Cranberries!

In case you’ve ever wondered what the berries in your Thanksgiving cranberry sauce looked like before they got sauced, here’s your answer.

Water reel

At last month’s final regular-season New England Revolution soccer match, the folks from Ocean Spray set up an artificial cranberry bog outside the entrance to Gillette Stadium, where soccer fans could see what a New England cranberry harvest really looks like. Cranberry vines grow in marshy areas, and the fastest way to harvest cranberries is to flood the entire area, a process called wet harvesting. Once the vines are covered with water, machines called water reels rake the berries from the vines, and the cranberries–which contain pockets of air–float to the surface of the water, where they are gathered by growers.

Cranberry growers chat with passersby

The artificial bog outside Gillette Stadium had all the accoutrements of an actual cranberry bog: potted cranberry vines along the border of the bog, thousands of floating cranberries, a working water reel, and three men in hip-waders who stood up to their shins in wet cranberries while answering questions and chatting with passersby. In mid-October, it seems there isn’t anything lovelier than a New England cranberry bog, even if that cranberry bog is only a reasonable facsimile of the real thing.

Although I’ve never been much of a fan of cranberry sauce, I regularly drink cranberry juice. When I was growing up, my mom raved about the health benefits of cranberries, especially noting cranberries’ legendary ability to help women avoid bladder infections. The folks from Ocean Spray weren’t handing out any free samples of cranberry sauce or cranberry juice, but they were handing out packets of dried cranberries, which are just as tasty as a tall glass of cranberry juice. I guess that’s one more thing to be thankful for.

Click here for a complete photo set from the cranberry bog at Gillette Stadium last month. Whether or not you’re eating cranberry sauce this Thanksgiving, I hope your holiday is safe, restful, and happy.

Apologizing to "Chuck"

While flipping channels on Tuesday night, I happened upon the very end of “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.” (Yes, I shot these pictures straight from the television screen, probably breaking umpteen copyright laws in the process.)

It’s been years since I’ve seen any of the Charlie Brown holiday specials, but I watched them religiously when I was a child, and I confess to having in my car a copy of the soundtrack for “A Charlie Brown Christmas” that I listen to every December. As a “weird kid,” I always related to Charlie Brown with his loser ways and “blockhead” inferiority. Couple those qualities with Linus’s soft-spoken nerdiness, Snoopy’s general goofiness, and Woodstock’s overall cuteness, and it all adds up to Peanuts being my favorite childhood cartoon.

Talking to grandma

Not having seen “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” in years, I had forgotten the basic gist of the story. I remembered Snoopy serving an impromptu Thanksgiving “dinner” of toast, popcorn, and pretzels to Charlie Brown’s guests–whenever my ex-husband and I found ourselves without a place to go for Thanksgiving, we’d sometimes joke that we’d cook a similar meal for ourselves. Typically, though, we’d decide to drive the 700-some miles back to either or both of our families in the Midwest for Thanksgiving, thereby saving ourselves the indignity of Thanksgiving popcorn, but that nontraditional menu was about all of the larger “Charlie Brown” story I really remembered.

Popcorn for Thanksgiving isn't so hot

Like all good children’s shows, “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” makes its moral perfectly clear, even to blockheads. After Charlie Brown’s friends (in particular, a very vocal Peppermint Patty) start grumbling about the atrociously nontraditional meal Snoopy dishes out, Charlie Brown falls into his usual fit of self-deprecating depression while Marcie chides Patty for inviting herself and her friends to Charlie Brown’s house to begin with. On a roll, Marcie goes on to explain (again, in language even a blockhead can understand) the “real” meaning of Thanksgiving. It isn’t about what you eat, she explains. It’s about being grateful for who you’re with.

Everyone's invited to grandma's for dinner!

This year, J and I won’t be having a big turkey feast for Thanksgiving, but we won’t be moping over popcorn and toast, either. When I was married, my mother-in-law used to fret whenever she thought my then-husband and I weren’t going to have turkey on Turkey Day: in her mind, anything else just wasn’t the same. But the truth be told, I’ve never been a huge fan of turkey. Although I like it sliced in sandwiches, I’d really prefer just about anything else to a big turkey dinner with all the trimmings: it’s one of the ways I really am a “weird kid.” So in the spirit of Marcie’s message, J and I are having pasta, not turkey, for dinner tonight. It isn’t about what you eat, after all. It’s about being grateful for who you’re with.

Here’s hoping all of you have plenty to eat (turkey or otherwise), welcome companionship to share it with, and a grateful heart to receive it. In other words, happy Thanksgiving!