Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Monday, December 1, 2014

Happy Contrarian Thanksgiving!

A contrarian is a person who can convince someone to pay her for saying the opposite of what everyone else is saying, in a mistaken assumption that it makes her look smart.
So many articles on what you should do for Thanksgiving. And what you should not do. So far this season, I have read articles on why I should not eat butter, turkey, apple pie, pumpkin pie, any sort of pie, cranberry sauce, stuffing or green bean casserole. I have been told that I am "doing it wrong" or "missing out" by preparing the traditional staples of my family's table, such as orange-cranberry sauce, white-bread-based stuffing, plain mashed potatoes, or a stuffed and roasted turkey. I have read articles on how to avoid overeating by using small plates and locating the high-calorie sides on a separate table or, better yet, in a locked safe in the kitchen.
I have read articles on what salt you should use, how you should salt your food, which spices you should buy, which kitchen utensils and appliances you should buy, how you should design your kitchen, how you should use modern conveniences in your kitchen, and how you should cook instead of eat out, and all of those articles were written by Megan McArdle.
It's time for a counterintuitive "smart take":
Counterintuitive does not equal smart. Sometimes it means stupid, since it is merely the opposite take of what everyone else is saying, not the right or best take.
Eat what you like on Thanksgiving, with a due emphasis on the foods that are traditional to your family and your region. And eat as much as you want of them, without overloading your stomach to the point of illness.
Thank you for your permission, Dear Leader.
Personally, I find green bean casserole completely disgusting, so much so that I have never eaten it.
Mother: Megan, eat your green bean casserole.
Little Megan: I hate green bean casserole.
Mother: You've never had green been casserole so how do you know you hate it? The universe wasn't put here to please you, young lady. Now eat your vegetables.
Little Megan: My counterintuitive take on green bean casserole is that it's disgusting. I need no proof.
Mother: No pie for you.

That's OK! It's also OK if you love green bean casserole and wait all year to dig into its creamy depths. Pecan pie makes my teeth ache with its sweetness, but if you love it, tee up the Karo corn syrup and go to town. I think lots of spicy food on Thanksgiving is a mistake: It's mean to older relatives whose stomachs aren't so hardy, and when paired with overeating, it may result in some digestive disasters even for the younger folks at the table -- but I recognize that some people think it really wouldn't be Thanksgiving without Aunt Myrna's extra-hot Szechuan noodles. I view garlic, sour cream and other Johnny-come-lately additions to mashed potatoes as fundamentally missing the point of Thanksgiving potatoes, which is to serve as a vehicle for more gravy. But if you want your potatoes swimming in wasabi and chantarelles, or whatever crazy combination you've come up with, bon appetit. And if you want to skip the turkey in favor of barbecued pork or planked salmon, well, all I can say is: Happy Thanksgiving.
How about Aleppo pepper and herbs de provence?
Just agree to keep your hands off my pumpkin pie, m'kay? I love pumpkin pie. Not pumpkin-and-chocolate pie, or hot and spicy pumpkin pie, or honey-glazed pumpkin pie, but just a simple pumpkin two-egg custard, baked in a homemade pie crust.
She's the salt of the earth.

However that 2-egg recipe is not her Mom's traditional pie recipe. Shaving the truth until it turns red must be contrarian as well. I would give you her recipe link but it has disappeared, much like her soul.
I love a simple two-crust apple pie, without the addition of crumb topping, cheddar cheese, caramel sauce, exotic new spices or your snotty opinions about my love of such a banal and uninspiring dessert.
A simple woman.

I love my family's white-bread stuffing, heavy with turkey stock, sausage, apples and ginger, and I love it especially when fresh, hot gravy is poured over a gently steaming pile of the stuff.

A woman of the people.
I want my mother's green beans, my sister's fresh rolls and my own cranberry sauce, just like we have every year. I don't want to change up the entree or any of the sides for something more current and now. I want to feel like I'm having Thanksgiving, not a lavish dinner party of the sort that I could give on any of the other 364 days of the year.
Common clay.
Nor do I want your obesity expert tut-tutting about how the average American consumes too many calories on Thanksgiving -- 4,500 or 7,000 or whatever absurd made-up number they pulled from a tiny, unrepresentative survey of people who responded to some university's research study or newspaper poll. I do not want tips for nannying my guests into foregoing delicious Thanksgiving foods in favor of nibbling on a raw carrot while thinking healthy thoughts.
You know, a moron.

Ah, the lavish dinner parties of Megan McArdle. The lads at Reason are a lucky, lucky bunch. I would be a bit more cautious about accusing people of making up numbers, however. There's that whole "it was a hypothetical, not a statistic" thing and you don't want to remind everyone of that incident.

But, more important, it seems McArdle has not cornered the contrarian market and is less useful than she thought. She missed What is the average number of calories a person consumes at Thanksgiving dinner? by Tara Parker-Pope in the New York Times Food and Wine section. Mistress Quite Contrary said that the Calorie Control Council, which is passing out the 4500 calorie number, can't be right. She adds up a typical Thanksgiving meal and gets 2485, which is fairly close to the Council's 3,000 number sans appetizers, snacks and drinks. I did the same and got 2772. This does not include sodas or other drinks, alcohol, appetizers, soup or salad course, relishes, or of course seconds, a holiday tradition.

The numbers appear to be reasonable and there is no reason whatsoever for McArdle to slander yet another individual or organization by saying they make up numbers. McArdle's editors probably would agree but evidently everyone concerned thinks that the odds of the Calorie Control Council suing anyone are very small. I would not agree with that assumption, for the Calorie Control Council is the product of artificial sweetener lobbyists, which Parker-Pope did not bother to research, which is also very McArdlesque of her.

Speak of the devil:
Let me let you in on a little math:
Buckle up, folks.
Even if you actually did eat 7,000 calories on Thanksgiving, this would result in a net weight gain of less than a pound and a half.
Harvard Medical School says it would be a gain of two pounds but since McArdle is habitually off by a factor of ten this is practically right on the nose, for her.
The problem is not Thanksgiving; the problem is what you are doing on all the other days that aren't Thanksgiving. If you don't want to gain weight at Thanksgiving, eat lightly for a couple of days before and a couple of days after, and voila -- problem solved.
This is true, yet who wants to pay for true and obvious advice? Nobody. Just ask a liberal.
There is only one way to do Thanksgiving "wrong," and that is to fail to be grateful for the people you are eating it with, and the many other good people of this great nation who are sitting down at other tables. The rest is a sideshow. And don't be afraid to have another helping of that sideshow, with extra gravy on top.
Unless the other American is poor, in which case he is not sitting down at a table because according to McArdle he does not exist. Gratitude is a good thing but a contrarian like McArdle surely realizes that there are better things like refusing to be grateful for a society that tells you to eat up, have a drink, go shopping, watch tv, and forget the poverty around you.


Clever Pseudonym said...

Thank goodness. In all the holiday bustle, I forgot to get Megan's permission to make whatever kind of Thanksgiving food I wanted. As for the green bean casserole, if she can critique a book she's never read, why not decide a food she's never eaten is disgusting?

And actually, eating lighter than usual before Thanksgiving is worse. You go into the holiday hungrier than you would have been otherwise, which lends to over-eating.

freq flag said...

I can't believe she used the word "snotty" in reference to someone else. Thin-skinned hardly begins to describe her.