I love Thanksgiving.
Not in the Pilgrims/Indians sort of way, but in the President Lincoln sort of way. President Lincoln made Thanksgiving a national holiday to help unite a deeply divided country. And now we, as a deeply divided nation, need more than ever to come together and practice gratitude for all we have, because we have a lot to be grateful for.
When we turn on the faucet, clean water comes out. The running out of turkey is the stuff of sitcoms, the stores are full of turkeys.
Thanksgiving is all about gratitude and food. So much food! And most of this food is heavy, delicious comfort food. Not just the giant roasted bird (some prefer ham, but the rest of us don’t hold with that riff-raff), but also mashed potatoes & stuffing, thick brown gravy, the weird green bean casserole, and elaborate salads, buttered rolls, jellied cranberries, pecan and pumpkin pies with ice cream or whipped cream. The dinner tables creak and bend under all the weight of this food.
And drinks! For me, I prefer sweet wine for the many, many toasts that is traditional, and obligatory with my immigrant family. I also like my Diet Dr Pepper to chase down the food (with its near-perfect replication of the original Dr Pepper without the sugar — truly a gift from the gods).
I am grateful for my family’s mostly good health, for our warm homes and our dogs, our friends and neighbors. I’m actually grateful twice at Thanksgiving — because our traditional Thanksgiving is followed the next day by our traditional Friday Friendsgiving. This Friendsgiving is for people who come aren’t related to us by blood, but instead, they are the family we made and people whom we choose to spend time with. We make the mostly the exact same dishes (different salads, though), and people bring some dishes (and possibly beer if my husband is lucky).
I was in a grocery store not too long ago, and was talking with the cashier, telling him that I could hardly wait for Thanksgiving. He made a face and said that he doesn’t like this holiday. What? I’ve never heard a person say that, so I asked him why.
“It’s my family,” he explained. I got it. When there is conflict within the family, or there no getting along with parents/siblings/cousins/whomever HAS to sit across the table from you, a holiday could be a time of tension and heartburn, with very few things found for giving thanks. But as I was walking out of the store, I realized that I felt sad for that cashier not only because he didn’t like his family, but he didn’t have another family, a family one makes.
I know that I am lucky in that I get along with and respect the family I was born into, even if I don’t always agree with everyone on everything. For me, our Friendsgiving is the time to wear sweatpants, to laugh less forcefully, and more often, to be in the company of people who share my views on most things controversial. But it’s not more or less special, simply different.
Besides, I don’t just eat turkey the next day — I make … The Sandwich. For anyone who cares, The Sandwich has to have good bread to begin with, usually sourdough, then a light shmear of mayo and mustard, followed by a layer of stuffing (the drier stuff that was made outside the turkey), then I pile on the turkey I like — the skin, a little dark meat, cartilage, all things chewy — then a few slices of tomato. I salt the tomato lightly, just to bring out its inherent sweetness, and after shmearing a titch more mayo and mustard, cut The Sandwich on the diagonal (this step is crucial because it makes it tastes better for no apparent reason) and enjoy with Diet Dr Pepper. And I do enjoy the hell out of it, chewing slowing and savoring each small bite until it is gone.
There. I did not write about the weather again (as I love to do, because I love my inclement weather), but this did devolve into a bit of a food blog. That’s all right, most things with me do.
Happy Thanksgiving, one and all, and may all your holidays be warm and safe and with people (or the dogs or cats) that you love.