If only we’d stop trying to be happy, we’d have a pretty good time.
— Edith Wharton
It’s Thanksgiving this week, which makes this feature especially apropos today, I think. I love Thanksgiving; it’s my favorite holiday, and it has surprisingly little to do with food.
In my family, we go to my grandfather’s house in Maryland. Usually – and this year is no exception – it’s my grandfather and his wife, my parents, me, my brother and sister-in-law and their two kids, an uncle, some cousins, and a great-aunt or two. We gather sometime after noon and congregate in the kitchen, eating appetizers (because if there’s one thing there’s not enough of on Thanksgiving, it’s food), or in the living room. Sometimes there’s football on, sometimes not, but even when there is, no one’s really paying attention.
My favorite part is that everyone has their own “thing” to do: my grandfather’s in charge of the turkey, his wife does the stuffing (and when my great-grandmother was alive, this always started the great stuffing v. dressing debate – for the record, it’s stuffing when it’s cooked in the turkey, dressing when it’s cooked on its own). I’m on mashed potato duty, my mom does vegetables or dessert, my dad’s cousin makes homemade bread. The men in my family make the gravy. My grandfather taught my dad who taught my brother. Thank god my brother had a boy; now I’m set for gravy for the rest of my life!
Ok, so it is about the food, I lied. But it’s more than that. It’s that we have these traditions that revolve around the food. I don’t know how any of them started – convenience, I suppose – but I do know that, like that Visa commercial where the hapless customer tries to pay with cash and effs the whole process up, Thanksgiving would be chaos without everyone playing their roles. I love being in the kitchen with all that activity going on around me, but knowing I only have to worry about the giant pot of potatoes in front of me and making sure I accurately report at what time they’ll be done so everyone can plan accordingly.
This year, though, I’m also attempting an appetizer and a dessert. I plan to make them at home before I head up to Maryland, so as to minimize the disturbance of the aura in the kitchen. We’ll see how it goes. Maybe I’ll even win the post-dessert marathon game of Hearts for once.
So, in honor of Thursday, here’s a short, Thanksgiving-themed Things to be Happy About:
1. cranberry sauce still in the shape of the can [yeah, we have no pretensions when it comes to cranberry sauce]
2. big Thanksgiving dinners
3. when everyone has their “specialty dish” to make at Thanksgiving
4. family traditions
5. homemade ice cream
6. the “elegant” salt and pepper shakers [this is from a story my great-grandmother used to tell about my grandfather when he was a boy; they went shopping for salt and pepper shakers and he asked if they could buy the “elegant” ones. They did, and we use them to this day]
I hope you’ll share some of your Thanksgiving traditions with me in the comments – I’d love to hear about them!
P.S. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that by this time tomorrow, we’ll know for sure whether I’m a chicken or not. Dentist. Tomorrow. 4 pm. I’ll post an update either way, I promise.