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GIORDANO: What I’m Thankful For This Philly Thanksgiving

Whenever I think of Thanksgiving, I think back to an article I read by noted author Alex Haley. He was serving in the Coast Guard during World War II and on Thanksgiving Day it occurred to Haley that the day really was about giving thanks to those who had helped him the most. He proceeded to write the three most important people in his life, and he was amazed that in their return letters, the recipients were overjoyed.

I have used the Haley technique with several people in my life and works tremendously. However, I’ve also decided to write this open letter to the people in the Philadelphia area that I’m thankful for this year.

First, I want to thank Northeast Philadelphia state Rep. Martina White for her tireless work in protecting you and me by directing the successful impeachment process against Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner. Martina had to do very detailed and relentless presentations over many months to her colleagues in Harrisburg in order to overcome their reluctance to challenge Krasner. Many colleagues acknowledged Krasner’s violations, but she gave them the will to move forward. Let her know you are thankful for this.

Martina’s doggedness might only be surpassed by Steve Keeley, a reporter for Fox 29. Steve’s Twitter is a running account of what is truly going on in the Philadelphia area. He is a one-man news department who is always at the center of the action. He has been particularly good at taking us inside the stores that are leaving Philadelphia or curtailing their hours due to crime.

I’m not just grateful this year for the people helping us against the worst that is happening in our area. I’m also grateful for John Middleton, owner of the Philadelphia Phillies. Middleton’s willingness to spend a ton of money and to help pursue great players personally led to one of the greatest sports rides of our lives. I broadcasted from the first Phillies block party for fans prior to their first home game against the Atlanta Braves and it was a magical day. I expect that next season the Phillies will continue to contend for a championship, but this year’s team will not be forgotten.

New Jersey state Sen. Ed Durr, who defeated former state Sen. Steve Sweeney and made national news was a true everyman story and he is doing great work in New Jersey. He gives me great hope that New Jersey will not remain under almost complete one-party rule that has made many people flee the state’s unbelievable taxation and regulation. Ed still drives a furniture truck and I think that connects him to life in New Jersey better than any politician.

If New Jersey is dominated by one-party rule, then Philadelphia is New Jersey on steroids. When the last Republican mayor of Philadelphia was born, Billy the Kid was still alive. If you’re a Democrat like state Rep. Amen Brown of West Philadelphia, it’s easy to just go along with the party and hope to advance through the ranks. Brown has chosen to break that mold and fight for his district, speaking out about Larry Krasner and taking on quality-of-life issues. I think he has a reasonable shot of being the next mayor of Philadelphia.

These are just some of the public people for whom I’m grateful. I’m also grateful for the opportunity to write for the Delaware Valley Journal.

And of course, I’m very grateful for all my listeners at Talk Radio 1210 WPHT.

I hope you’ll take Alex Haley’s advice and drop a note to the people you are thankful for.

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Will DelVal Residents Purchase Organic Turkeys for Thanksgiving Amid Rising Food Prices?

With Thanksgiving almost upon us, will families splurge on organic turkeys instead of regular ones for the iconic meal.

Inflation has been rising in the Delaware Valley and throughout the U.S. Some families are concerned about whether they can afford to have this alternative turkey. For example, at Whole Foods Market, an Organic Heirloom Whole Turkey is $4.99/lb but offers a discounted price of $2.49/lb for Amazon Prime members.

While most families usually purchase traditional turkeys for Thanksgiving, many stores, including Giant, make sure they have enough in stock well before the holiday season.

“We start working on our turkey order early in the year to make sure we are set to meet the needs of our customers and ordered more turkeys than we sold last year, so we are confident in our supply,” Ashley Flower, spokeswoman for The Giant Company, told PennLive.

DelVal residents also must consider purchasing other side dishes for Thanksgiving. According to a study, Pennsylvania’s spicy candied sweet potatoes (which requires canned sweet potatoes, pecans, pumpkin pie spice, mini marshmallows, and orange juice concentrate) are 10.49 percent more expensive this year. This famous side dish now costs $30.97 this year, compared to $27.72 last year.

While the pandemic impacted the past two Thanksgivings, some families may wait another year to host a large gathering because of the increase in food costs.

Inflation has wreaked havoc on food prices across the country, with a rise of 11.2 percent for  all food costs this September compared to last year. The cost of groceries, in particular soaring by 13 percent, and for this reason, it appears families will sacrifice some of their usual traditional dishes or reduce how many people will be invited to this year’s meal. That is, according to a comprehensive study by Usko, a new free app that lets users analyze their Amazon spending and see how much products they regularly purchase have gone up due to inflation.

The company identified signature Thanksgiving dishes from each state and then broke down the ingredients for each to determine how much more each dish would cost this year compared to last year.

