Do any of you really, truly like Thanksgiving? Anyone? Anyone?
I know at least one of you has an aversion to eating turkey because, even brined and roasted to a lovely golden brown, it still looks just like it did in life. And several of you chimed in on my "I hate hate HATE stuffing" post last year that you're totes in agreement on that. This week, when I feel Thanksgiving's approach like a death knell, I have to wonder...does anyone really get excited about this holiday, which is a lot more like work and a lot less like a celebration?
If it weren't for the long weekend that usually comes with it, and its Pavlovian association with the start of the Christmas season, would it be missed?
This is from someone who was never really big into turkey or dressing or cranberry sauce or sweet potatoes or even pumpkin pie. No, not even pumpkin pie. Secretly, I think pumpkin is fouler than fowl (pun intended) and I can only mildly tolerate it now in pumpkin cheesecake because I've tried really, really hard to like it and fit in with Jason's family, who all seem to love it. It's not an acquired taste, technically, but I've been trying to acquire it anyway.
Yeah, Thanksgiving is supposed to be about more than the food. And I do take time every year (usually in this blog) to reflect and say what I'm thankful for. That part, I get. What I really could live without is spending hours in the kitchen, making food that I really don't like, for two different meals with two different families. I still like the getting together with both families part, don't get me wrong there. I just think we'd all have a better time if we just got together with food everyone actually likes rather than a predetermined, traditional turkey dinner that you feel is necessary for the American identity. You know, maybe some wings and brew since everyone just ends up watching football anyway.
Every year Ainsley learns about the first Thanksgiving and why we eat what we eat. It usually convinces me to at least play along and make my green beans, dumplings, and crunch-topped apple pie for my family's feast and ham and sweet potato casserole for Jason's. (The interesting thing about the sweet potato casserole is I get rave reviews on it because it's Paula Deen's awesome recipe, but I have never actually tasted it myself because sweet potatoes trigger my gag reflex and cause me to make a very unpleasant "rolf" sound in the back of my throat whenever I try a bite. And yet, I make the casserole anyway because Jason luuuuurves it. That, my friends, is devotion.)
But here's my fantasy Thanksgiving. I do not have the cajones to actually do any of this; my families follow tradition, and so will I, because I'm all about the complaining and not about the rocking the boat. Maybe, though, this will inspire one of you to break out of the "roasted bird/honeybaked pig/bread soaked in broth/green bean casserole to give the illusion of a vegetable" rut that is the American Thanksgiving.
My ideal Thanksgiving would not start with me getting up at the buttcrack of dawn to start the country-style green beans needed for my family's lunch-time "dinner." It would start with me getting up just as late as I ordinarily would on any weekday off from work. In other words, the only alarm that would go off would be when Ainsley comes running in the room to announce she's awake, to which I would reply, "Go watch a Phineas and Ferb while Mommy wakes up," buying me 15 more minutes.
Not having to worry about all the calories and heavy food stuffs coming later in the day, I would start with a creme-filled bakery donut and a cup of coffee. Or maybe, since it is a holiday, after all, a mimosa sipped while soaking in the tub.
Since this is a day about food and thanks and family, the three of us would get all cleaned up to go eat "dinner" with my family at my sister's house. But instead of the usual turkey, my mom has prepared the simple (and not time-consuming!) meal that many an Appalachian has given thanks for over the centuries: soup beans. Not bean soup. Soup beans. Never heard of them, you say? They're pinto beans cooked up with a healthy amount of ham hock or salt pork. Best served with some buttermilk corn bread. Not what the pilgrims had after the native Americans saved their poor white arses from starvation, but very close to it in spirit; I've heard that 50lb. bags of pinto beans and hogs butchered and smoked annually are what kept my ancestors alive during the harsh mountain winters.
After dinner, we'd all settle down for a few minutes with my sister's puppies. Then we'd head home for a nap. A long one.
Later is when the real fun would begin--instead of turkey dinner number two, we'd get together in the evening with Jason's siblings and the kids. And start immediately with some cocktails. No one would have to go through a lot of trouble for food; we could just fry up the all-American favorite. The food that I would argue better represents "USA" than a baked bird. Cheeseburgers. With fries. And maybe beer.
After the kids start getting weary and all the funny family stories have been shared, we'd head home and, after the kid's in bed, watch a very special 30 Minute Meals wherein Rachel Ray does Thanksgiving in 60 minutes. And even that will look like a lot of work, and we'll be glad our bellies are full of beans and cheeseburgers instead.
Ahhh, bliss. And nary a can of pumpkin in sight.
That is something I could really be thankful for.