Mo Rocca is the perpetual student of life -- a social commentator with that around-the-bend take on what he sees. You hear it on Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me, and you see it in his appearances on CBS and in his new Cooking Channel series, My Grandmother's Ravioli.
With all that, we figure that Thanksgiving, which is aspiration and pitfall central, might be something he's thinking about.
Lynne Rossetto Kasper: Thanksgiving has all these wonderful pieces to it, but there's also the kind of odd sides. Standing back and looking at Thanksgiving as we celebrate it now, what's your take on it?
Mo Rocca: I think about all the twists that people keep adding to Thanksgiving. All the recipes. We keep hearing about a twist on asparagus, Ina's twists on creamed corn, Paula's twist on gravy. I want to bring a twist to the whole holiday itself. I want to put a twist on Thanksgiving because I think what happens on all holidays is a lot of compartmentalization.
I want to split Thanksgiving in two. This is an idea I haven't tried yet, but I'd like to: two separate meals. And there is a reason for this. On Thanksgiving Eve, I would assemble all the friends and family that I love, but maybe not love as much as other family and friends, and have a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for them. I don't like watching football, for instance, so that dinner would have football. We could lobby the NFL or maybe college football to have a Thanksgiving Eve game. If they couldn't do that, maybe I could just play a recorded game from last year.
Then the next day, for the actual Thanksgiving, I would have the other friends and family. I don't want to say I love them more, but .... I would bring them together and we could have leftovers, because I love leftovers. We would watch Meet Me in St. Louis, because I really like that and would prefer it to football. This would be much more of a standing Thanksgiving. I'm not a big fan of sitting at a table for long periods of time; I get bed sores.
LRK: I think this makes a lot of sense. And the leftovers are the best part of the meal.
MR: Well, they're more flavorful, right? Maybe you can tell me. Doesn't something chemical happen with it, where it becomes more savory, it becomes creamier?
LRK: Yeah, there must be something chemical that happens, because it always tastes better the next day.
Thanksgiving is also kind of a personal marker. I keep thinking about when I was much younger, it was, "Oh, this time last year was when I broke up with so and so," that kind of thing.
MR: Oh, every Thanksgiving is like a 25th high school reunion. You're evaluating yourself against where you were, and against other people. I mean absolutely, I think holidays are really best, of course, with kids. I don't have little kids so I'd love to go and get some for Thanksgiving. And I don't know if there is any way to do that. People can maybe lend me their children. It's great with a lots of little kids I think.
LRK: Well, they don't go through that in the same way that adults do. They don't do that, "Last year, I remember, x."
MR: Oh, I know, exactly. Yeah, the 4-year-old girl is not taking a drag on her cigarette, thinking of what might have been. And if she is, that kid needs a series.
LRK: What do you think about the turkey obsession? Making the perfect turkey?
MR: Well, I'm a fan of side dishes. I actually much prefer side dishes. I don't get the fixation with turkey. It's a good durable meat, but I much prefer the side dishes. If I could do college over again, I'd only take electives. I wouldn't have a major. And that's how I feel about Thanksgiving. I much prefer the little side dishes: the cranberry sauce, the molasses biscuits, the peas, the twist on mashed potatoes. But I suppose the center would not hold if you did not have turkey. You need to have it. Maybe you need to have it so that you can have something to put the side dishes around.
Maybe we can use history as a scapegoat and say, "Well, they didn't have turkey at the first Thanksgiving." Then serve whatever meat you find in your back yard.
LRK: One trend I'm seeing this year is a turkey cupcake. Essentially, you make turkey meatloaf in a cupcake pan, bake it and frost it with mashed potatoes. And instead of a cherry on top, you put cranberry sauce.
MR: I'm actually sort of anti-cupcake. There is an aversion to intimacy that has led us down the cupcake path. Whatever happened to the days when everyone was sharing a cake? So I'm not sure how I feel about these turkey cupcakes.
Of course, I have to try one now. I have to at least see one, but shouldn't we all be eating from the same tray of slop?
LRK: I hadn't thought about that piece to the cupcake phenomenon! It's separating us; I hadn't thought about that.
MR: It is separating us. I mean, it sounds with all due respect, like an L.A. thing. People are used to being in their cars, separated from others. But in New York, where we all take the subway, we're not going to be eating turkey cupcakes. We're all going to be sharing our turkey meatloaf out of the same tin on the F train with strangers.
By the way, it's a little disingenuous of me to say that, because Thanksgiving is supposed to be a time of sharing and I do have a line when it comes to sharing. I can share anything but wet desserts. I have a real hard time sharing wet desserts; it feels so intimate. I can share an apple pie but I can't share the a la mode. I can't do that.