As a child growing up during the materialistic 1980s, Thanksgiving was never my favorite holiday. How could it compete with Halloween, where I could don batwings and demand pounds of candy? Or Christmas, where I couldn’t force myself to sleep more than two or three hours before vaulting downstairs to open presents? The pilgrims just weren’t as cool. It wasn’t until my twenties that the beauty of Thanksgiving began to reveal itself to me.
I blame my parents for that. They are such good cooks, we’d have roasted chicken, potatoes and vegetables once a week or so. While family gatherings were always fun, it was no big thrill to eat a larger roasted bird with fancier plates and silverware. Plus, I would be forced into a reindeer sweater, white turtleneck and Buster Brown shoes instead of sneakers.
It wasn’t until I graduated from college and moved far from home that the rarity and value of abundant, painstakingly prepared comfort food and a house full of family became clear. Working at a cable network where no time off was provided on holidays, I grew accustomed to taking my Thanksgiving meal at the staff cafeteria. Distributed by my supervisor, one “Turkey Voucher” got you a plastic container with turkey loaf drowned in gravy, instant mashed potatoes and canned green beans that did not require chewing. A little salt and pepper, a fountain coke, an inhaled meal at my desk and back to work.
I’ve made some progress since then, landing a job with (when possible) holidays off. I’ll be making my first turkey this year, a Hutterite bird and I’m planning to brine. While I’ve roasted turkeys with roommates before, this year the bird is my responsibility. The stakes were never as high with side dishes; it’s hard to screw up mashed potatoes. I’m combing Web sites for recipes, talking to friends, contemplating stuffing, sweet potatoes and vegetables. If it’s mushy and loaded with butter, I want it on the table.
I’ve had to remind myself that it’s not like I’m building a deck – it’s just a meal. But holidays have a way of evolving as you grow older. The prospect of a day off to cook, eat and drowse sounded impossibly boring when I was younger, but now I can hardly wait. I won’t mind a glass of wine or two, either.
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