Thanksgiving has always brought special meanings for families in Lodi. It is a time to celebrate with friends and neighbors, too. Some of us locals have some minor distractions, such as playing tackle football in the mud at Lodi Lake. The rest of us guys (and a few ladies as well) watch the Lions and the Cowboys play football.
As if it was not enough pigskin in one day, the National Football League has decided to break with tradition and add a third game in prime time featuring two more birds, the Cardinals at the Eagles, while the rest of us all sit on the couch looking like giant stuffed turkeys in a food-induced coma.
There probably isn't another day (besides Valentine's day) which creates as much potential for divorce as Thanksgiving. While wives across America are awakening at oh-dark-thirty to hoist the great bird into the oven, their husbands are dreaming about that 9:30 a.m. kickoff from Ford Field.
When hubby says in a sing-song voice, "Honey, is there something I can do to help?" it is really a not-so-secret code for "Let's get this rolling before the Lions tee it up." Not only that, choosing a menu for Thanksgiving has taken on a whole new dimension, too.
That brings us to broadcaster John Madden's favorite meal that commemorates the day the Pilgrims and the Indians decided to sit down together at Plymouth Rock and eat. It is an eight-legged fowl he calls Turducken.
Turducken is a delicacy that brings Turkey Day to the next level. It's a chicken stuffed in a duck, stuffed in big old Tom Turkey, ideally with some sausage stuffing. I e-mailed the recipe to my daughter to prepare, to which she sarcastically replied, "Yeah, and it would be easier to redesign and build the Space Station."
She added that if she ever meets anyone who says they enjoy cooking Turducken, that she will call Bob Barker and the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and report them.
The guests start arriving about noon, and even though the pregame show is on for the Seattle and Dallas game at 1:15 p.m., I'm afraid to turn on the TV until seconds before kickoff. Anything sooner ranks in my family as dissing the guests and the turkey, in favor of the pigskin.
I'm starting to sweat, watching the clock like a dockworker at the end of the shift. It's 1:13 p.m., only two minutes to go until game time. Where's the clicker? I shoot furtive glances at the cook and find the remote control stuffed under the cushions along with six dollars and 12 cents in change.
The game is on, no Third World power blackout or cable failure, and the guests are comfortably surrounding the hors d'oeuvres. What can go wrong now?
"Richard, would you mind carving the turkey?" said the cook.
I mutter under my breath, "No, I'd rather get an illegal chop block from the Cowboys' Terrell Owens."
I fumble the electric carving knife and nearly sever a finger or two watching Jessica Simpson blow a kiss to Dallas quarterback Tony Romo.
Dinner is served. Thank goodness that the overflow crowd of family and friends means an auxiliary serving table in the family room, with a perfect view of Texas Stadium on the shiny new Vizio.
Then, precisely at 1:30 p.m. the family matriarch utters the four most dreaded words any football fan ever wants to hear: "Turn that TV off!" I meekly comply.
Somehow, Thanksgiving just doesn't seem right without John Madden and that eight-legged turkey.