Thanksgiving, that all-American face-stuffing festival, is here, and you know what that means. All across this great land of ours, people will turn to one another and repeat those sacred words first uttered four centuries ago by Miles Standish to his Native American hosts: “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.”     
    We Americans have a time-honored tradition of overeating on Thanksgiving. I for one plan to avoid all digestive discomfort this Holiday season. How? Instead of my old system of securing large supplies of Pepto-Bismol, I’m going to get in shape.     
    I’m not signing up for a yoga class or buying a Peloton; I’m much too old to waste my time on such frivolity. Rather, I have developed a cunning new strategy which involves eating larger and larger meals every day. When Thanksgiving rolls around and our family gathers at a table that groans under the weight of a full metric ton of yummies, I will be able to say in all truthfulness, “Gee, looks like there’s only enough for me. I hope you guys aren’t hungry too.”     
    I am descended from a long line of eaters. My parents ate and my grandparents ate. For as far back as anyone in our family can remember, everyone ate. This is what caused my wife to endure untold amounts of anxiety when we were newlyweds and she decided to host Thanksgiving dinner for my large clan of enthusiastic eaters.     
    Our family had gathered at my grandparents’ house on the previous Thanksgiving to celebrate the holiday and to break the speed record for turning a roasted turkey into a bone-white skeleton.
    Grandma was a genius in the kitchen. She was the kind of cook who could take whatever was handy – be it old shoe leather or even dried cod that had been soaked in lye – smother it in a rich brown gravy, and voila! A feast fit for a horde of starving Vikings or, in this case, my relatives. Given the size of my family and our Norse heritage, it’s often difficult to tell the difference.     
    There is a disorder known as the Martha Stewart Syndrome that strikes a number of unfortunate individuals during the holidays. The hallmarks of this condition include fits of obsessive house cleaning punctuated by bouts of frenetic redecorating. The afflicted can often be seen outside their homes, scrubbing the cracks in the sidewalk with a toothbrush and muttering, “I just want everything to be perfect.”     
    My wife was overcome by this malady during the run-up to our first Thanksgiving. It got so that I dare not stand still for fear that I might be summarily reupholstered or steam cleaned with the Rug Doctor.     
    Thanksgiving dawned crisp and cold, much like the humungous frost-encrusted monstrosity that my wife hauled out of the freezer.
    “What in the world is that?” I asked.
    “It’s the turkey, you doofus. What did you think?”
    “I was thinking that you were starting a new tradition by serving roast ostrich this year. Also that you probably should have started thawing it before this morning.”     
    A whirlwind of frenzied activity followed, all of it focused on thawing an alleged turkey that was the size of the iceberg that sank the Titanic. After wasting several hundred gallons of hot water on this effort, I suggested that if we were to increase the oven temperature, perhaps the roasting time would be decreased proportionally. Faced with no other choice, my wife reluctantly agreed.     
    Some hours later, our farmhouse had filled with guests. The prospect of consuming massive amounts of victuals was on everyone’s mind. My wife, still in the Martha Stewart mode, chose that moment to take her first stab at making gravy. Her efforts produced more lumps than gravy.     
    Undaunted, she poured the steaming mixture into the blender and pressed the button labeled Warp 10. A fountain of gravy erupted from the blender, giving the kitchen ceiling an interesting new color and texture.     
    My wife told me to carve the turkey while she sponged the mess into a gravy boat. As I sliced into the giant beast, my knife encountered a mysterious hardness. Prying open the incision, I discovered that our gambit had failed: the interior of the bird was still entombed in permafrost.     
    That year, we began a new tradition called “Let’s run to the KFC and pick up 50 pounds of fried chicken and several gallons of gravy.”     
    As Grandma left our house that day, she slipped a small package into my wife’s hand.
    “Here, Honey,” she whispered. “I never set foot in the kitchen without one of these.”
    It was a packet of instant gravy.
    Jerry is a recovering dairy farmer from Volga, South Dakota. He and his wife, Julie, have two grown sons and live on the farm where Jerry’s great-grandfather homesteaded over 110 years ago. Jerry currently works full time for the Dairy Star as a staff writer/ad salesman. Feel free to E-mail him at: jerry.n@dairystar.com.