The year is 2005. My wife and I are less than a week away from hosting our first Thanksgiving. The turkey occupying the bulk of our freezer will have no problem feeding the fifteen or so family members invading our small second-floor apartment. A luscious red cuvee highlights the bottles of modestly-priced wines we’re poised to pour during the meal. We’ve checked with our guests, and no side dish is being ignored. We’re in good shape, but I want something more. I want comedy.
Specifically, I want to replicate the infamous Thanksgiving meal Snoopy served to his guests during “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.” It’s something I’ve wanted to pull off for years. I’ve seen the special a dozen times, and the sheer audacity of the beagle’s weird-ass pseudo-feast of toast, jellybeans, pretzel sticks, and popcorn never ceases to amuse. It deserves a real-life replication. I can’t say my family necessarily deserves to be the recipients, but they’re perfect targets. At the very least, they should understand the referential humor. Probably. At least I hope.
I already know the dish is rather gross from a culinary standpoint. That’s what makes it so funny. It’s not just that they don’t collectively belong on a plate for Thanksgiving; they don’t belong a plate together, ever. Jellybeans are the yucky lynchpin here. On their own, they’re perfectly fine. Visually speaking, they add a nifty flourish of color – something lacking in a garden-variety Thanksgiving meal. Otherwise, they’re soft, gooey nuggets whose sugary sweetness will dominate the plate with extreme prejudice. That’s where the blech factor manifests. The only way the other ingredients work well with a jellybean is when you use a pretzel rod to scrape off the residual candy guts stubbornly clinging to your teeth.
This doesn’t matter. It’s nothing more than a simple gag; one my wife willingly indulges me, provided I prepare the plates, which of course are paper. This would be problematic if the prank involved cranberry sauce, stuffing, or any traditional Thanksgiving dish. Our svelte walkway masquerading as a kitchen barely contains the counter space needed to rest a half-dozen or so items, and that’s before the turkey emerges from the oven. I must improvise. Fortunately, my office/guestroom has enough clear flat surfaces to set the plates once they’re assembled – perfect, since I also need a hiding space to store the bounty.
Thanksgiving Day arrives. I prepare the faux-feast in ten minutes and resume making last minute hosting preparations elsewhere. Everyone arrives with everything they’re supposed to bring, including the obligatory offering of pickles, olives, cheeses, and crackers that threaten to fill you up even before carving knife strikes turkey flesh. The gap separating the Detroit Lions’ loss and the Dallas Cowboys’ eventual loss is in full swing. Everyone’s happy. I’m a bit nervous. Not cold feet – the plates are all arranged and ready to come out of my office, there’s no holding back now – just the twinge of anxiety one gets before they’re ready to unleash a presentation upon an unassuming group of people. “This can’t possibly ruin their day, can it?” I think. “When the story comes up in future years, will it be remembered fondly or in dark, eye roll-inducing terms?”
The guests take their seats, and I slip into my office. I admire the plates one last time. They’re meticulously arranged – well, as meticulous as a quartet of toast, jellybeans, pretzel sticks, and popcorn can get. I scoop up a couple of plates, exit the office, and place them in front of my parents. Their chuckles indicate they’re in on the joke immediately. I’m at ease. The scene repeats itself after each presentation, along with a disclaimer assuring the real meal will commence shortly. The rest of the day feels perfect: My wife’s turkey is juicy. The mashed potatoes are sufficiently lumpy. The pies brought in from our now-defunct local pie shop don’t stand a chance. Neither does the cuvee. I feel accomplished. Not only is our inaugural hosting a success, my Peanuts-inspired prank goes off without a hitch.
We haven’t been asked to host Thanksgiving since. I’d like to think this lack of request is completely independent of my shenanigans. If it isn’t, I’ll just say it is for my own sake.