Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. There's none of the panic about what to get 80-year-old Aunt Martha, none of the resentment for receiving an indifferent gift. There are no smarmy cards with soft focused cupids shooting arrows at lace edged hearts. Thanksgiving is basic, simple.

Thanksgiving is about going home and breaking bread. It doesn't matter if that "home" is a neighbor's, a restaurant or a soup kitchen; it doesn't matter if the family is your own or one you're borrowing for the day. Thanksgiving isn't about what or how we cook, it's about why we cook.

We stress out about recipes, about how much and what to make. We forget that it's not about the food. It's about the older generation passing the organizing and cooking onto the next. It's about adult grandchildren spending long car rides with time short grandparents. It's about college students coming through airport gates looking far older than their parents' memories.

So if you're cooking tomorrow, take a deep breath, have a glass of wine, relax and take the time to listen. No one remembers the Norman Rockwell moments, but we all, through laughing tears, can tell a story of Thanksgiving disaster. From underdone birds with lumpy gravy to Jell-O molds stuffed with shredded lettuce and sour cream, those are the memories that matter and need to be cherished.

I'm going to close with a passage by author Dorothy Allison, about the joys of gravy. This is the opening paragraph from a longer piece that appeared in the October 28, 2007 New York Times Sunday Magazine, (it's reprinted here without permission of the New York Times, the express written consent of Major League Baseball or The National Football League, so this could be my last post for awhile).

by Dorothy Allison

Gravy is the simplest, tastiest, most memory-laden dish I know how to make:
a little flour, salt and pepper, crispy bits of whatever meat anchored the
meal, a couple of cups of water or milk and slow stirring to break up lumps.
That's it. It smells of home, the door locked against the night and a stillness
made safe by the sound of a spoon going round in a pan. It is anticipation,
the last thing prepared before the meal comes to the table, the bowl in Mama's
hand closing the day out peacefully, no matter what came before.

So this Thanksgiving I wish you peace and great gravy. Remember, you can do it, this is why you cook.

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