I looked it up. It means, "rendered or clarified chicken or goose fat used for frying or spreading on bread." It's a German word. Germans have been known to use goose fat as a spread for their toast. But Websters will tell you that is not the only definition. Poultry sweat aside, it can also mean "music, art, etc., that is very sad or romantic in usually a foolish or exaggerated way." That's where I was headed when I got sidetracked by all that fat rendering.
That's what this time of year affords in great big bushels: Sentiment. I have been known to stop on the occasional Lifetime movie just to soak it in. I like to pretend that I am above that sort of thing, but after discussions with many of my counterparts and colleagues about Christopher Nolan's space epic, Interstellar, it became clear to me that all those emotions that were stirred in me may have been callously manipulated by emotional engineers with the focused intent of selling more tickets by bringing us a story we can all "relate to." It worked. For me.
But I have this carefully managed persona of wily cynic, and getting all teary-eyed at the end of a three hour science fiction movie doesn't fit in well with that. This is nothing new, however. I was once swept away by the honesty of Urban Cowboy. Before that, I was totally bowled over by Don Roberson's novel, "The Greatest Thing That Almost Happened." I read the story of Morris Bird III, the sequel to "The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread," over and over. If you haven't read the book, I can tell you that it changed my life, or perhaps I changed my life for the book. I surrendered to the schmaltz. For a while I was very caught up in the words of Ernest Hemingway, which I acquired from an early viewing of "Brian's Song": All true stories end in death. I tried to write stories like that. I looked for them on TV and in theaters near me.
What hadn't occurred to me at that time was that it's not just all true stories, it's pretty much all stories that end in death. That's why they make sequels.
And so I sit there, waiting for the lights to come up, savoring the tears forming in the corner of my eyes, and hoping that no one notices. Except for you, dear reader. The schmaltz is almost ready.