Thursday, July 18, 2019 -
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BECAUSE of my initials, T or TG, I have always had a special spot for T-Day, T-Giving Day, or Thanks-Giving Day. My friend Julie coined the nickname “TG” for me, as my first and last initials rhyme, and so “TG” stuck and joined the many other nicknames I have collected over the years.

Truth is, growing up in Israel, I had never heard of Thanksgiving before seventh grade. Not until I moved to Denver and to my third- generation, American-born grandmother-Grammy, for whom Thanksgiving is practically second to Rosh Hashanah, did I experience a taste of this wonderful day.

When I was in college, even Hallmark or American Greetings barely printed cards to mark the day. Still, my grandmother always managed to find and send a Thanksgiving card to me.

Also, there are a lot of birthday celebrations in my family right at Thanksgiving time, so besides for it being T day or TG day, it is the season of my bubbie’s, my mother’s, my sister Mimi’s and my aunt Dotty’s birthdays.

My mother claims that she did prepare the American feast during the years I grew up in Israel, but apparently I was so Israeli that I have no memory or recollection of those dinners. But starting seventh grade? Now that is a different story. By now, I have a flood of Thanksgiving memories.

AND let’s be honest here, now shall we? Part of the reason we all love Thanksgiving is ?. . . well, that food! Da turkey! Da mashed potatoes! Da stuffing! Oh, dat gravy, baby! And it is practically a requirement and definitely one of the secret ingredients when stirring the warm gravy over the hot flame to sing Simon and Garfunkel’s Scarborough Fair’s “parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.”

And what of those ribbons of little tart popping magenta, rounded bead-sized cranberry sauce? And those blazing sunset orange colored sweet, sweet, sweet potatoes?

It’s all that comforting TLC food that really is, just so comforting. Steaming apple pies and sticky pecan ones, buttery rolls (parve version) and potato dumplings. I am definitely a second helpings kind of girl who enjoys her comfort food.

Mmmm. Comfort foods. What are they, anyway? Well. For starters, it is a kind of solace food that involves a memory, or some kind of bonding experience, flooding you with each bite you take from that particular food.

Over time, I think we form an unconscious relationship with our food. Especially with foods from our childhood that have some kind of emotional attachment or association to them. Then there are those foods we prepare when we are carrying on the recipe or tradition of a loved one and feel his or her presence right along with us. This can be, and is, indeed, soothing.

Or? Comfort foods are those that are gloriously starchy, melty, fried, sweet or gooey, yes?

Another acid test or definition may involve — if you are the guest and don’t show up with a particular dish — being kicked out of the dinner; or, if you are the hostess — and don’t serve a cherished comfort food — risk your company being very grumpy or, perhaps even revolting and threatening to leave. So I guess another definition for comfort food is food that brings otherwise normal and polite adults to fight over it! Recipe begging and pleading might qualify, too.

Maple glazes, rum spiced nuts, buttery roasted acorn, moist turkey . . .  ’nuff said . . . and I am a happy girl.

OH — and those leftovers? That is practically a Thanksgiving ritual, too. What the rest of America doesn’t realize is that we actually indulge in exalted Thanksgiving food, twice. Thursday, and then again the next night, for Friday night Shabbos dinner. Hey, you won’t be hearing any leftover grumbles or complaints from me!

All kidding aside, of course the true feeling of togetherness, the brimming abundance and mindful gratitude for the blessings in our lives, being indoors together around the table with each other — this is the real comfort.

With each bite we take from this feast, this year, we are, in fact creating those culinary memories that will become the flavor and experience for next year’s and next generation’s Thanksgiving table.

May it be a peaceful and happy Thanksgiving!

Tehilla R. Goldberg

IJN columnist | View from Central Park

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