Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Great Thanksgiving Controversy

Thanksgiving at my house long has been a process of compromise and conciliation. That is because Thanksgiving, like Christmas, comes weighted with tradition, but when a man leaves his mother and father and cleaves to his wife, unless they are from the same clan, the new family has to mesh their differing holiday customs into one fete.

I conceded Christmas right from the start. My family's more relaxed, ad hoc approach to the big mac-daddy of holidays just couldn't compete with my husband's list of Yule "thou shalts." Although, I finally convinced him that I simply would not have hot chocolate and Christmas cookies for breakfast on the big day. Thou shalt not take away my coffee.

But for Thanksgiving we go back and forth between Southern staples and Yankee traditions. Sweet potatoes or winter squash? Rice or mashed potatoes? Cornbread dressing or stuffing? I have done all of the above, sometimes at the same time. All in all, I'm happy with the situation. I like change, so as long as there's turkey and pumpkin pie, I am content to play around with the side issues.

But in recent years I have become aware of another Thanksgiving conflict on which there will be no compromise. That is the pronunciation of the gravy that goes equally well on dressing and stuffing. Giblet gravy. I would have thought the controversy would be over those giblets—gizzard, heart and liver—but it isn't. Increasingly one hears "giblet" pronounced with a hard "g" as in, well, "gizzard."

No, no, no! It's a soft "g," as in "gin" or "gimcrack." I understand that for those who want the rules to be rigid, it's annoying that "g" can be pronounced two ways. At least, you say, it should be consistent when followed by an "i." I understand. I do. But that's just not the way English rolls. Here's my advice on giblet gravy: use the heart and gizzard to make stock, but put only the liver in the gravy, then pronounce it correctly.

Otherwise, I may have to start putting gin among the giblets to cope with this distressing Thanksgiving trend.

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