I should be taking advantage of my day off to write something meaningful, like a short story or a screenplay outline, or notes for a novel I'd like to write, or even just a recap of my DC trip or a half-dozen other blog entries I've been putting off, but I'm feeling pretty lazy, intellectually speaking, so I think I'll just swipe a Thanksgiving-themed meme from Samurai Frog:
- Do you cook all or part of the meal? No, not really. I'm somewhat ashamed to admit that this is one area in which old-fashioned gender roles hold sway over my life. Not because I honestly think cooking is "woman's work" or any such chauvinistic nonsense, but because I tend to be all thumbs in the kitchen, and the various ladies in my life shoo me out of the way for the safety and sanity of everyone involved. I do occasionally pitch in with culinary activities that don't require fire, such as stirring up the fruit salad or opening cans of cranberry sauce and olives. But that hardly counts.
- How much do you spend buying groceries for the meal? Zippo, since I always eat at someone else's house on Thanksgiving.
- Do you eat at home or go to someone else’s? See the above.
To be honest, Thanksgiving and Christmas tend to generate a great deal of anxiety for me, in large part because of the question of whose house I'm going to spend them in. This is rooted in uncomfortable childhood memories of one grandmother who always had to have her way, the other who usually ended up with hurt feelings, and the resulting guilt, unhappiness, and occasional family fights that inevitably arose from the inequity. These days, the seemingly simple question of "where shall we go this year?" is complicated by my unorthodox relationship with The Girlfriend, to whom family is very important and who has very good and logical reasons for spending holiday weekends at her parent's home in the next valley west of here, a good hour's drive away. I, in turn, have very good and logical reasons of my own for going to my parents -- I'm an only child, so they've got nobody else if I'm not there, and I can't in good conscience leave them alone on days when society deems that parents and children should be together. This means that Anne and I have traditionally spent Thanksgiving and Christmas apart, with our respective families instead of each other. Which is, of course, less than optimal for us.
This year, I tried to strike a balance that would be fair and at least somewhat satisfying for everyone: I ate dinner with my folks, then went to Anne's grandmother's place to have pie with Anne and her extended family. My solution worked reasonably well, but I still spent a good part of the day feeling anxious and worrying about whether I was slighting anyone. I suspect I'm never going to entirely get over that feeling when this time of year rolls around...
- Describe your perfect bite? One in which the food stays in my mouth.
- White meat or dark? White. I can't say why, exactly, but there's something disconcerting about the dark stuff.
- Stuffing with giblets or without? I've never had giblets in my stuffing, so I couldn't say. I would guess "without," though. The very thought of giblets is kind of gross.
- Anything you won’t eat at the Thanksgiving meal? No, not really. I'll eat damn near anything, to tell the truth.
- Carve Mr. Gobble at the table or serve on a platter? Platter, please. Like Samurai Frog, I don't understand why carving a turkey is considered such a big spectacle, and tabletop real estate tends to be at a premium anyhow, so why clutter it up with a big ol' roasting pan and bird carcass?
- Favorite pie? Pumpkin is, of course, the traditional favorite for Thanksgiving, and I like that one very much, but I also enjoy this Dutch apple pie variant my mom occasionally makes, and a good pecan pie, and of course cherry pie with ice cream is always good. It occurs to me that I haven't had a mincemeat pie since my grandma died (the one who had such a stranglehold on her children's agendas), and even though I was never wild about them at the time, I kind of miss having the option now. My favorite pie is probably key-lime, but that seems more of a summertime pie, not something to have in fall.
- Formal table or Chinet? My family has never been terribly formal, so Chinet's fine. And it has the advantage of easy clean-up.
- Your menu? Well, my dad decided a few years ago he wasn't wild about turkey and, as previously noted, I'll eat pretty much anything you put in front of me, so this year's menu consisted of:
- Mashed potatoes with brown gravy (a name I've always found a little odd... brown. Well, yes it is, but what the heck kind of gravy is that, anyhow? And for that matter, why is the white stuff with the little black-pepper flecks called country gravy? Didn't they have the brown kind on farms back in the day?)
- Stuffing (of the StoveTop variety)
- Cranberry sauce (of the canned variety, with the can indentations molded into it -- delicious on ham, if you've never tried it!)
- Steamed spinach (need some green, right?)
- Corn niblets
- And, as an appetizer, deviled eggs.
A pretty good meal for any day of the year, really...
- Favorite leftover? Well, when I actually have turkey instead of ham, I really groove on the little sandwiches you make later in the evening from leftovers rolls, bird meat, and just a little dab of mayo. Quick, easy, yummy.
- Extended family, friends, both or just the immediate family for dinner? Given my generally low tolerance for chaos and those childhood memories of a houseful of grumpy people, I'm not terribly comfortable with gatherings of extended family, though I try to smile my way through them for Anne's sake. And I've never spent the holidays with friends. So my preference would be immediate family only.
- After dinner, do you go to the latest movie or watch football on TV or just a turkey-induced snooze? I'm not a big napper -- the turkey-makes-you-sleepy thing is a myth anyhow -- and I loathe football, so going out to a movie is a good option. Or at least it would be if my honey and I were together on Thanksgiving, which as I explained above, we're usually not. So I resort to DVDs at home. Last night's selection was the '70s-vintage cult-classic Phantasm. Yeah, I know, watching horror on Thanksgiving is weird, but I never got around to a lot of the Halloween stuff I wanted to do this year.
- Do you watch the Macy’s Parade? Sometimes, if I wake up soon enough, but I rarely stick through the entire thing. I get bored with the inane commentary, and the constant commercial interruptions annoy me.
- Christmas decorations up before or after? Oh, God, after! After, after, AFTER! One of my greatest pet peeves is the all-fired rush -- driven almost entirely by the retail industry, although people don't seem to realize it -- to start the Christmas season earlier and earlier every year. I am convinced that one of the biggest factors in our society's preoccupation with time and our collective sense that we never have enough of it is the institutionalized blurring of the seasons. We start seeing Halloween-related crap in stores around late summer, the Christmas stuff is out before Halloween, and Thanksgiving usually gets lost in the shuffle, and the enthusiastic homemakers who can't wait to start setting up trees, putting out Santa tchotchkes, and streaming garland all over the house are unwitting accomplices to the crime. I can see the logic of hanging the exterior lights while the weather is still good, but for God's sake, don't turn them on until after Turkey Day, please.
- Black Friday shopping or sleep in? Sleeping in. Black Friday is a ridiculous tradition brought to us (again!) by the retail industry's eagerness to separate us from our dollars, and I refuse to support it. Plus, see my earlier comment about disliking chaos? You couldn't pay me enough to go anywhere near a retail establishment today...
- Any special Thanksgiving tradition? No, not really.
- Favorite thing about Thanksgiving? That's a tough one. As I explained already, Thanksgiving tends to produce more discomfort than pleasure for me. But I always enjoy a good meal, and pie rocks, of course. Who doesn't like pie?
- Favorite Thanksgiving memory? Probably those early childhood mornings when I was awakened by the scent of the turkey Mom had put in the oven the night before...
And there you have it. My somewhat curmudgeonly stance on Thanksgiving, or, as I like to call it, Mass Consumption Day.
Suddenly I feel like drinking some Alka-Seltzer... go figure.