A survey of 1,000 respondents by Usko also revealed that over 21 percent of people believe the higher cost of ingredients would impact their plans this Thanksgiving. Indeed, for those wondering how much they spend either in-store or on sites like Amazon, a quick comparison with last year’s bank statement will likely prompt them to make changes to this year’s Thanksgiving meal. Those respondents also said they would be prepared to cancel the traditional Thanksgiving menu and choose a cheaper and low-cost meal instead.

In addition, over a third of those hosting Thanksgiving, this November plan to invite fewer guests to save money. Of those who are cooking, 68 percent also say they expect to have fewer leftovers this year, given the increasing food.

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FLOWERS: Giving Thanks For the Gift of a Life Well-Lived

Thanksgiving is always the time of year when we are forced to contemplate those things which make us grateful.  I use the word “forced” not as a criticism, but as a fact: The whole holiday is designed around focusing our attention on the plenitude of gifts we’ve been given since the last time we gathered around the jiggling cranberry sauce. Perhaps forced is not the correct word. Encouraged is a gentler term.

But I have to admit that I always feel a little resentful of the campaign to make me acknowledge my privilege. When I say “privilege,” I am not referring to the word that triggers woke folk. They have taken a perfectly lovely noun and turned it into a battle cry, so I always use it advisedly. In this context, I am referring to the things that make me glad to be alive and cognizant of those gifts and graces that put me in a more fortunate posture with respect to those who are standing in line for their free Thanksgiving meal at the soup kitchen.

If that sounds harsh, it’s meant to be. I am a woman who has never experienced hunger, thirst, serious physical pain or illness, or the scourge of war. And yet, I do not lead an Instagram-perfect life. Far from it.  In a few days, I will turn 61 and the aspects of my youth are peeling away with increasing speed. My hair is grayer, my middle is thicker, my skin is thinner (literally, not figuratively) and my gait is slower. No amount of exercise will stop the advances of age, and no amount of Botox will fool the unsuspecting into believing my frozen expression is natural. I am getting older.

And yet, I am now 19 years older than my father ever got to be, cut down at the age of 43 by cancer. I am 31 years older than my brother ever got to be, gone to the angels months before his 31st birthday. I am three years older than my beloved Pop Pop ever got to be, turned into an old man by emphysema and leaving us on the cusp of Christmas at 58. I am 21 years older than my aunt ever got to be, taken in the night by a cruel and unexpected heart attack. I have lived years they never had, and they have been good ones, so for that, I give thanks.

I give thanks for the fact that the heat of summer has finally, finally given way to the knife-sharp winds of November, cold and unforgiving and exactly as they should be when the golden leaves fall. I kneel and feel gratitude that I had my mother, the most wonderful creature God fashioned, for three-quarters of a century, living in the same house and by her side for my entire life. She filled the space where both mother and father should have been, in the wake of Daddy’s premature death.

I thank God, again, for friends like Kim and Jeanne, Aparna and Anna Maria, Linda and Vanessa. These ties are not perfect, and they have been chipped and buffeted by the years they’ve been lived, but they are the gold in my personal Fort Knox.

I rejoice in my sister Tara, a singular woman of strength, beauty, and a warrior, and in my brother Teddy, who was born on my 4th Christmas and has proven to be the greatest gift that holiday gave me (albeit I didn’t think so at the time when my mother went into labor as I was opening my Easy Bake Oven.)  My nephew is my greatest joy, and in him, I deposit my future hopes.

I am grateful for the immigrants who’ve taught me what courage and resilience mean, and forgiveness. How can you describe people who have suffered unmentionable horrors at home, and still have the faith to rebuild their lives in a strange land?

Most of all, I am grateful for this time, this moment, because it is all I have and all I am guaranteed. The hope of a future is precious, the memory of a past is cherished, but the here and the now is my bedrock, and I will cling to it, along with the turkey drumstick and the visions of those gone ahead.  I expect that I will meet them again and thank them for the life they made possible.

Happy Thanksgiving, to all of you.

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HOLY COW! HISTORY: Thanksgiving, America’s Original Beer Bash

A holiday question persists year after year, probably stretching all the way back to the first Thanksgiving feast in 1621. “What are we going to do with all the uneaten turkey?”

(For a full range of post-Thanksgiving turkey menu options, turn to Ralphie’s gastronomical rant at the end of “A Christmas Story.”)

The Pilgrims, on the other hand, could have asked a different question after that first celebration exactly 400 years ago: “What are we going to do with all the empty kegs?”

Because the Pilgrims drank beer with their big meal. Lots and lots of beer, in fact.

It’s one tradition that somehow didn’t get passed down over the years. Which is why nobody ever says while gathered around Aunt Margaret’s elegantly appointed Thanksgiving table, “Pass the Pabst Blue Ribbon, will you?”

