I spent most of my childhood in a country that really didn’t understand American holidays. Imagine, having never heard of Halloween, and one night you look outside and there are kids parading through the streets, dressed like monsters, and princesses, and Richard Nixon. AND they’re not just parading, they’re coming to your door saying “Trick-or -Treat!” It’s got be the most bizarre scene. Most of the Arabs gave it their best. We’d hold out our giant pillowcases, and they’d willingly fill them with odd cookies that had no sugar and stuffed grape leaves. We’d look at each other quizzically, say “Thank you!” – quickly bolting to the next house. I always felt guilty throwing those home-made treats away. It was such a good effort.
Thanksgiving became something of a non-holiday to me. There was no media madness surrounding black friday, there were no super market flyers invading the mail box, ranting about discount turkeys. Even the concept of pilgrims just really didn’t translate. We still had our family day, which consisted of eating too much. You can’t take the gluttony out of an American, no matter where you transplant them. When I went to high school, it seemed rather ridiculous to fly across this great earth for a one-day-binge-fest, so I stayed in New Jersey and went home with friends to binge-fest, U.S. style.
I went home with my room-mate on a few such holidays, and witnessed the fun of big family gatherings! I’ve always wanted the loud interactions, the drunken uncle, the auntie sporting the latest in kitty sweater fashion, the grandparents nodding off on the couch, the babies cooing and pooing. Okay, I didn’t really want the poo, but feel free to pass the pie. All of these characters gathered around a big table, eating and drinking and being a family. It was fascinating for me to watch. I drank in the experience, enjoying the smells, and the tastes and the soft cozy light. I was home sick for a giant family that I would never have.
I attempted to achieve this high Thanksgiving standard in college. The first couple of years I spent the holiday with my grandparents. Though it was nice to be with family, it didn’t quite feel like Thanksgiving when we went to the all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet. When I moved to Colorado, I had my first Thanksgiving as The Hostess. Oh. It was interesting. Pretty? Yummie? Well. That wasn’t important, there was beer, my two room-mates, two foreign exchange students, and a strange quiet giant from my printmaking class. We made it a whole new holiday. Martha Stewart would not have been proud.
We began by commencing beer drinking very early. Maybe even for breakfast. That was followed by the food prep of mashed potatoes, Quiche and stuffing. None of us were brave enough to cook a turkey. We wanted to celebrate, not murder our guests via food poisoning. The first guest to our carbohydrate feast was a student that was in one of my roommate’s classes. She was Japanese and not going home for Thanksgiving break. I knew how that felt. She brought a friend with her, who was also Japanese. Between them they spoke 12 words of English. The friend had hot pink lipstick on her teeth the entire day. My eyes were drawn to that pink stain like they were rubber necking at a massive car accident on I-70. All day. I stared at her mouth, fascinated that not even the mashed potatoes could remove that stain! Finally, my art buddy arrived. We weren’t actually buddies, I just felt sorry for him, and was a little obsessed with his posture. He was a big guy, but he took up hardly any space. It was amazing. He’d sit in these little pretzel type formations, appearing smaller than he actually was. Like a human rear view mirror. This was an indulgent day for me. I got to watch the incredible shrinking man and the pink-toothed woman, while dining on broccoli Quiche. I was thankful for our anti-Martha vegetarian Thanksgiving.
I do believe that we had cookies for dessert.
After becoming so full of beer and other starches, the strained conversation with the Japanese girls became too laborious. They departed, babbling to one another in Japanese, probably about how they had figured out the reason for the American obesity problem. Those teeth were still pink. Incredible.
We were full; my room-mates, myself, and the little-big guy from my art class. Like most Americans, we decided to finish our day of gluttony with some football….Football? Have we met? Never!
Disco Inferno? Now there’s a way to burn off some calories.
Don’t ask me how we managed to bounce around to that crazy music with bellies full of potatoes, and not blow chunks, but we did.
My Thanksgivings since have never compared to that one. It was monumentous in its lack of tradition, language barriers, and disco music. There was no family. There were no expectations. There was no turkey. I’ve always envied the big family gatherings, but I bet there’s some people uncomfortably squirming in those gatherings who would rather be disco dancing. And eating Quiche.
In my bubble, my shiny pink bubble of happiness, I have never cooked a turkey. I just can’t go there. I still eat it, but I pretend it was never a bird. I like to think it’s a ball of yummie tofu that has been molded into the shape of the turkey, and no creature had to give it’s life for me to celebrate a holiday that I don’t really understand. I mean, if it’s about the Pilgrims and the Indians, shouldn’t I bring a side of smallpox?
I married a guy who insists on green bean casserole, mashed potatoes and rolls to go along with his turkey – a bird that he has cooked at least three times with the plastic bag of gizzard and crap in it. A couple of years ago I made the mistake of grabbing a roll of french bread to accompany the turkey. He was mortified… running out to the store at 9 a.m. to grab some “real” rolls (made by that pudgy Pillsbury dough boy). Last year I tried to substitute cornbread, with an equal reaction. So this year, I am getting the damn rolls. My sister is hostessing, so the turkey won’t be plasticized. The pie will be pie, and not chocolate chip cookies. The football game will be on the tele. It may be rather traditional, but little does she know that I intend to install a disco ball in her basement and sneak away for a few minutes after dinner. My bubble needs a disco injection from time to time, especially when I’ve eaten too many potatoes.
I wonder if I should surprise her and bring Quiche?