- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Thanksgiving is sometimes subject to interpretation.

“The Pilgrims crossed the Ocean, and this was called the Pill’s Grim Progress,” an eager student once wrote in a schoolroom essay, said humorist and grammarian Richard Lederer, who has collected bloopers by youths for almost two decades.

“When they landed at Plymouth Rock, they were greeted by Indians, who came down the hill rolling their hoops before them. The Indian squabs carried porpoises on their back. Many of the Indian heroes were killed, along with their cabooses,” the student continued.

The young are not the only ones who take a few liberties with the holiday, though.

Black Friars Distillery has concocted the official “Mayflower Martini” — made with its own Plymouth Gin, apricot brandy, apple juice, elderberry cordial and lemon juice.

The British company says its 15th-century monastery site was where “the Pilgrim Fathers stayed before setting sail on the Mayflower in 1620.”

Campbell’s — the soup company — meanwhile, saw fit to issue a bulletin about green-bean casserole this Thanksgiving to ensure that Americans know who created the bean/mushroom soup/crispy onion side dish.

Curious?

The year was 1955, and the inventor was Dorcas Reilly, who once managed Campbell’s test kitchen. The company has crowned her the “mother of all comfort foods.”

Not to be outdone, Talking Presidents, a California-based toy company, is offering a limited-edition action figure commemorating President Bush’s surprise Thanksgiving visit to U.S. troops in Iraq a year ago.

“It was such a cool, historic moment, I immediately wanted to make a doll to celebrate it,” said manufacturer John Warnock. “As I watched him carrying the turkey tray on television, I started picturing him in a display box.”

The figure wears an Army jacket, blue shirt and black pants, based on what Mr. Bush wore during his morale-building visit — complete with a tiny turkey tray.

However, turkey is not on the minds of some today.

With obesity lawsuits multiplying, the D.C.-based Center for Consumer Freedom is offering the truly prepared host a “Thanksgiving Guest Liability and Indemnification Agreement” to present dinner guests as a foil against “food cops, public health activists and trial lawyers promoting hysteria about the nation’s expanding waistline.”

“Hosts should be able to serve that second helping of turkey and stuffing and offer a bigger slice of pumpkin pie without the fear of being sued,” spokesman Dan Mindus said. “With this signed form, they can keep the trial lawyers and food police out in the cold.”

But keep the soap handy.

Dr. Philip Tierno, a microbiologist at New York University Medical Center, wants Americans to control their “top germ moments” today with rigorous hand washing.

“The Thanksgiving holidays occur around the start of winter, when many people already have coughs and colds — illnesses that love to travel on people’s hands,” Dr. Tierno said. “Remember, you want to pass the turkey, not the germs.”

Michigan-based Taubman Centers, which operates 22 shopping malls nationwide, has something else in mind.

“Waking at sunrise — or even before — to shop on the day after Thanksgiving has become a national tradition that’s almost as popular as the Thanksgiving meal itself,” spokeswoman Karen MacDonald said.

Beginning at 4 a.m. tomorrow, the company’s malls will offer incentives such as aerobics and exercises to strengthen “shopping bag muscles,” disc jockeys, free food and, in some cases, permission for shoppers to roam the mall in their pajamas.

Mervyn’s, a California-based department store chain, also hopes to placate shoppers. The company hired a dietitian to figure out how many calories were burned shopping and will advise bargain hunters that they’ll burn off the caloric equivalent of a slice of pumpkin pie with whipped cream by pushing a shopping cart for two hours.

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