But trust me, beer was there in 1621.

In fact, beer was the reason the Pilgrims set foot in Massachusetts in the first place.

After two months at sea, the travelers were facing several pressing problems. First, despite having originally set out for the Virginia Colony, they were way off course. The trip had lasted much longer than expected. But worst of all, they were running low on beer. Dangerously low.

Each person was issued roughly one gallon of suds every day. And although the journey was a one-way trip for the Pilgrims, Captain Christopher Jones and the Mayflower’s crew would have to recross the Atlantic to get home, and he worried there wouldn’t be enough to last.

William Bradford was growing anxious about the dwindling beer supply. That was why the group ultimately decided to drop anchor and set foot on Cape Cod. You know the story from there.

Let’s face it: Though they are key players in tale of America’s founding, Pilgrims weren’t exactly party animals. “Fun” is a word rarely associated with them. Then why did they drink so much of a beverage far more likely to be consumed at a frat party or biker rally than at a Baptist convention?

Because beer was how they stayed hydrated. The water carried onboard the Mayflower quickly grew brackish and turned into a health hazard. The brewing process killed dangerous organisms and made the water in beer safe to drink. Even when the Pilgrims finally came ashore in Massachusetts, they had to be very careful with the water they found there. Remember, there were no water departments back then to purify drinking water. Brewing it was their safest bet.

In fact, there’s a theory of human history that the discovery of distilled spirits — heavy on calories, light on dangerous microorganisms — was key to the development of modern society. Forget Homo Sapien. We should be honoring Homer Simpson.

And make no mistake—the Pilgrims weren’t popping open bottles of O’Doul’s non-acholic beer. The brewskis they downed (even the kids) contained six percent alcohol. It was the real McCoy.

As Puritanism spread throughout New England and safe water sources were discovered, beer consumption gradually fell out of favor. Since early preachers associated it with sin, it wouldn’t do to perpetuate its legacy during the annual fall feast. Beer was quietly erased from the menu of the first Thanksgiving.

Quite a few other items that were served in 1621 aren’t consumed at today’s Thanksgiving dinner as well. Not many Americans stuff themselves with venison, cabbage, peas, wild onions, or boiled cornmeal. All were likely served that first time along with grapes, gooseberries, and plums.

We also know the very first Thanksgiving lasted three days. The ample beer supply explains that.

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DelVal Politicians, Residents Share Thanksgiving Favorites

Thanksgiving, the quintessential American holiday, brings people together. Across a table, across the miles, and even across the partisan political aisle.

At the center of Thanksgiving is the dinner table. What will you find on it this year?

A Delaware Valley Journal Twitter poll showed stuffing is the favorite side dish hands down, with green bean casserole a distant second. Some Delaware Valley residents listen to DJ Pierre Robert on WMMR play “Alice’s Restaurant” by Arlo Guthrie every Thanksgiving. Robert is celebrating 40 years on the air this year. For others, it’s watching football on TV.

“My favorite activity is being with extended family,” said Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub. “My favorite food is either the top of my sister-in-law’s sweet potato pie or the green bean casserole with the crunchy Durkee onions on it.”

Several Delaware Valley politicians shared their own favorite activities and holiday foods, as well.

“I’m a traditionalist: Turkey, taters, gravy, cranberry sauce, green beans, pecan pie,” said state Sen.  Bob Mensch (R-Montgomery).

Dave White, a former Delaware County councilman who is seeking the Republican nomination for governor said, “Thanksgiving ’til Christmas is my favorite time of year. I have great memories of all my brothers and sisters, mom and dad enjoying the holidays. I am a stuffing and turkey lover, and all my brothers and sisters, nephews, and nieces, totaling about 50 or 60, go over to my sister’s house for Thanksgiving. Followed by my favorite blueberry or peach pie!”

Attorney General Josh Shapiro, an Abington resident, and Democrat running for governor said he always celebrates Thanksgiving with his family, cooking together and watching football. He likes to cook two turkeys with his brother: One in the oven and one on the grill.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Guy Ciarrocchi said, “For almost 20 years, Thanksgiving has meant hosting my wife’s (very large) family. Chris is one of seven. Often, my mom would join us (dad passed away in 1989). Mom now lives with us. It was sad that we couldn’t all be together last year; hope to see most this year. And, we are excited that our three children will join us! I am the chef and my specialty is my mushroom gravy—a recipe of one part being taught by mother-in-law and one part my experimenting over the years. We are thankful and blessed to be together this year.”

