The Thanksgiving holiday, before and after the gluttony, tends to focus on the meal, either how to cook the food, or how to eat the food without actually ingesting the calories. As if there was no historical significance to the holiday other than the actual food and the dieting which follows. Unless you are in first grade; then the significance lies within the turkeys you're drawing by tracing the outline of your hand.
Anyway, this column will address neither the food adventures nor the calorie-burning process of Thanksgiving, but will offer a post-holiday activity that, guaranteed, will provide hours of fun (or escape) and a new outlook on food. So, take a break from the shopping list, digest last week's meal, and sit on your butt in front of a computer (incidentally, sitting burns 71 calories). Gather as many of your loved ones that can squeeze in around the screen, and tune in, log on, hide the children, and behold the benefits of virtual eating. Or perhaps, virtual discouragement of eating.
The site is called Gallery of Regrettable Foods, at www. lileks.com/institute/gallery. Awhile back, this site was listed as one of Yahoo's top 10 picks. I, however, found it the usual way: procrastinating by cruising around the Internet. Created by James Lileks, a journalist from the upper corners of the Midwest, this site is very appropriately named. Believe me, after hours of viewing pleasure, you'll not want to eat for a while. Mainly because your stomach and face muscles will ache from laughter; but also because as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.
Lileks has taken his collection of cookbooks and recipes from the fabulous culinary eras of the '40s, '50s and '60s, and masterfully created one huge tribute to "poorly photographed food stuffs and horrid recipes." Indeed, you too will wonder exactly how we managed to eat our way through these decades. Perhaps this explains the popularity of the martini.
The site is HUGE and divided into three main sections once you reach the home page. One of those is called Specialties, which houses the master list of sub-sites -- 18 in all. The other two sections are just more direct links. One leads to the newest additions. The other is titled Ads, which speaks for itself. It includes advertisements from the same eras, pushing the newest in avocado appliances and various food products, complete with celebrity endorsements.
Ads is an enlightening sub-site and, upon viewing completion, makes you realize just how far we haven't come. Some of the ads featuring the hottest celebs of the day put our modern sell-outs to shame. Eleanor Roosevelt and her big plate of yummy-looking hot dogs, for example, makes John Elway and Coors look like a Boy Scout hawking soda pop. Also not to be missed is Ronald Reagan staring wistfully at the latest in washers and dryers -- or is he staring at the woman half leaning over them? And who wouldn't buy a new home freezer from Edward G. Robinson and Elizabeth Scott? Especially before she was a lesbian. Stellar career moments for all, I'm sure.
Viewing this mammoth site is an ongoing project. You schedule some time each day or simply view in moments of procrastination. Either way, the project can be stretched into Christmas. But there are certain entries not to be missed, if you feel haste is necessary.
The sub-site meat, meat, meat possibly provides the best-ever documented reasons to become a vegetarian. Even more disturbing, especially if you grew up in the Midwest, is that you may recognize some of these items from childhood. Warning: Do not view meat, meat, meat directly after eating meat.
From a sociological perspective, Swanson's Parade, Better Baking and Big Boys Don't Fry are fascinating. Who knew cooking was riddled with such sexual politics?
Last, but certainly not least, is the casserole category, a.k.a. "glop in a pot." Kind of puts a whole new twist on that infamous cream of something soup and green bean casserole concoction. But that's another era.
Happy viewing and bon apptit.