Carving out some space for Thanksgiving

'Respect the Bird' movement won't let Black Friday gobble up holiday

November 24, 2011|Susan Reimer

Doug Matthews was ahead of everybody else in the take-back-Thanksgiving movement.

The New Jersey husband and father of three was angry last year about Christmas creep. And when the dedicated foodie posted his thoughts on a recipe website, he found himself with a lot of company.

"I didn't expect the response," said Matthews by phone from his home in Mendham. "I was surprised, but a lot of people out there were thinking what I was — that you don't start Christmas in the middle of Thanksgiving."

That was before the retail giants had their way with the holiday calendar this year. Toys "R" Us will open its doors at 9 tonight. Others are opening at 10 p.m. or midnight. Black Friday has become Black Thanksgiving night.

Matthews' blog post on last November drew hundreds of comments almost immediately, and it was the most-read post on the site until … well, almost until Christmas.

"The calendar seems to be going by at a frightening pace and holidays are getting blended into each other like ingredients in a smoothie," he wrote.

"We just finished Halloween and already people are starting to hum Christmas carols. I'm no Ebenezer Scrooge by a long shot but whatever happened to Thanksgiving?"

He called on America to "respect the bird," and launched a campaign under that banner this year. There is a Facebook page, and there are T-shirts and a video of Matthews making his case. You can click on a pledge "to not let Black Friday shopping gobble up my Thanksgiving."

Almost 4,000 people have taken the pledge, and I am guessing there will be hundreds more before Thanksgiving is over, as cooks everywhere search the recipe site for a new way to prepare mashed potatoes.

It is not just the nearly 194,000 who signed the petition against Target's early opening, a drive begun by an employee who called on his company to "take the moral high ground." Cooks are the ones who keep Thanksgiving sacred, and it is right that such a movement should have begun on a recipe website.

It is also fitting that the founder of the "Respect the Bird" movement should be cooking not one but two turkeys this holiday. He's cooking a 24-pound bird, wrapping it in a blanket in its roasting pan and driving an hour to his father's house in Princeton, where he hopes it will be enough to feed 23 relatives.

His wife insists that he cook a second turkey when they return home. She wants the leftovers.

"I am doing the turkey because I do the turkey better than anyone else," said Matthews, who counts on others for the side dishes. "I took over the reins after my grandmother passed away."

His secret? Butter, and lots of it. And bacon strips laid over the breast. And frequent basting.

"I bet I open the oven every 20 or 30 minutes," he said.

His 6-year-old son, Brad, opens the car window pretty often, too.

"When he sees people putting up Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving, he yells out the window, 'Respect the bird!'"

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