Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Although I am an American girl, I can honestly say I've never experienced a traditional American Thanksgiving. In my family there is no such thing as pumpkin pie. Giblets are a suburban myth. Stuffing belongs inside a teddy bear, not a turkey, and cranberries dance across our holiday table in a quivering ring my Grandma calls a "jelly mold." From our cornucopia spills a Jewish bounty of chopped liver, kasha varnishkes, brisket and cholent (that's my Grampa's legacy of beef, lima beans, potatoes, barley, garlic and schmaltz). Don't bother looking for recipes; They're all variations on a theme of meat, starch and fat. No fiber, no veggies. These foods were the building blocks of my culture. Literally: I think they used leftovers as bricks and spackle in the old country.

cholent will keep you warm at night, one way or another

One such meal is manageable, but after a couple days we're all suffering from... sort of a trade imbalance, if you will. Not to mention this stuff really fills your gas tank. The long ride home, uh, passed as it always does: argue, argue, gossip, argue -- “Alright, who did it?” -- bicker, complain, insult, chuckle -- “Damnit! Again?" -- joke, bicker, punchbuggy -- "Jesus Christ, open the goddamned window!” -- and finally a tripping, clawing race from the garage to my parents' downstairs bathroom. I promised not to point the finger at anyone in particular, but I will say this: I'll think twice before I bully a certain sibling of mine into the middle seat -- the one farthest from the window -- for another lengthy car ride. Payback is a bitch.

Every year I make this trip, and every year I moan that it's a pain in the ass with the driving and schlepping and missing a day of work. But I wouldn't skip it, not for all the stuffing in the world. After a few days of loving squabbles and gastrointestinal distress with the 15 crazy New Yorkers collectively known as "The Cousins," I leave with my gut heavy and my heart light, and I feel restored. Traditional Thanksgiving I can take or leave, but I'm definitely thankful for tradition.


Neil said...

One year I went to a friend's house in New Hampshire for thanksgiving. Everyone oohed and aahed when the turkey and yams came out and played Scrabble for hours after dinner. It was like Woody Allen dining with the Halls. Since then, I find myself thankful every year for the very kooks I find sitting at the thanksgiving table with me. But I do have one rule: no cholent!

Anonymous said...

that was one of your best!! thanksgiving isn't thanksgiving without cholent.

always write said...

Neil, you're totally missing out. But you're pretty much family now, so we'll get some cholent in you yet.

Anonymous, I know who you are, and we really really missed you this year.

Anonymous said...

It wasn't me!

<3 lilsis

Washington Cube said...

Have you ever heard Jackie Mason talking about the difference between how Gentiles and Jews view food? Gentiles get a tiny sliver of cake, and they go "Oh, lovely...cake." A Jewish person sees the same thing and says "You call that cake? He wants the huge slab, something that sticks to your ribs while you cross deserts or steppes."

always write said...

Actually I have heard that schtick and I love it. He also goes off on Starbucks: "This coffee, it tastes boined. You charge four dollars for a single cup of coffee and you can't make a fresh pot?"