Money, it's a drag. So is tryptophan, but on a whole different level.
When it comes down to it, traveling is expensive. And when it comes to sailing the skies around Turkey Day, this fact is inflated like a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon. When I looked into going home back east, ticket prices were jacked up more than $200 over the normal price. This, along with the problematic issue of boarding my small child -- I mean cat -- made going home for the holidays impossible.
So for those of you who don't want to brave traffic hell this Thanksgiving or are frightened at the mere thought of cooking a bird that weighs more than a bowling ball, Madison provides tons of Thanksgiving options. A few ideas for newbies, interlopers, students and singles follows:
- The Community Action Coalition (CAC) has been collecting foodstuffs for their holiday baskets, which they'll distribute throughout the week via different Dane County food banks. If you're feeling generous, stop by their offices to drop off holiday goods -- particularly ingredients for pumpkin pies, like canned pumpkin, or volunteer to help distribute baskets from St. Bernard Church. However, the CAC and the Goodman Atwood Community Center won't be hosting meals on their premises on Thursday. For a list of places serving food, these groups urge individuals to call the United Way of Dane County's Volunteer Center at 608-246-4380.
- If the thought of sacrificing a bird for consumption really ruffles your feathers, check out the vegan feast at the Wil-Mar Center from 5 to 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. Seitan turkey, a meat- and meat-product-free "bird" commonly made from soy, gluten and herbs, will be served, along with traditional holiday fare like mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie.
- If you want to give thanks to the Lord, the First Congregational Church on 1609 University Avenue is one possible holiday savior. From noon to 3 p.m. all are welcome to volunteer for and/or participate in the festivities. Catch the service prior to the vittles at 11:30 a.m. For info on home-delivered meals, call 608-233-9751.
- On the south side, St. Mark's Lutheran Church on 605 Spruce Street will be hosting a Thanksgiving Dinner starting at noon.
- In the heart of the downtown, the First United Methodist Church at 203 Wisconsin Avenue is serving their Thanksgiving dinner from noon to 2 p.m. Volunteers are needed to assist in serving and other tasks, so please consider contacting the church to learn how you can lend a helping hand. Those who are unable to leave their homes may contact the church from 3-5 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 21 to request a delivered meal.
- If mere mention of the Essen Haus warms your soul with thoughts of passing the boot and jigging to polka, this Thursday you can feast like a pilgrim to the sound of oom-pah music. As one UW law student recalls: "The Essen Haus is crazy fun on T-giving! I'm not going there this year, but last year was a blast!" The family-style dining will take place from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and will set you back $14.95. Reservations are suggested.
- Another way to celebrate the holiday is with a pool cue in hand. The downtown Great Dane will serving a classic turkey dinner at 6 p.m. as well as a limited sampling of your favorite pub grub. If your get that poultry pull early, check out the Fitchburg or Hilldale locations for Thanksgiving brunch from 11 a.m. - 6 p.m., and then get your drink on 'til bar time! A late-night menu chock full o' classic holiday nibbles will also be served at the Hilldale outlet from 6 p.m. - 1 a.m.
- Feel like lo mein? The Asian Kitchen just off State and Broom streets -- along with a variety of other Chinese eateries around town -- will be open to satisfy your cravings well into the evening.
- For some folks, baking takes a lot of blood, sweat and tears, but the American Red Cross Badger Chapter will give you a free pie only for some plasma (and maybe some lachrymal effusion, if you're a wuss.) Feel free to set up an appointment at the Madison East or West Donation Centers and give from the heart -- literally -- through Wednesday, November 21. Donors must be at least 17 years of age, weigh at least 110 lbs., and be in good health. Please check The Guide for more information on collection times.
- If you miss the summer days of marathons and fun runs throughout the downtown streets of Madison, consider being a spectator or volunteer at the Berbee Derby The 5k race has closed its team registration, but other openings remain. The course starts at Fitchburg Center, travels down the Capitol Trail and up and around Syene Road. Please RSVP to participate.
- Please note that Metro buses will be following their Thanksgiving holiday schedule on November 22, and will be only operating the following bus routes: 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 13, 16, 18, 20, 21, 22, 30, 32, 40, 50, 51, 63, 67 and 68. Also, the Paratransit service rides will not be running on November 22-23. Please plan transport accordingly. Please check The Guide for further Madison Metro bus schedule and route changes throughout November.
- You too can make this holiday season all gravy by filling your belly with good eats or the fuzzy feeling of helping others. If the idea of traipsing outside in the cold has you entirely freaking out, I give you an olde Coastie recipe you can fix in between watching football and making turkey shadow puppets on the wall...
Cranberry Bread, a recipe from Grandma/Brutal Barbara from Brooklyn
2 cups unsifted flour
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup raisins
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-1/2-by-4-1/2-inch loaf pan. In a large bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in juice, oil, egg, and vanilla just until blended. Fold in cranberries and raisins. Spoon into greased pan. Bake 55 to 60 minutes or until center springs back when lightly pressed with fingertip. Cool bread in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes. Turn out onto rack and cool completely. Serves 10. Enjoy!
However you end up spending the holiday season, may you be thankful for a Thursday off and a week of leftovers to follow! Have a happy Thanksgiving!