to meet my parents for Thanksgiving. Carl, however, eats everything with his hands. Seriously, it’s like he’s never held an eating utensil before or even heard of cutlery. Now, my mother puts on a holiday spread like the White House: All her best china comes out — the Tiffany silver service, porcelain finger bowls with rose petals. Imagine my caveman boyfriend scooping up her potatoes Anna with his fingers, slurping giblet gravy off his cuticles!

Carl doesn’t grasp that being presented to my parents is a test, that he’s required bring his best party manners. He only shrugs, “God didn’t give us fingers only to wipe our asses with.” Howard, help me? — Sensitively Stressing

Dear SS: I’m with you: A tailgate party Thanksgiving is not, and Neanderthals went extinct for a reason. Way back in the 17th century, prior to the invention of forks, one had no choice but to eat food prepared so that it could be scooped out of a basin with a spoon, hacked off a carcass with a hunting knife, or munched in the fingers. Thank heaven the Middle Ages are long now gone, and like hell should Carl be making a knuckle-dragging appearance at anyone’s finely-laden holiday banquet. Just leave your cave-dweller behind at home, alone in his wooly mammoth toga with a bucket of KFC.
Dear Howard: Recently, I received an invitation from my dad’s new wife to attend a, quote, “POTLUCK BIZARRO THANKSGIVING BUFFET — If Your Grandmother Served It, Leave It at Home!” Now, I’m no prude, dude. I can roll with the tide in almost any crazy direction; however, there are three things need addressing here: 1. I can’t cook; 2. I hate attending parties requiring guests to entertain their host, and 3. It’s Thanksgiving!

Howard, how do I politely get out of this obligation? — The Hobbled Gobbler

Dear Hobgoblin: Hey, you’re preaching to the choir here, Hob. Attending dinner parties requiring invitees’ participation as a coverup for your host’s laziness is never, in my opinion, a good thing. These sorts of fêtes always end up creating just a recipe for backstabbing: “Gurl, can you even believe the nerve of Mz. Thang — passing off those Pillsbury cinnamon rolls she popped open from a can like they were her own granny’s heirloom recipe … the unmitigated gall!”
On one hand, however, the “bizarro” caveat does help ameliorate any kitchen disasters one might encounter. On the other hand, though, it merely grants a pass for not making any effort. Either way, you’ll be forced to choose between feeling that you’ve obeyed your host or that you betrayed your stomach. Am I correct in assuming, Hob, that there’s no love lost between you and your father’s newest bride?

Kitsch, when involving meals of tradition, can only be stretched so far, and Thanksgiving is the most inviolate holiday menu of them all. Personally, if I don’t see turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce and a punkin’ pie come the fourth Thursday of every November, then you don’t wanna see me at all.

This said, Gob, I’m about to withdraw three Andy Jacksons from my local ATM, with hopes of feeding 10 people a fully-dressed turkey dinner — the USDA says it can be done!

In closure, guys, I don’t know about y’all, but I plan on taking a long overdue “news sabbatical” this Thanksgiving, too. I’ll keep the focus just on family and try to stop worrying constantly about China and Russia for a few delicious days. Between Xi’s messianic complex, Putin’s Napoleonic complex and Biden’s opaque complexion, the only thing standing in our way of tomorrow never coming is a grounded faith in the milk of human kindness. If you can’t enjoy friends and family over a fattening, food-secure feast this Thanksgiving, what can you enjoy?

PS: Oh, and on a postscript note of holiday, gallows’ humor, kidz: For any of you crypto-enthusiasts out there “stunned” by the overnight meltdown of FTX. Did anyone ever actually bother to look at that “wunderkid’ creature running it — his slumped shoulders, those unlaundered, oversized shorts, the Cro-Magnon forehead and Guantanamo hairdo?

I am certain Oscar Wilde was envisioning Sam Bankman-Fried in mind when he so famously cooed, “Only a fool doesn’t judge by first impressions.”

— Howard Lewis Russell

Anybody with a question of thanks needing Howard answer it anonymously? All you gotta do is ask him: