Olives and Zingers: A Thanksgiving Tradition

Olives and Zingers: A Thanksgiving Tradition

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2010

Thanksgiving has always been one of those weird holidays.

I mean, it's a real holiday, because the post office is closed. Families gather together, nobody goes to work, everyone eats themselves into a coma, and somebody invariably gets upset with someone else and gossips about them to the rest of the family, parsing their argument down to the sub-atomic level, until Christmas.

But I never thought of Thanksgiving as a holiday when I was growing up. There are no gifts, no Thanksgiving carols, no Great Turkey, no decorations, and no gifts. (I thought it was worth mentioning the gifts twice.)

The only thing we ever really looked forward to on Thanksgiving was A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special ("brought to you by Dolly Madison snack cakes!"). That, and wedges of pumpkin pie you could jack a car up with.

Pumpkin pie was my consolation dessert since my parents would never let us get Dolly Madison snack cakes, no matter how much we asked. (My favorites were the Zingers. Don't ask. I had my ways.)

These days, my wife says I don't need them anyway, which is okay, since I can't really find them either. (You know, I was fine not having one until right now. Now I can't stop thinking about them. Thanks a lot, idyllic childhood memories!)

I just finished watching A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving with my kids, which was a nice treat, since I'm not buying them any gifts. And it made me realize there are so many details I missed in the show when I was younger. Like the chair next to Franklin at dinner that kept disappearing and reappearing, depending on the scene. Or the ice cream sundaes that magically appeared right before Linus said grace.

Or most importantly, at the end of the show, Snoopy shows that he actually knew how to cook all along. He fixes a turkey with all the trimmings, and shares it with his pal, Woodstock.

Woodstock the bird. Who eats the turkey.

It took me 37 years to realize that A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving has the first recorded instance of cannibalism in children's television.

I'm not worried about the effect that kind of thing will have on my kids. I never made the connection until this year, and I don't think this will have any warping effect on them either. No more than a dog who makes toast and popcorn, or runs a bad catering business.

Of course, the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special set up some pretty unreasonable expectations for me when I was growing up. I never really understood what the big deal was with the dinner Charlie Brown and Snoopy served. While it didn't qualify as a real Thanksgiving dinner, I always believed that popcorn and toast would make an acceptable meal in a pinch. Especially if I could train a dog to make it for me.

But I always wanted to try it. For the longest time, I would ask my parents for a Charlie Brown dinner.

"Can we have a Charlie Brown dinner?" I would beg every few months.

"What's that?" they asked.

"Toast, popcorn, pretzels, and jelly beans."

"No!" they said. Eventually they just stopped asking what it was, and skipped straight to "No!" (They never let us get jelly beans either. No Zingers, no jelly beans. I lead a deprived childhood.)

I never wanted a Charlie Brown dinner for Thanksgiving, you understand, because that's when we got turkey (which was not my favorite meat; I always wanted steaks), mashed potatoes, which I loved to mix with my corn, and black olives.

Black olives were my favorite, because my sister and I would stick them on our fingers and make creepy noises at each other. It was a rather depressing Thanksgiving for me when I discovered my fingers were too big to fit in the olives anymore. From then on, I silently sulked whenever the little kids would play the olive game.

However, the kid in me never totally left, because I still manage to cram a black olive on my pinky each November. Surprisingly (or maybe not so surprisingly), my kids look at me like I'm a weirdo, and would never dream of sticking olives on their fingers. Kids just don't have a sense of tradition like we used to. And they hate olives. (Now who's the weirdo?!)

Still, I try to instill at least a couple Thanksgiving traditions with my kids, like watching Charlie Brown every year, and saying no to toast and popcorn for dinner.

I'll have to introduce them to the wonders of the Dolly Madison Zingers when my wife's not around.

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