“Our family has a favorite sweet potato recipe – it is the only thing that my kids really care about!” said Montgomery County Chair Dr. Val Arkoosh, a Democrat who is running for the U.S. Senate. “One year my sister was visiting (it was originally her recipe) and she accidentally put a cup of salt instead of a cup of sugar into the mix. It was Thanksgiving Day and the stores were all closed so we couldn’t get any more sweet potatoes for a redo — a devastating day for all involved.”

Former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain, a Republican running for governor, said, “We always host Thanksgiving at our home in West Chester. My wife, Stephanie, and I have four children and most of our extended family is also in the area because Stephanie and I both grew up in West Chester. Stephanie’s brother and his family live near Cleveland, however, and they also join us every year at Thanksgiving.  One tradition we enjoy is having a flag football game –dubbed ‘The Turkey Bowl’– on Thanksgiving morning with our family and some neighbors. We used to do it in our backyard when the kids were small, but we eventually outgrew that ‘field,’ and moved it to nearby Hoopes Park. It can get pretty competitive, now that the kids are mostly bigger, faster, and stronger than their elders! Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday because it puts the focus where it should be – on family, and on counting our blessings.”

State Sen. John Kane, a Democrat who represents parts of Chester and Delaware counties, said his favorite foods are cranberry sauce and stuffing. His favorite activity “used to be playing football, but now it’s falling asleep after dinner.”

Meanwhile, on Facebook, Dresher resident Rhonda Laikin said her favorite Thanksgiving dish is sweet potatoes and Elkins Park resident Nikki Gaston voted for green bean casserole. And Delaware Valley Journal writer Rick Woelfel said he likes mashed potatoes the best.

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HOLY COW! HISTORY: Teddy’s Traumatized Thanksgiving Turkey

Call it the first ‘Fake News’ White House feud. And it arrived just in time for the holiday season. Of 1904.

In the early days of the 20th century, Theodore Roosevelt’s brood burst into the White House in a whirlwind of activity unseen since Tad and Willie Lincoln ran wild there 50 years earlier. The children were, to use the polite wording of the day, rambunctious. The country was fascinated by its youthful president (he was 46 at the time) and his six energetic offspring. They made good copy, in newspaper jargon.

For example, they gave The Boston Herald a colorful story a few days before Thanksgiving. It described how when a live turkey was delivered to the White House for the First Family’s feast, the youngest Roosevelt kids gleefully chased it around the grounds. They tormented the animal and even plucked its feathers as it ran. TR supposedly watched the scene with great amusement.

Not content to let a good thing go, a Herald columnist called “The Chatterer” wrote the next day, “Apparently the Roosevelt children are chips off the old block and possess their full share of juvenile irresponsibleness. But why should they be allowed to torment and frighten an innocent turkey?”

But Teddy wasn’t laughing when the story reached his desk. In fact, he blew a gasket.

He was so worked up, he ranted about it during a Cabinet meeting, where his agriculture secretary helpfully pointed out it’s impossible to pluck a running turkey’s feathers.

The whole thing was a lie, the president growled. He explained the bird had arrived dead, dressed, and ready to cook, so his kids couldn’t have chased it, much less pulled off its feathers. Roosevelt vowed he would “stop newspaper stories of that kind.”

So, early that same evening the White House press shop issued a news release saying, “No such incident as that recited in the Herald has ever taken place since the president has been in the White House.” It went on to say the story, “marks the culmination of a long series of similar falsehoods, usually malicious and always deliberate, which have appeared in the news columns of the Boston Herald.”

And it didn’t stop there. Teddy was so furious, he banned the reporter who wrote the original account from the White House and instructed all federal agencies to give the Herald the silent treatment.

Painted into a journalistic corner, the newspaper fired back. It made a half-hearted mea culpa by admitting, “…the Herald finds that it has been the means of circulating statements which have no foundation in truth.” Then it proceeded to point out Roosevelt had made several erroneous statements. A rival paper called the apology “a trifle sarcastic.”

Now it was on in earnest as newspapers around the country weighed in. Minnesota’s St. Paul Globe opined, “It is an outrage that a public man should be pilloried through his children.” In the bombastic Southern manner of the era, the Charleston, S.C. Post took it a step further saying the reporter should be “condemned to be shot from the mouth of a cannon on the Washington Monument.”

But it ceased being a laughing matter when the U.S. Weather Bureau in Boston stopped giving the Herald its weather maps and New England forecasts.

That was too much even for Roosevelt supporters, who began criticizing him for going too far. The Manchester Union in New Hampshire got straight to the point, calling the president’s response, “censorship and nothing else.”

Maybe the Yuletide spirit brought a little peace on earth and goodwill toward men that season. Because as December drew to a close, the crisis quietly faded away. The whole laughable incident concluded with a chuckle.

The Chicago Tribune ended the saga the day after Christmas with one of the best one-line news reports of all time: “There were no White House turkey stories in the esteemed Boston Herald yesterday.”

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